Conquer in God

Tenor (Hope): I do not fear the grave’s darkness

Alto (Fear): I fear indeed the grave’s darkness

Tenor (Hope): and hoped that my savior should not be torn away.

Alto (Fear): and mourned that my savior should be torn away.

Both: Now my heart is full of comfort, and if an enemy is infuriated, I shall know how to conquer in God.

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Only a Slumber

Then cometh Simon Peter, following him, and went into the sepulcher: and saw the linen cloths lying, and the napkin that had been about his head, not lying with the linen cloths, but apart, wrapped up into one place. Then that other disciple also went in, who came first to the sepulcher: and he saw and believed. (John 20:6-8)

Gentle should be the sorrow of my death—only a slumber, Jesus, through thy veil. Yes, that will refresh me then, and the tears of my suffering it will wipe comfortingly from my cheeks!

Happy Easter!

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Setting a Watch

Holy Saturday commemorates the day between our Lord’s brutal execution, and his glorious resurrection.

From the rising of today’s sun, to the setting of the same, his precious body was separated from his human soul, such that he who is eternal Life truly experienced the deprivations of death.

God, of course, cannot die, and such a state could not have lasted long. By taking death upon himself, therefore, the living God overthrew mortality itself, in a maneuver more amazing than those of any judo or chess champion.

If today is then the day that death died, we would do well to ponder what the Lord’s death teaches us about our own.

Death entered the world on account of sin, and sin is the attempt to live without reference to God. Since God is the source of all that is, such an attempt is suicidal. To divorce ourselves from God is to sever our ties to reality itself, and therefore to court complete annihilation.

In his generosity, however, our Father is unwilling to retract any of the gifts he has given. This also includes the power of free will. Those who will not have him in their lives will not cease to exist, but they will in a real sense get what they choose, in the form of a diminished existence, ultimately terminating in a condition best described as eternal death.

In the office of Holy Saturday, we recite the following meditation: Sepúlto Dómino, signátum est monuméntum, volvéntes lápidem ad óstium monuménti: ponéntes mílites, qui custodírent illum. Accedéntes príncipes sacerdótum ad Pilátum, petiérunt illum.

“After the Lord was buried, they sealed the sepulcher, rolling a stone to the door of the sepulcher, setting a watch to keep Him. The chief priests came together unto Pilate, and made that request unto him.”

Here, the princes of God’s chosen people set an example for us by setting a watch at the tomb of our Redeemer.

Their intention, of course, is to maintain the separation between themselves and God, by enforcing the separation of Christ’s body and soul, which they wickedly brought about. Ours should be precisely the opposite: by mourning our separation from God, to allow him to restore that bond that is the only source of any life worth living.

As we set a watch of our own at our Lord’s tomb, here is a setting of the above prayer by a composer well known to readers of this blog, Jan Dismas Zelenka:

May it assist us in embracing the lesson of this stupendous day, in which the victory of death became its defeat, and our Lord’s loss became our eternal gain.

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Brought to the King

After her shall virgins be brought to the king:

her neighbors shall be brought to thee.

They shall be brought with gladness and rejoicing:

they shall be brought into the temple of the King.

Psalm 44:15-16

As James Bogle stresses, in the latest edition of Inside the Vatican, Christ is the one and only Head of the Catholic Church. The pope is his vicar in spiritual matters; and governments are his stewards in temporal affairs.

As we sadly know, vicars and stewards are wont to govern poorly at times, which God in his wisdom permits, perhaps to remind us that our true King is in heaven.

None of the above is meant to take human authorities “off the hook.” They are responsible for their errors and iniquities, and will be judged accordingly. “Unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required” (Luke 12:48).

Though their deeds are consequential for themselves and others, however, this does not make rulers (much less those under their authority) governors of the cosmos. Thankfully, that charge has been retained in worthier hands.

As God exercises his providential prerogatives, he is in the habit of ribbing those underlings who have failed to do their part. We see this in his approach to Achaz, king of Juda, who feared the wrath of his enemies despite the prophet Isais’s assurances that God had his back (Isais 7).

In the face of the king’s incredulity, God commanded him to ask for a sign, “unto the depth of hell, or unto the height above.” But Achaz, thinking himself smarter than his Maker, affected to decline the offer, on the pretext that he would not “tempt the Lord.”

It was in the face of such pusillanimity that God chose to reveal the most magnificent of his own designs: “Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel. He shall eat butter and honey, that he may know to refuse the evil, and to choose the good.”

Fast forward to the 21st century. Humankind remains steeped in sin, ruled by men (and women—even those who cannot define the term) more confused than ever about what is evil, and ought to be refused, and what is good, and ought to be chosen.

Among the misguided we must reckon the present Vicar of Christ, who is as much responsible for the decomposition of our civilization as anyone.

And yet, this does not make him any less Christ’s Vicar, or prevent him from being the instrument of Christ’s providence in our times.

When Achaz failed to govern as God demanded, the Lord promised to send his Son by miraculous means, through the humble ministrations of a Virgin whose obedience to his will brought his Kingship to earth.

It is through this same Virgin, his Mother, that Christ seeks to bring the hearts of men under his gentle sway today.

The text of the prayer with which our Holy Father consecrated Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary may be verbose, and filled with platitudes characteristic of confusions that need to be cured, rather than the light that needs to be cast upon our present darkness.

But God and our Lady are more than capable of making up for these defects. What matters most is that the servant of the servants of God has (finally) heeded the Virgin’s request.

This does not absolve him, or us, of the need to repent of our sins, and grow in the virtues whose lack is the cause of our woes. It does, however, open the way for this wayward world to be brought, with gladness and rejoicing, back to the temple of our true and only King.

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Regaining a Princely Spirit

As this blog has had occasion to remark, the 50th Psalm (Miserere) represents a spiritual drama, in which King David struggles with all his might to find his Lord, only to realize that it is the Lord who seeks him.

Steeped in sin as we are, our nature still cries out for our Creator. Due to our fallen condition, however, reunion with our Maker demands that we accept him as our Redeemer.

Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed: thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow. To my hearing thou shalt give joy and gladness: and the bones that have been humbled shall rejoice.

Though we are conceived in iniquity, the prophet reminds us, we were created in justice, and hence our reconciliation with God is a restoration of our original being:

Create a clean heart in me, O God: and renew a right spirit within my bowels. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and strengthen me with a perfect spirit.

What the Douay scholars (bless their holy and erudite souls!) render here as “a perfect spirit” is in Latin (pardon my lack of Hebrew) spiritu principali.

The Latin princeps signifies, first of all, firstness, and secondly, chiefdom. This double meaning is well captured in the English term “primacy,” though I can think of no vernacular adjective in which the senses are not fragmented.

In Jerome’s rendering, David prays that the Lord will renew in him the primal spirit in which he was fashioned by divine wisdom. At the same time, the King is asking that he be granted a recovery of that princely spirit by which our first ancestors were given, under God, dominion over all things.

David’s desire to regain his original self, by the gift of God, explains the intensely personal tone pervading the bulk of this song. The conclusion of his prayer, however, demonstrates not only his own kingly heart, but the royal character bequeathed to every human soul:

Deal favorably, O Lord, in thy good will with Sion; that the walls of Jerusalem may be built up. Then shalt thou accept the sacrifice of justice, oblations and whole burnt offerings: then shall they lay calves upon thy altar.

Personal renewal is the foundation of public prosperity, secured by strong walls and right worship. The separation of one from the other, whether by quietism or activism, is a rejection of the divine design by which we were made, and remade, in his providential image.

This rendering of the Psalm by Michel Richard de Lalande (1657-1726), alternating between solo soprano and a sublime chorus, admirably captures that personal and public dynamic:

As our world descends into chaos, let us, like David, beseech the Lord to restore within each of us that princely spirit through which we can assist in building up the walls, and altars, of Jerusalem.

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Minding Our Spiritual Step

Lent begins with the Devil tempting Christ to cast himself from the pinnacle of the temple, with abusive reference to the ninetieth Psalm: “He has given his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways . . . lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.”

Though man lives “in every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,” that Word nourishes only when masticated and digested properly. In this case, Scripture does not intend to make us careless when it comes to our path, or the stones lying upon it.

In general, our Lord commands watchfulness. God gave us eyes so that we might look where we are going, both physically and spiritually.

In particular, Christ warns us about a stone that, if we are not mindful of it, may lead us to an “evil end.”

The scene is once more God’s temple, where Jesus has indeed placed himself in danger, by preaching the Word in defiance of “the chief priests and ancients of the people,” who challenge his authority, because he is undermining theirs (Matthew 21).

We and the multitudes present know that these false shepherds are hypocrites, because they refuse to say what they think about John the Baptist’s commission. If they say it is from heaven, they will be asked why they did not obey him; if they say it is from men, they are afraid of what the crowds will do to them.

Amidst all these worldly fears, the priests and ancients lack one thing: the fear of the Lord, and the wisdom it brings.

Attempting to instill this salutary fear, Christ tells them the parable of a vineyard, whose tenants resort to murder rather than pay its owner his share of the fruits. Considering the facts, even these wayward souls must admit that such “evil men” deserve an “evil end.”

The vineyard in question is, of course, the same described in Matthew 20, in which honest laborers earn a “penny” whose value surpasses that of all the treasures of the world.

What the second parable helps us to see is that all of us will eventually labor in the vineyard of this life, which is (rightly understood) the gift of God. The alternative is not to shirk our work altogether, but to attempt to hoard the fruits of our labor, rather than share them with the paterfamilias, to whom all things belong.

To switch metaphors, each of us is engaged in a building project, constructing our own characters and relations with our neighbors.

When we choose to build our lives upon the Lord, we are infused with his virtue, and the resulting edifice is worthy of the inscription: “By the Lord this has been done; and it is wonderful in our eyes!”

When instead we cast the cornerstone away, we by no means escape his headship over our fate. In the vain attempt to ignore our Creator and Redeemer, we either fall upon this stone, and break; or despair as it falls upon us, and grinds us to powder.

Christ bids us watch our step, but not because we may by any means sidestep him. Rather, he wants us to see the stone upon which we must stand and be saved, lest we stumble against it, and thereby lose our footing, and our lives.

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Deceiving the Elect?

There shall arise false Christs and false prophets,

and shall show great signs and wonders,

insomuch as to deceive (if possible) even the elect.

Matthew 24:24

Is it possible to deceive the elect?

Strictly speaking, the elect are those who will finally be saved, and as such any who may be deceived, will at last—by the mercy of God—be undeceived.

To assume that my own discipleship is so sound as to put me beyond the deadly allure of “false Christs,” however, would mark me as already deceived by the sin of presumption.

Knowing that we are all in danger of following false prophets, let us take careful note of the plural.

The Antichrist—of whom I speak more as a type than as an individual—takes various guises, but is always a simulacrum of Christ. As such, he must appeal to some part of our Christian sensibilities, through which he traps us into apostatizing from the wholeness of the truth.

This blogger takes no position on the date and time of the Apocalypse, which our Lord assures us will not be shared to our Outlook calendar. Nonetheless, it is evident to the eyes of faith that ours is an age of Antichrists.

Some appeal to us in some ways, and some in others. Against those whose errors offend us, we need no (spiritual) defense. “Let he that reads understand,” however, that our righteous revulsion at the wiles of one wolf in sheep’s clothing does not guarantee our immunity from the seductions of another.

To many, Vladimir Putin would seem like an unlikely candidate for a false Christ. For those still reeling from recent revelations of the depth and breadth of corruption in the Western world, on the other hand, the notion that the arch-villain on their television screen is a mightier counterpart to our noble Canadian truckers, seems difficult to resist.

Over at the Remnant, for example, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò weighs in on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. To his credit, the archbishop—who has recently made a name for himself as a stalwart defender of the Traditional Latin Mass, and opponent of technocratic despotism—calls for a cessation of violence in that beleaguered land.

Sadly, at the same time, Viganò discredits himself with a deliberately slanted account of recent events and their historical context, followed by a blasphemous appeal to an earthly dictator as if he were a chosen vessel of divine justice.

Though promising to confine himself to documented “facts,” the cleric-in-hiding deftly cherry picks real or alleged faults of Ukraine and its Western allies, mostly plucked from openly propagandistic sources. At the same time, he conveniently omits the innumerable sins—similar, but often far worse—of the imperial aggressor.

Already, this is enough to make one wonder whether the retired prelate has somehow come into the employ of the KGB (lately rebranded the FSB).

But alas, our pied piper cannot refrain himself from asking, with feigned innocence, whether “perhaps Providence has ordained that Moscow, the Third Rome, will today in the sight of the world take on the role of . . . eschatological obstacle to the Antichrist,” ushering in “the restoration of Christian Civilization, contributing to bringing the world a period of peace from which the Church too will rise again purified and renewed in her Ministers.”

Meanwhile, Saint Putin is spilling the blood of innocents, uselessly sacrificing the lives of his own soldiers, and rounding up thousands of his own citizens if they dare speak against him—including priests who commit the crime of preaching peace.

It should be needless to say, but in our mentally disintegrating age let it be said, that Christ does not save us through masters of murder and manipulation, dress as they may occasionally do in coats of convenient piety.

“If any man shall say to you: Lo here is Christ, or there, do not believe him.”

Rather, if you long for Christ to come to our wounded world, start by seeking the real deal, and accept none of the many substitutes the world will offer.

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Bear Baiting

It was a popular sport in days of old—to pit savage bulldogs against a chained ursus, for the amusement of spectators, curious to see how many canines the latter could tear apart, before itself succumbing to the effects of innumerable wounds.

While no analogy is perfect, it is difficult to shake the impression that something similar is now taking place in Eastern Europe, as the combined arrogance and ineptitude of Western leaders culminate in the cruel carving up of a nation caught between the Russian Bear, and a Free World prepared to do little but watch in horror.

Does my metaphor insinuate that there is something orchestrated, and unsavory, about the spectacle unfolding before us?

Savvy citizens, subjected in recent years to a sleepless propaganda campaign bent on making them willing slaves to a global coalition of neo-totalitarian overlords, have grown rightly suspicious of their own governments, and their media puppets.

Sadly, some have jumped to the conclusion that, since the talking heads are liars, the truth in any particular controversy must be the opposite of what they say.

This is to give our master manipulators simultaneously too little, and too much credit.

Too little, because their modes of deceiving are numerous and subtle, far beyond the crude inversion of the way things actually are. Too much, because no one serious about finding the truth ought to take professional conmen as his reference point, one way or the other.

If our own elites are hopelessly corrupt, does this make Putin a hero? If Vladimir is indeed a tyrant, does this make Sleepy Joe a mighty defender of the peace?

Incapable as either argument is of bearing scrutiny, sizable segments of our commentariat seem incapable of discerning a reality in which prominent parties on both sides of a conflict are guilty, albeit in importantly different ways.

This blogger is no expert in the complexities underlying the present conflagration, but well placed sources, combined with a little common sense, suggest to him the following points.

Putin is a brutal and cunning despot, whose tactics have evolved, though his goals have not changed, since his years as a KGB agent.

Though he has taken to mouthing platitudes about the merits of Judeo-Christian principles, he neither lives by them, nor promotes their genuine practice. He is Orthodox in the same way Joe Biden is Catholic. That is: as a matter of calculating convenience.

Whether or not Putin is a member in good standing of the Great Reset club, he is not a sincere opponent of the Davos crowd. Russian citizens have suffered under batflu restrictions at least as draconian as denizens of Europe or the blue states, the only difference being that the injections without which they are denied food or employment have Russian labels on them.

Putin is well aware of the decline of Western civilization, which as Soviet spy and post-Soviet strongman he has done his part to exacerbate over the years. In calling out certain errors in our atrophying liberal democracies, his intention is not to remedy them, but to exploit them.

It is true that Biden and his buddies brought this war upon us, and their motives for doing so are doubtlessly sinister. But this valid accusation must be followed up with prudent precision.

One can debate the wisdom of expanding NATO when and where we did in recent decades, but to speak as if the dismantling of the Soviet empire was unfair, or the defense of liberated peoples was equivalent to genuine provocation, is asinine.

Putin was goaded into this aggression not by Western growth, but by Western decline, manifested in flagrant signs of stupidity and weakness.

The pressuring of a free and vulnerable Ukraine to abandon nuclear arms; the suppression of major sources of U. S. energy independence; the encouragement of European reliance on Russian oil; the deliberate dishonoring of our military in a shameless retreat from Afghanistan; the unmistakable signals that we were unwilling to confront violence with requisite force—these and similar sins were the cause of the atrocities appearing on our screens.

In conclusion, the only solution to Western decadence is a renewal of Western greatness. That greatness is equally opposed by Putin, and his gliberal critics. We should reject both, and aim at saying and doing what is good, true, and beautiful instead.

In that spirit, might I suggest that we offer a prayer for the people of Ukraine, subjected to murderous assault; as well as for the people of Russia, now being stripped of what rights they had by a government openly reverting to its Soviet ways?

On their behalf, let us join our hearts with this hymn in honor of “green Ukraine”:

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Still Standing

Unless firearms are actually involved, I am no fan of trigger warnings. Still, I must warn Dear Reader that the videos below contain disturbing images of real-life violence.

As this violence is being committed by a government neighboring my own, one that claims to lead the world in its dedication to human rights, and one that has mendaciously denied the facts here captured on film, I think the truth is well worth viewing.

If we cannot look tyranny in the face, we have little hope of overcoming it.

Candice Sero is the elderly woman—a member of the Mohawk tribe—trampled by mounted police on February 14th. She was on the frontlines, with her walker, pleading with police to cease intimidating peaceful protesters, when a line of horses charged by, knocking her down.

As she struggled to rise, one or more officers kicked her in the legs. With the help of fellow protesters, she made it to the hospital, where X-rays revealed she had a broken collar bone, in addition to numerous bruises throughout her body.

Sero is still standing, and has not been deterred from speaking her mind. I strongly recommend listening to her testimony, which not only gives the lie to the government’s claim that no one was injured that day, but also to the general pretense that they care about the wellbeing of aboriginal peoples, or anyone other than themselves.

The report also gives us a glimpse into the twisted souls of the men and women willing to mow down their fellow citizens. Several of the Royal Canadian Mounties on the scene joked about these atrocities in their social media posts, which have now been exposed.

Meanwhile, the reporter who interviewed Sero, Alexandra Lavoie, was savagely assaulted by police in a senseless charge against a crowd of protesters whose only crime is their outspoken love of liberty.

This video gives us a feel of what it looks like to stare evil in the face:

These scenes are not easy to stomach, nor should they be. Yet the merciless despotism we witness here is creeping closer to each of us every day.

By the grace of God, may we have the heart to confront it like Sero and Lavoie, and remain standing.

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The Real Rebels

John Locke reminds us that the Latin rebellare means to “bring back again the state of war.”

War, as Locke usefully defines it, is a state that ensues “when someone declares by word or action,” “as a matter of calm settled design,” “that he intends to end another man’s life,” or to “get another man into his absolute power.”

Though Locke is wrong to reduce the law of nature to a rule of (mainly) self-preservation; and though he errs in reducing political society to a social contract among otherwise radically independent individuals; the truth is that natural law establishes the preservation of human life and the pursuit of virtuous happiness as fundamental goods.

In consequence, the right to defend oneself (and others) from warlike aggression is not less but more firmly rooted than Locke allows, and the attention Locke brings to what he rightly deems the most dangerous sort of rebellion is well worth pondering.

We tend to think of rebels as those who question authority. In our antinomian times, this epithet is often worn as a badge of honor. And sometimes it is so: the Canadian Rebel News, for example, represents a rare media outlet willing to question a government hellbent on persecuting its own people.

Locke is wise to counsel, however, that “those who are most likely to rebel against the constitution and the laws” are not those under the laws, but rather “those who are in power.” This paradox is easily explained by the seductive power of “their claim to authority, the temptation of the force they have at their disposal, and the flattery of those around them.”

I will not waste time quibbling over polls suggesting that a majority of Canadians support the lawless violence commanded by their ferret-king. Not only are polls easily manipulated, but what they purport to measure is a thing of drastically variable worth.

It is not a question of who is willing to say he believes in freedom, but of who is willing to stand up for it, and suffer for it if necessary. In this regard, it is clear that the truckers and their supporters are the true patriots, fighting not only for their own freedoms but, as one of them astutely put it, even for the rights of those who hate and malign them.

This video speaks louder than any poll could about the real sentiments of real citizens when it comes to freedom versus despotism.

Though it may be invigorating to think of these brave northern souls as rebels, in truth they are precisely the opposite. For so far from wanting to violate the inalienable rights of their fellow countryman, many of them would die if necessary to protect them.

On the contrary, it is the pusillanimous sociopath leading their government, and the degraded specimens of human beings who aid and abet his crimes, who are the true rebels, declaring by their words and actions a settled design to rob their fellows of life and liberty.

The rebellion in question is not new, but in the events of recent days it has been openly declared. May those who realize they at war choose the side of good, and may God in his Providence favor those who seek only a return of genuine peace.

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