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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The Fig Tree

A preacher pointed out the irony: as the cycle of seasons plunges us into frigid darkness, the Church presents us with our Lord’s parable of the fig tree: “When the branch thereof is now tender, and the leaves come forth, you know that summer is nigh” (Mt. 24:32).

Is this wanton cruelty on the part of our spiritual Mother, reminding us of delights that, excepting jet setters, we must forego for months to come?

St. Gregory the Great suggests otherwise. In context, he notes, the figure of the fig tree marks the transition between a period of fearful darkness—the demise of this world—and the second coming of the Son of Man.

As November draws to a close, we begin to anticipate in our very bones the joy we will feel next spring, if it comes, at the sight of little leaves bursting from the bows.

By contrast, most of us are inclined to regard the signs of Christ’s coming with “distress,” “withering away for fear, and expectation of what shall come upon the whole world” as it falls apart before our eyes (Lk. 21:25-26).

Instead, our Lord teaches us to regard the collapse of the world as an occasion for joy—a sign that our “redemption is at hand” (Lk. 28).

The death of the world is likened to the fruiting of a fig because, as St. Gregory puts it, “the fruit of the world is its ruin: it grows only to fall.”

“He who does not rejoice at the approach of the end of the world affirms himself as the friend of the world, and is thereby convicted of being the enemy of God.”

Advent is a time to remember that the world in which we live is—inevitably, and deservingly—in the process of passing away.

In our particular circumstances, this may be easier to see than ever. How we are to respond, on the other hand, remains a spiritual challenge.

Even as it opens our eyes to the perishability of the world, Advent is a time of longing preparation for a day of great rejoicing. As long as we are given another Christmas to celebrate on earth, this longing is partially fulfilled, only to be renewed and intensified by the cycles of darkness to which we are subject here below.

Our most earnest preparations, in the coming days, must therefore be for the day when that summer comes which will dispel every season of darkness once and for all.

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Our Mother Tongue

Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season.

2 Timothy 4:2

“Before those who are opposed to the Tridentine Mass,” advises Fr. Roberto Spataro, “let us present a clear and solid argumentation, peacefully and politely, starting always from the reasons held by the other, accompanying him and helping him to appreciate our own reasons.”

Did this good priest, when he spoke these words in 2015, count the present Bishop of Rome among those “opposed to the Tridentine Mass”? If so, he did not let on.

Given the charitable stance Fr. Spataro takes toward Francis in this collection of masterful meditations, we may well wonder. Does his heroic effort to accompany the Pope of Accompaniment toward a deeper appreciation of the Vetus Ordo Missae constitute a tacit acknowledgement that the perceptive professor sensed opposition from the highest quarters, to be addressed “peacefully and politely”—and prudently?

As scholar of ancient literature and head of the Pontifical Academy for Latin, Fr. Spataro is both conscious of his commission to promote the vision of its founder—Pope Benedict XVI—and eminently worthy of that commission, even when the message is decidedly “out of season.”

When this blogger first discovered the usus antiquior two decades ago, he knew virtually no Latin; and after twenty years of frequent attendance, he knows precious little more.

As Fr. Spataro understands, the key attraction of the old rite is not so much the language it employs, but the avidity with which it turns—and encourages us to turn—to God.

At the same time, the intrinsic qualities of Latin, combined with its unique place in Western civilization and intimate entwinement with the Catholic faith, render it a precious patrimony and an ideal vehicle for the elevation of the mind and soul to our Creator and Redeemer.

“In the old Mass,” Spataro notes, “each word and each silence, each gesture and each rite is broadened and elevated to create a truly supernatural tension that can open up a human space, enlarging the soul and its faculties—like the most pure womb of the Virgin Mary and her Immaculate Heart—to gather grace.”

In a manner that is at once learned, orderly, and engaging, Fr. Spataro demonstrates how the Latin language, in its beauty, elegance, and stability, is supremely qualified as an instrument for the clear articulation of timeless truths, and the union of souls to their eternal Spouse.

With its loving elaborations of the central tenets of our faith—the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Sacrifice of our Redemption—“the Vetus Ordo is a summarium, a summary of the teachings and commandments of our Lord”—including the call to live these truths to the point of courting our own “martyrdom, whether it is white or bloody.”

If, as the Holy Father insists, “evangelization in the Church calls for a liturgy that lifts the hearts of men and women to God,” then what better vehicle is there for evangelization than one “founded in grace,” and known for its ability to fill souls with “wonder, adoration, gratitude, and silence” through the palpable reception of “a divine gift”?

“Whenever the novatores”—the enemies of changeless truth—“have wanted to arbitrarily change what we believe,” Spataro warns, “they have taken up the hammer to demolish liturgical structures.”

As distressing at this may be, it is also an indication of how we may “block the spread of spiritual illnesses inside the Church, such as its sociological drift, betrayals of the depositum fidei, a worldly spirit, the reduction of faith to emotional experience, and adulterous unions with the cultural fashions we are passing through.”

In short, “if we delve into the treasures of the extraordinary form of the Roman rite, as Pope Benedict has defined it, we draw out something vetera et nova (old and new) and give a push to the counter-revolutionary work of restoring the order of things willed by God and denied by the devil.”

Though “the work is urgent,” it must be conducted “without worry of success and without fears of failure.”

God is our Father, and the Church is our Mother. If we turn to the Lord in humility, penance, and trust, he will surely restore to us our patrimony, and teach us once more to speak our mother tongue.

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Before the Day of the Lord

St. Paul admonishes his flock not to be easily moved from their senses with terror, “as if the day of the Lord were at hand” (2 Thes. 2).

That day will not come, he informs them, “unless there come a revolt first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.”

How are we to know this “man of sin”? He “opposes, and is lifted up above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he sits in the temple of God, showing himself as if he were God.”

By no means does the Apostle of the Nations deny the approach of Antichrist. By a “mystery of iniquity,” the way is being prepared for this “wicked one,” whom the “Lord Jesus shall kill with the spirit of his mouth”—but only at the end of time, “with the brightness of his coming.”

In other words, God in his Providence has arranged to rescue the world from sin once and for all, only after allowing mankind to fall subject to “the working of Satan,” who will use “all power, and signs, and lying wonders” to convince us to accept man in the place of God.

Today it is evident that what is falsely called “progress” is, for a growing faction, governed by a diabolical desire to worship man made God, rather than God made man.

As a case in point, consider this blasphemous anti-icon, proudly displayed in our nation’s highest ranking Catholic university, which reimagines our Savior as an overdosed criminal who died physically resisting lawful arrest.

Those who “receive not the love of the truth,” St. Paul continues, will consent to the iniquity of self-idolatry, aiding and abetting the revolt of the wicked one, employing their God-given gifts to build up the anti-Kingdom of lies and perdition.

Only those who “stand fast,” and “hold the traditions which [we] have learned,” will remain capable of receiving what we all desire, but cannot give ourselves: the everlasting love, consolation, and hope bestowed by the Lord on those who remain true to him, and steadfast “in every good work and word.”

In these days of ascendant error, let us learn to distinguish false Christs from the only One in whose name we can be saved.

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The Jaws of the Lion

It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.

2 Maccabees 12:46

Domine, Jesu Christe, Rex gloriae, libera animas omnium fidelium defunctorum de poenis inferni et de profundo lacu. Libera eas de ore leonis ne absorbeat eas tartarus, ne cadant in obscurum; Sed signifer sanctus Michael repraesentet eas in lucem sanctam, Quam olim Abrahae promisisti et semini eius. Hostias et preces tibi, Domine laudis offerimus tu suscipe pro animabus illis, quarum hodie memoriam facimus. Fac eas, Domine, de morte transire ad vitam. Quam olim Abrahae promisisti et semine eius.

Lord Jesus Christ, king of glory, deliver the souls of all the faithful departed from the pains of hell and the bottomless pit. Deliver them from the jaws of the lion, lest hell engulf them, lest they be plunged into darkness; but let the holy standard-bearer Michael lead them into the holy light, as once you promised to Abraham and to his seed. Lord, in praise we offer you Sacrifices and prayers, accept them on behalf of those who we remember this day: Lord, make them pass from death to life, as once you promised to Abraham and to his seed.

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Precious in the Sight of the Lord

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.

Psalm 115:15

As noted yesterday in these ethereal pages, the Kingdom of Christ on earth extends to society as a whole through his enthronement in the hearts, intellects, and wills of men.

Even as Christ informed Pilate that his Kingdom is not of this world, he invited the Roman governor to listen as he fulfilled his mission, to bear witness to the truth—that truth which is the only light by which “every man” must find his path, or go astray (Jn. 18:36-37; 1:8-9).

Pilate’s response—“What is truth?”—foretells his failure to see clearly what Christ offers to reveal. Still, his frank admission to the Jews—“I find no cause in him”—demonstrates his partial grasp on the truth, and tentative willingness to proclaim it in the face of opposition.

Alas, when faced with further resistance, Pilate shamefully gives way. Whereas the saints, whom we commemorate today, take upon themselves the joyful yet sacrificial mission of their Savior: For this were they reborn, and for this did they come into the world, that they should give testimony to the truth.

A testimony all the more precious when it results in an earthly death, which is simultaneously a heavenly birthday.

I hope Dear Reader is able to attend Holy Mass today, or perhaps recite some of the Divine Office, or a chaplet of the rosary, in union with the triumphant hosts of heaven.

To assist in preparing the spirit, might I suggest this, one of the most beautiful Mass settings by one of the greatest composers of Masses, performed by one of the greatest ensembles on the planet today?

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Kingdom Come

Almost a century ago, Pope Pius XI instituted the feast of Christ the King, to be celebrated on the last Sunday of October.

Though placed towards the end of the liturgical year, this reminder of our Savior’s regal office was not intended to replace the last Sunday in the Church’s annual cycle, which (like the first Sunday of Advent) reminds us that the Lord will one day come to judge the living and the dead.

Though Christ is most assuredly judge of all souls, including those on earth and under the earth, today’s feast is meant to emphasize his terrestrial power.

In the prayers originally composed for this Mass, our Lord is twice referred to as universorum Regem. In context, this means King of all nations, not “King of the universe.”

As Pius makes clear, Jesus in his divinity has from eternity possessed absolute and universal power. “It is only as man,” however, “that he may be said to have received from the Father ‘power and glory and a kingdom’” (Dan. 7:13-14).

This matters because it is as man that Christ conquered sin, and as man that he established a Church, itself comprising men, “which is the kingdom of Christ” in that part of the universe with which we are proximately concerned: namely, “earth.”

Full membership in the kingdom of Christ requires penance, baptism, and a life lived in collaboration with divine grace.

What then of those who have not found Christ, or have rejected him? As God, Christ has absolute dominion over one and all. As man, he offers them a choice: believe and be saved, or the opposite.

Civil affairs, as Pius XI acknowledges, are not directly under the jurisdiction of Christ’s Kingdom. And yet, it remains true, and vital, to recognize that both “individuals and states” are doomed when they refuse to “submit to the rule of our Savior.”

In one sense, the duty of nations to acknowledge Christ is conditional: “If . . . the rulers of nations wish to preserve their authority, to promote and increase the prosperity of their countries, they will not neglect the public duty of reverence and obedience to the rule of Christ.”

In truth, however, the obligation is firm, for rulers indifferent to the legitimacy of their authority and the prosperity of their countries have ipso facto broken the laws of nature, as well as of nature’s God.

In sum, we are reminded that “society will at last receive the blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony” when each and every earthling learns to “recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ is King.”

Pius candidly admits that he has promulgated this celebration to combat what he refers to as “the plague of anti-clericalism,” according to which nations attempt to govern with indifference or hostility to Christ and his Church.

Not surprisingly, today’s “anti-clerical” leaders, driving a wedge of sophisticated hypocrisy between public and private duties, end up making a mockery of their Lord, arrogantly proclaiming themselves devout Christians even as they impose on their fellow citizens —with demonic zeal, and in violation of religion, law, and conscience—the satanic rituals of child sacrifice, bodily mutilation, and psychological self-destruction.

Though nearly a century has passed, the basic lesson of Quas Primus has not changed. The Kingdom of Christ advances only when the faithful “understand that it behooves them ever to fight courageously under the banner of Christ their King.”

Then, fired with apostolic zeal, they would strive to win over to their Lord those hearts that are bitter and estranged from him, and would valiantly defend his rights.

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