The musings and meandering thoughts of a crotchety old man as he observes life in the world and in a small, rural town in South East Nebraska. My Pledge-Nulla dies sine linea-Not a day with out a line.
Friday, 31 March 2023
Preparation for Holy Week, What Palm Sunday Is About – Pre-1955 Holy Week
From St Thomas Aquinas Seminary. You may follow the Office at Divinum Officium.
Solemn II Vespers - Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Spiritual Conference: The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass Part 8
The Raccolta - Dedication to the Holy Souls in Purgatory
Whilst I endeavour to satisfy the devotion of a large number of the faithful by a thirteenth Roman reprint of the Raccolta of Indulgenced Prayers, containing the additional grants of our present reigning Sovereign Pontiff Pius IX., I feel myself bound to adhere religiously to the pious mind of its compiler, who, out of his special devotion to you, my beloved souls, many times dedicated it to you. This he did, partly that he might in this way make a public attestation of his debt of gratitude to you, as he was wont to declare that he had received many graces and blessings from the Giver of all good through your intercession, and partly because this work of his has a special reference to you, and in a manner belongs to you. True it is, that it is of great benefit to the living, since it teaches them that, in order to gain the Indulgences, they must approach the Sacraments with due dispositions, and so keep themselves in the grace of God. Its special benefit, however, belongs to you, since it is you who reap the fruit of the suffrage of so many Indulgences gained by the faithful and made applicable to you: and this is why I also dedicate this work to you.
Accept, then, beloved souls, this offering, slender though it be; have respect to the end I set before myself, and the loving heart with which I offer it to you. Forget not, ye chosen ones of God, to manifest in my behalf your mighty aid, and obtain for me from God the remission of my guilt, and the gift of holy perseverance, that hereafter I may come with you to love and enjoy Him for all eternity: all this I trust you will obtain for me; and in humbleness of heart I pray God that this work may ever produce in the faithful who are yet in the flesh the fruits of eternal life, and aid you to enter into that kingdom of glory whither your hearts are already gone before.
What is the Friday of Sorrows devotion?
By Philip KosloskiBefore Holy Week begins, the Church in various countries honor the Seven Sorrows of Mary.
or many centuries, the Roman Rite commemorated a special observance of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the Friday of “Passion Week.” This was traditionally the Friday before Holy Week and acted as a preview of what was to come.
The commemoration no longer exists in the current Roman Missal, but it still provides an alternative prayer for that day (Friday in the Fifth Week of Lent), remembering Mary’s own bitter passion.
O God, who in this season
give your Church the grace
to imitate devoutly the Blessed Virgin Mary
in contemplating the Passion of Christ,
grant, we pray, through her intercession,
that we may cling more firmly each day
to your Only Begotten Son
and come at last to the fullness of his grace.
Outside of this nod to the older tradition, various cultures and countries still observe this day with great festivity.
Spanish-speaking countries in particular, as well as the Philippines, hold processions on this day, honoring the Seven Sorrows of Mary.
While it is no longer an official commemoration of the Church (though it is still observed in the 1962 Missal and in the Anglican Use), the traditions of local people continue to maintain it.
Bestowal of Minor Orders
From St Thomas Aquinas Seminary. You may follow the service here.
Easter Triduum at the OK Corral
Francis is trying to drive all Trads into schism. Mr Kowalski has reached the same conclusion that I reached when TC was issued.
From One Peter Five
By Raymond Kowalski
What is “schism?” The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines “schism” as:
The refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him (2089).
We tend to think of schisms as involving disputes over points of dogma. One of the Greek schisms, for example, stemmed from disagreement over the word filioque in the Creed. But note that the definition of schism says nothing about disputes or dogma. The essence of schism is the refusal to submit to the Roman Pontiff. (A deeper examination of the aforementioned Greek schism shows that, indeed, the dispute was as much about the authority of the Roman Pontiff as it was about the filioque.) The showdown that has been building since the earliest days of the papacy of Francis may soon play out.
The pope’s motu proprio, Traditionis Custodes, issued July 16, 2021, proclaims that the new Mass is the “unique expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite.” With the stroke of a pen, we no longer have two forms of the Roman Rite, both equally valid. With a papal executive order, one valid form of the Roman Rite has been unRomanitized or unRitified.
The two forms of the Roman lex orandi are, of course, proxies for their underlying lex credendi. Suppress the lex orandi of one form and you suppress its corresponding lex credendi. In other words, Traditionis Custodes is dressed up in the cloak of “unity,” but its intended effect is the suppression of a specific type of worship and a specific set of doctrines and beliefs. Those who adhere to those doctrines and beliefs, as well as their liturgical proxy, must be excluded from the Church. Their 18-month grace period is ending.
Traditionis Custodes permits the limited and temporary continuation of the Traditional Latin Mass in dioceses where it is still offered. Nothing in the pope’s document forbids the offering of the Traditional Latin Mass on Easter. But on October 7, 2021, the Pope’s Vicar General for the Diocese of Rome, in implementing Traditionis Custodes, announced that the limited permission for the Traditional Latin Mass to continue to be offered in the Diocese of Rome, applied “every day, except the Easter Triduum.” (To be clear, the Easter Triduum includes Easter Sunday itself. The website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops states that the Easter Triduum runs “from the evening of Holy Thursday to the evening of Easter Sunday.”) Thus, the Traditional Latin Mass may not be offered on Easter in Rome.
Similarly, the Responsa ad Dubia, issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship on behalf of the Pope on December 4, 2021, elaborates that the Local Ordinary, in allowing for the continuation of the Traditional Latin Mass in his diocese, has the authority to lengthen or shorten such permission. Nothing in the Responsa, however, forbids the offering of the Traditional Latin Mass on Easter. The closest it comes is to require priests to concelebrate the Chrism Mass, which is offered the morning of Holy Thursday, just before the beginning of the Sacred Triduum. The Responsa makes no mention of the Vicar General’s implementation of Traditionis Custodes, which by then had been on the street for two months.
(Thankfully, the Catholics in the diocese of Rome went ahead and did the TLM for the Easter Triduum, which may have been due to the Pope’s curious decree giving the FSSP full rights to the TLM).
Later that summer meanwhile, on July 29, 2022, the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, issued its instructions for implementation of Traditionis Custodes. Following the lead of the Diocese of Rome, it permits the continuation of the Traditional Latin Mass at limited locations in the diocese, but generally not in parish churches and not during Holy Week and the Sacred Triduum. This is a temporary concession to the faithful who are “rooted in the previous form of celebration.”
Easter Sunday will fall on April 9 in 2023, in less than two weeks. For the Triduum, the Traditional Latin Mass will be forbidden in the Diocese of Arlington and several other dioceses where it is otherwise permitted to be celebrated.
Meanwhile, the faithful of Arlington and Washington DC last week on the Annunciation marched in pious pilgrimage to offer up, in the words of organizer Noah Peters, “penance, prayer and devotion” for the Latin Mass, beseeching Our Lady to preserve the rite of their forefathers in these dioceses.
Considering Arlington’s restrictions, let us make a few considerations. Why is the suppressed Mass allowed on most Sundays, but not the Triduum or other significant holy days in places where Traditionis Custodes has been implemented? What does it mean when the faithful are told that they cannot fulfill their Easter Sunday obligation under pain of mortal sin, except by attending a Novus Ordo Mass?
Consider that, in 2007, Pope Benedict XVI’s motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, had the effect of attracting Catholics who never accepted the so-called reforms set in motion by the Second Vatican Council, as well as Catholics who had come to question those “reforms.” They assembled and coalesced around the usus antiquior that became more widely available and, in so doing, they herded themselves into their own corrals.
Now their corrals have been pushed outside the boundaries of Catholic parish life. With limited and temporary exceptions, their Mass cannot be offered in their parish church. Their Mass and other activities cannot be mentioned in their parish bulletin. Their liturgical activities cannot be financially supported by the parish. And then along comes the Pope’s Vicar General for the Diocese of Rome who declares that the Traditional Latin Mass cannot be celebrated on Easter. And several bishops join the conga line behind this guy and add a few moves of their own.
What it means is that traditional Catholics have been set up for their final and absolute elimination from the Church. On Easter, perhaps no priest will come to their corral. For them, it will be the Novus Ordo Mass or nothing. Or perhaps on Easter the Mass of the Ages will be celebrated in secret or openly in defiance of the will of Rome. Those Catholics and their priests will be branded as no longer in communion with the Roman Pontiff, thus fulfilling the very definition of “schism.”
Either way, Pope Francis will have accomplished the mission that he announced in Der Spiegel in 2016, “to enter history as the one who split the Catholic Church.” The hard part is done. Formal replacement of the lex credendi will be easy.
Our Lady of Sorrows
Friday in Passion Week: The Sword in the Heart of Mary
The Seven Sorrows of Mary & How They Apply to Us Today
Collect of the Feast of the Seven Dolors of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary - Indulgenced Today
According to the Apostolic Penitentiary, a partial indulgence is granted to those who on the feast of any Saint recite in his honour the oration of the Missal or any other approved by legitimate Authority.
O God, in Whose Passion the sword, according to the prophecy of blessed Simeon, pierced through the soul of Mary, the glorious Virgin and Mother, mercifully grant that we, who reverently commemorate her piercing through and her suffering, may, by the interceding glorious merits of all the saints faithfully standing by the Cross, obtain the abundant fruit of Your passion.
Who livest and reignest with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end.
Here's Why Pope Francis Is Wrong To Say Muslims and Catholics Worship the Same God
By Michael Haynes
Much has been made by the Vatican and Pope Francis of the three “Abrahamic religions” coming together in a spirit of harmony and peace in the Abrahamic Family House, recently opened in Abu Dhabi, yet the truth of how Catholicism, Islam, and Judaism actually relate is not entirely as the Vatican portrays.
On February 16, the Abrahamic Family House (AFH) held the inaugural ceremony to mark the grand opening of the center, which was directly born out of the 2019 Abu Dhabi document on Human Fraternity signed by both Francis and Ahmed el-Tayeb during the Pope’s 2019 visit to the UAE.
READ: Pope-backed interreligious Abrahamic Family House opens in Abu Dhabi
The AFH is home to a Catholic church, a Muslim mosque, and a Jewish synagogue, and — according to Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, current president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue — it serves as a “concrete example for people of different religions, cultures, traditions, and beliefs to return to the essential: love of neighbor.”
The AFH is the natural progression of Pope Francis’ controversial Abu Dhabi document on Human Fraternity, a text which states: “The pluralism and the diversity of religions, color, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings.”
The text has been described as seeming to “overturn the doctrine of the Gospel” due to its promotion of equality of religions in a form of “fraternity.”
The Pope’s 2020 encyclical Fratelli Tutti has also played a part in the AFH, since the ecumenical project embodies the style of fraternity that the document called for. This form of fraternity is so essential to such ventures: namely, it is a fraternity and “unity” which are divorced from promotion of the Catholic faith which underly modern ecumenical activities.
Indeed, for many years the Vatican’s relationship with Islam and Judaism has presented a great danger to Catholics. This is particularly visible in the documents which emerged from Vatican II and which have since been used as the backbone of a number of different texts, including the modern catechism, as noted recently by Bishop Athanasius Schneider.
Yet while Vatican officials are busy promoting Islam and Judaism as equatable to Catholicism, as if they are simply the other side of a coin, the truth is that the Abrahamic Family House cannot promote Catholicism, but only dilute or weaken it. How then do Catholicism and Islam, in particular, compare?
Catholics and Muslims – the same God?
The common reference text for Catholic relations with Muslims is a passage from Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, which is:
The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day. (LG 16)
Another is that found in Vatican II’s Nostra Aetate, and which is employed by the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue:
The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God.
These passages are subsequently used in the modern catechism, as well as numerous other texts when on the topic of the Catholic Church’s relationship with Muslims.
READ: Pope Francis in Iraq stresses brotherhood of Christianity, Judaism, Islam
Catholics believe in a Triune God, as revealed as as outlined in Catholic doctrine. (See Denzinger, Enchiridion Symbolorum, §800, 851, 1330, 1880. Particularly the Tridentine Profession of Faith in 1862.) God is not adored as God the Father separate from God the Son or Holy Spirit, but in the fullness of His Trinity.
Nostra Aetate itself states that Muslims “do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere him as a prophet.” Consequently the statement that Muslims adore the same one God as Catholics appears even more fallacious, or at least in need of fundamental clarification. The Muslim belief in God is not a belief in the Triune God as taught by Christ in the Gospels and by His Church.
‘Islam in itself is not faith’
In recent times, notable members of the hierarchy have pronounced that Catholics and Muslims do not, in fact, worship the same God. In an August 2016 interview, Cardinal Raymond Burke stated that “I don’t believe it’s true that we’re all worshipping the same God, because the God of Islam is a governor.”
He warned that modern ecumenical rhetoric is grounded in a lack of understanding of Islam:
[W]e don’t respect the truth about what Islam teaches and what, for instance, the Catholic Church teaches, and we just make these general statements, we’re all believing in the same God and so forth, and this is not helpful and ultimately it will be the end of Christianity, meaning nothing has changed in the Islamic agenda from prior times in which our ancestors in the faith have had to fight to save Christianity. And why? Because they saw that Islam was attacking sacred truths, including the sacred places of our redemption.
The cardinal’s words are echoed by Bishop Athanasius Schneider in his book length interview Christus Vincit, when he mentions that “Islam in itself is not faith.” The bishop continues by explaining that faith is only found in Christianity and “is applicable only to belief in the Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit … When someone does not believe in the Holy Trinity, he has no faith but simply natural religion.”
READ: Pope Francis joins ecumenical leaders in Rome to promote peace in the ‘spirit’ of 1986 Assisi meeting
Bishop Schneider then goes further in assisting with clarification of the quotation from Lumen Gentium, which is used in the modern catechism and in so many ecumenical ventures:
That we Catholics adore with the Muslims the one God is not true. We don’t adore with them. In the act of adoration, we always adore the Holy Trinity, we don’t simply adore ‘the one God’ but the Holy Trinity consciously… Islam rejects the Holy Trinity. When Muslims adore, they do not adore on the supernatural level of faith.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò also wrote that Lumen Gentium 16 “cannot be interpreted in a Catholic way” and “blatantly contradicts Catholic doctrine.”
Koran rejects the Trinity
These lines from the various prelates are in stark contrast to the theme of modern ecumenical activities, both in clarity and in content, but they are consistent with Church teaching. In Islam there is no compatible act of faith for it has a completely different concept of God and a fundamental difference in adoration.
This can be seen in the words of the Koran itself regarding God as the Trinity. In turning to Surah 4, one can read:
The Christ, Jesus son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He cast to Mary and a soul [created at a command] from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers. And do not say, “Three”; desist – it is better for you. Indeed, Allah is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son.
— The Koran, ‘Surah 4:171’, translated with notes by N.J. Dawood, (London, Penguin Books, 2014), 67. See also Surah 5:72-75; Surah 19: 88-93; Surah 112:1-4.
In the words of Islam’s holy text itself, it can be noted that there is an outright rejection of so many fundamental elements of Catholicism. Firstly, the Koran rejects the notion of God as Trinity; secondly, it rejects that God has a son, saying it is beneath Him to have one. Thirdly, Jesus is viewed simply as a messenger of God, necessitating the fact that Mary would not be the Mother of God.
READ: Pope Francis preaches ‘fraternity’ divorced from Catholicism at interfaith meetings in Bahrain
‘Brothers in Abraham’
Yet despite this, Pope Francis continues a near-relentless push for closer ties between Catholics and Muslims, seemingly sacrificing Catholic doctrine on the altar of ecumenism in order to effect this relationship. While Catholics devoted to the traditional form of the Church’s liturgy face papal persecution, Francis instead promotes his regular meetings with Muslim leaders.
His trips to Kazakhstan and Bahrain in the latter part of last year demonstrated this commitment to Islam. “We are called to proclaim with the wisdom of our elders and fathers, that God and neighbor come before all else, that transcendence and fraternity alone will save us,” he stated in his address to Muslim Elders in Bahrain, whom he called “brothers in Abraham.”
In his discussions with the Muslim elders during that visit, Pope Francis notably avoided promoting a Catholic understanding of God as Trinity, instead employing language such as “One who loves humanity, the One whose name is peace” or “the Creator.”
“Let us remember, though, that the unity to which we are journeying is a unity in diversity,” he added.
Based on such Papal actions, Father Alexander Wiseman, FSSPX, described the modern Pontiffs as sacrificing the authenticity of the Catholic faith for ecumenism:
In the name of the ecumenism expressly taught by Vatican II, we have witnessed Popes acknowledging the legitimacy and “truth” of other religions such as Islam, Judaism, and even paganism.
READ: Bp. Schneider warns ‘ecological conversion,’ ecumenism ‘undermine’ Catholic teaching
It is also in light of these modern, ecumenical efforts that Bishop Schneider recently spoke to LifeSite about the practical effect which they have upon the Catholic Church. Modern ecumenism, he said, “undermines the truth that there is only one Church of God and this is the Catholic Church, the Church of Peter, united with the Holy See, the chair of Peter — the Popes.”
Furthermore, proponents of this form of ecumenism are “transmitting a message that multiplicity of religions is a good situation,” he said.
It’s not okay! It’s not the will of God. Because these non-Catholics communities contain objective errors which God condemns, which God does not accept.
Schneider added that “non-Catholic communities contain errors, either doctrinal or moral,” and such errors are “contrary to the revelation, and will of God. What is contrary to the will of God cannot bring blessings.”
He added that Catholics must ensure that charity is always practiced with non-Catholics, but must also inform non-Catholics “that they are unfortunately in an objective error, and that they are called by God to join the Holy Mother Church which is the Catholic Church, which is the will of God.”
By helping non-Catholics “patiently” and with a “crystal clear dialogue” which assists them to “see their own errors,” a proper “love for neighbor” can take place, he stated. Such a dialogue would not involve simply finding common ground, but rather would represent an active evangelizing process from Catholics:
This is the true love for neighbor — when we Catholics are saying to our separated brothers, showing them respectfully their errors, because they cannot continue to live in these errors which are contrary to the will of God.
Nationhood or Nihilism: Identity as Philosophical Combat
From The European Conservative
By Carlos Perona Calvete
Defenders of ‘the nation’ often fall back on practical issues of scale and power balance, ignoring the Biblical and Platonic tradition that celebrates the diversity of nations as an aesthetic good.
When defending nationhood, or the distinctiveness of cultures and identities, we sometimes find ourselves hindered by an excessively utilitarian approach. Defenders of ‘the nation’ refer to the practical manageability of smaller scale systems; how a plurality of sovereign states can produce a balance of power serving as a bulwark against hegemony; the moral superiority of a certain culture as necessitating that its heirs prevail in a given polity, and so on.
In all this, it often goes unremarked that the diversity of nations as such is an aesthetic good. Even when the latter is asserted, it usually does not tap the vast tradition underlying this position, a tradition with its roots in Plato and the Bible, which understands diversity as an occasion for contemplating the oneness of God.
Plato and the Prophets
The Biblical division of humanity into nations (Genesis 9 and 10; Jubilees 8 and 9) consists of 70 or 72 people-groups descending from the three sons of Noah. This occurs before the confusion of tongues at Babel and is not presented as a safeguard against hubris but as a regenerative labor following the flood.
The descendants of Noah acting as patriarchs to the nations would themselves correspond to tutelary angelic administrators. According to the Dead Sea Scrolls, specifically the version of Deuteronomy (32:8-9) found at Qumran in Palestine, these nations correspond to the angels or “children of El [God],”
When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, When he separated the sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of El. For the LORD’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.
This tradition is also Ugaritic, with ancient Canaanite religion ascribing 70 children to the supreme deity. The paganising error of describing metaphysical principles (the ‘names’ of God) and angelic intelligences as “offspring” of God (whose implication can be taken to be that they are the same species and therefore somehow ontologically equivalent to Him) was corrected by the neo-Platonic philosophical tradition and mainstream theological currents. The Septuagint Bible, therefore, tells us that God “set the bounds of the nations according to the number of the angels of God.” Ultimately, according to Christianity, the angelic function is assimilated to humanity, such that, in the course of history, nations and other collectivities receive patron saints.
Other mainstream versions of Deuteronomy somewhat awkwardly feature the expression “children of Israel” rather than of El, but this is no great difficulty, as the passage would then be making Israel a microcosm of the total human ecumene descending from Adam. Indeed, the twelve tribes of Israel correspond to seventy-two nations, given that both are the ‘kissing numbers’ of spheres: twelve (three-dimensional) spheres can simultaneously touch a central (thirteenth) sphere of their same size, just as seventy-two (sixth-dimensional) spheres can touch a central (seventy-third) sphere of their same size. The principle is that of ordered multiplicity, albeit at different dimensions, which, in Biblical symbolism, relates to different scales, from the nation of Israel to the whole Adamic family. I have not encountered this approach to the Bible’s use of numbers elsewhere, but would argue for its appropriateness.
In Jewish tradition, we find that these ‘children’ correspond to the Kabbalah’s seventy-two letters of the name of God (the Shemhamphorasch), also manifesting as the seventy-two wings of the angel Metatron.
The above is compatible with Plato’s account of the origin of nations in Critias:
At one time, the gods received their due portions over the entire earth, region by region—and without strife … as they received what was naturally theirs in the allotment of justice, they began to settle their lands … they did not compel us by exerting bodily force on our bodies … but rather … they directed us from the stern, as if they were applying to the soul the rudder of Persuasion … as the gods received their various regions lot by lot, they began to improve their possessions.
And in The Laws,
So Cronus … who was well-disposed to man … placed us in the care of the spirits, a superior order of beings, who were to look after our interests … the result of their attentions was peace, respect for others, good laws, justice in full measure, and a state of happiness and harmony among the races of the world.
Given neo-Platonic exegesis concerning the gods, nations would correspond to necessary, higher-order realities manifesting the ineffable character of God (Platonism’s “The One”).
The Theology of Diversity
The notion that human differentiation occurs according to an archetypal pattern conforming to a Divine blueprint—God’s disclosure of His names—occurs in the work of Church Father St. Dionysus (The Celestial Hierarchy):
The Word of God has assigned our Hierarchy to Angels, by naming Michael as Ruler of the Jewish people, and others over other nations. For the Most High established borders of nations according to the number of Angels of God. (IX:2)
The idea that God’s oneness manifests a harmony (of diverse forms) implies equality. No single created form is an exhaustive icon of God, as St. Thomas Aquinas puts it, “creatures cannot attain to any perfect likeness of God so long as they are confined to one species of creature.” Part of their iconic function is to represent God’s unity through their harmony (peaceful relations between plural forms), because underlying oneness is disclosed by harmony, rather than discord. St. Thomas continues: “Multiplicity therefore, and variety, was needful in the creation.” The concept is also found in the Qur’an (30:22): “And one of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the diversity of your languages and colours. Surely in this are signs for those of sound knowledge.”
An abstract principle must display itself through many practices, otherwise, its character will be restricted to that of one possible manifestation only. St. Thomas continues: “If any agent whose power extends to various effects were to produce only one of those effects, his power would not be so completely reduced to actuality [manifest in the world] as by making many.” In fact, not only must the world consist of not one, but many, forms, it must also consist of many types of form:
The multiplication of species is a greater addition to the good of the universe than the multiplication of individuals of a single species. The perfection of the universe therefore requires not only a multitude of individuals, but also diverse kinds, and therefore diverse grades of things.
Making the exact same point, in proposition twenty-one of the Metaphysical Elements, Proclus explains how that which constitutes the common feature of a set of forms (circularity in the case of differently-coloured circles) does not itself proceed from one of these (it isn’t the red circle that originates the shape which it shares with a yellow one). Rather, the common feature is prior to, and encompassing of, the set of forms. A principle cannot be restricted to one of its expressions over and against the others (circles are not ideally red rather than yellow, language is not ideally Mongolian rather than Swahili):
In each order … there is one monad prior to the multitude, which imparts one ratio and connection to the natures arranged in it, both to each other and to the whole … that which ranks as the cause of the one series must necessarily be prior to all in that series, and all things must be generated by it as coordinate.
This idea of necessarily diverse forms being equal in their common display of the creativity of Divine oneness also occurs in the Qur’an (49:13): “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous.”
The fact that one form within a set may happen to express that common feature more perfectly than others (like the nation of Israel compared to gentile nations), is an accidental rather than an essential feature. Writes St. Dionysus:
But if any one should say, ‘How then were the people of the Hebrews alone conducted to the supremely Divine illuminations?’ we must answer, that we ought not to throw the blame of the other nations wandering after those which are no gods upon the direct guidance of the Angels, but that they themselves, by their own declension, fell away from the direct leading towards the Divine Being, through self-conceit and self-will, and through their irrational veneration for things which appeared to them worthy of God. (IX:3)
Therefore, the election of Israel is owing to the fact that “Israel [Jacob] elected himself for the worship of the true God,” whereas others turned away, but it was “assigned equally with the other nations, to one of the holy Angels,” and “there is one Providence of the whole, superessentially established above all … the Angels who preside over each nation, elevate, as far as possible, those who follow them with a willing mind.”
Are Nations a Consequence of the Fall?
Christian theologians have proposed that the angelic fall from Heaven implies a process whereby national, tutelary angels accepted worship from their wards, becoming corrupt and leading the nations under their care into apostasy. This would have been rectified by conversion to Christianity.
In contrast, the design represented by St. Dionysus recognizes that the “higher-order realities” that those angels correspond to are not themselves corruptible. We may therefore read the Bible as implying that people went astray by worshiping other than God, whereupon unclean spirits interposed themselves between them and their rightful angelic guides. The traditional Christian notion that pagan gods are demons is thus retained without imputing sin upon angelic stewards.
In line with this, the Qur’an seems to attribute the actions of Biblical fallen angels, including their joining with human females (72:6) and sowing corruption (6:4), to the jinn (spirits), rather than to angels. Whereas the jinn had previously enjoyed access to prophetic or angelic stations, they subsequently lost this access (72:9), and so can be said to have fallen.
The idea of nations corrupting their angels was taken a step further by Origen of Alexandria, who maintained that spiritual corruption led to the emergence of distinct nations in the first place, whereupon angelic guidance was made necessary. Origen suggests that Israel never had any need of such guidance, and remained under the direct instruction of God, without a mediating angel.
Ultimately, any true religion is under the “direct instruction of God,” where all mediation is a display of His creative power and not an object between Him and us (as though God were a cause in a series of causes and effects). It is in these terms that traditional language concerning God as the only agent, and intermediation as unnecessary, should be approached, (and accounts of God acting ‘directly’ remind us that He can always choose to produce a sui generis cause).
But Origen’s argument reifies this idea. Plurality (of causes in time, and of nations in space) becomes an evil that opposes God’s unity. The problem with this view is that it is, ultimately, a world-denying rejection of creation itself (ironically given Origen’s refutations of dualistic, “gnostic” heresy). Jean Danielou explains:
The political order dependent on the existence of a variety of nations … was henceforth over and done with … [Origen] regarded polyarchy as a system going with polytheism … Monarchy [one state over all humanity] was to appear at the end of the world.
The monotony of monarchy here includes cultural homogenization, for Origen seems to consider the contingent features associated with the nation of Israel, including the Hebrew language, as constituting the ideal character of humanity.
Concerning this flawed metaphysics in Origen and the contrasting medieval conception, Arthur Lovejoy writes that:
Origen had, in connection with his doctrine of the pre-existence of souls, declared that God’s goodness had been shown at the first creation by making all creatures alike spiritual and rational, and that the existing inequalities among them were results of their differing use of their freedom of choice. This opinion Aquinas declares to be manifestly false. ‘The best thing in creation is the perfection of the universe, which consists in the orderly variety of things … Thus the diversity of creatures does not arise from diversity of merits, but was primarily intended by the prime agent.’ The proof offered for this is the more striking because of the contrast between its highly scholastic method and the revolutionary implications which were latent in it.
God’s unity cannot be identified with a created uniformity, for no created form can express that unity better than some other conceivable equivalent form. Equally perfect equivalent forms are always possible; a panther is as much a feline as a tiger; circularity will only ever appear in specific circles, whose substance (crayon on a page, light on a screen, etc.) is always accidental vis the definition of a circle itself. Nicholas of Cusa encapsulates the point in De Pace Fidei’s aphoristic “Equality is the unfolding of form in oneness.”
Tall Hedges, Good Neighbors
In order to avoid idolatrous identification of God with His creation, therefore, we should favor diversity: I observe that circularity is that which many different-colored circles have in common, without the definition of a circle including reference to color.
Thus do we find that the world consists of “joints,” as Plato taught; borders between forms and categories of forms. If all circles were continuous with each other, none of them would be a circle, their outlines must be discontinuous for them to all manifest that common shape. They must each be themselves in order to all be alike.
To bind a thing up is to express its universal character. We can think of ‘beauty’. I cannot make a painting beautiful unless I perfect its specific beauty, rather than imitating the beauty of myriad things. A race horse, a sunset, a woman, are all beautiful, but they are also quite distinct. Apart from more practical considerations, therefore, projects such as the development of a culture and identity (and Ortega y Gasset’s “enticing project for a life in common” that every nation must define for itself) have need of borders for the same reason.
Arthur Lovejoy summarizes the point: “A universe that is ‘full, in the sense of exhibiting the maximal diversity of kinds, must be chiefly full of ‘leaps.’ There is at every point an abrupt passage to something different.”
Crucially, given that no differentiation can occur as a consequence of pure accident, but must draw on God’s design, whether we attend to some abstract category (like a “shape,” “circle”) or to its tangible instances (like the different colors of specific circles in the world), we will be dealing with necessary, higher-order realities. Both genus and differentia manifest archetypes. Blue is no less an archetype than circle. A pyramid does not cause us to contemplate God only by implying a perfect, singular point at its peak, but also by implying the potentially infinite extension of its base. Therefore: diversity reminds us that God is transcendent, for no particular form can express Him, and that God is present, for all particular forms express Him.
The two ideas above, namely that equivalent forms are always possible (for no one form can exhaust God’s disclosure of Himself) and that any authentic differentiating feature results from His disclosures (for nothing exists apart from God’s Being) are expressed by Nicholas of Cusa in the following passage from On Learned Ignorance:
All the names are unfolding of the enfolding of the one, ineffable name, and as this proper name is infinite, so it enfolds an infinite number of such names of particular perfections. Although there could be many such unfoldings, they are never so many or so great that there could not be more; each of them is to the proper and ineffable name what the finite is to the infinite.
He precisely applies this principle to national diversity. As Michael Harrington observes in Sacred Place in Early Medieval Neoplatonism, Nicholas “had long thought of the division of human beings into distinct regions and nations as an important stimulus to world harmony.” Thus, “following both Eckhart and the humanists,” and, we would add, St. Dionysus,
[Nicholas] was able to assess the diversity of human languages non-instrumentally and positively as the different ‘points of view’ of an ‘explicating’ and always partial human reason.
Therefore, Nicholas had “no interest in a mystical ursprache [original human speech] nor in a ‘natural’ and universal language.” We can apply this idea to cultural differences in general: There is no single cultural expression (linguistic or otherwise) that most perfectly captures the human condition and God’s design, over and against all possible alternatives.
Where Traditionalists go Wrong
So far we have established the positive, archetypal character of national diversity. We may now contrast this against the well-established view that the existence of nations is, at worst, a tragic necessity, a bulwark against worse things, or at best, an accidental feature of life.
Because the modern mind does not believe in archetypal disclosure (‘names’ of God) it understands diversity as resulting from random, chaotic processes. It therefore posits that stability may be guaranteed by balancing the inherently contradicting interests of individuals and states (individualism or market-determinism, and statism or historical-determinism being the principal categories of political modernity).
Unfortunately, this view occurs in ‘traditional’ conservative thought as well. This is the case among Catholic thinkers, for example, to the degree that they have, sometimes unconsciously, accepted the idea that nature receives grace in an act which is extraneous to its character, being inherently devoid of grace, and that God could have chosen to create a world in which nature was never oriented towards salvation through grace. Such a view is sometimes described as “two-tier Thomism,” the bottom tier being pura natura, pure nature, and the top being grace (where “Thomism” does not necessarily correspond to St. Thomas’ actual thought).
Nature (analogous to differentia, substance, colors as distinct from shapes) would, in itself, have no depth-dimension, no archetypical resonances, and so, diversity would not be expressive of God’s names, being instead a chaotic flux, resulting from the fall.
It is for this reason that Catholic intellectuals will, at times, describe nations as a moral good in the accidental mode: it is a moral good to honor my parents, and it so happens that I have this particular mother and father. To the degree that this scales up to a nation, patriotism is an application thereof.
It is unclear why perpetuating cultural features honors one’s parents, however, for such honoring relates to a specific moral responsibility concerning their well-being. Our personal relationship and care-taking of our parents would seem to be distinct from the perpetuation of an intangible cultural legacy, however much the paradigm in question may want to assimilate the latter into the former. If culture has no verticality, no animating archetype, then the culture my parents happened to inhabit bears no moral significance. It is pure accident (part of a pure nature devoid of grace). They wore it the way they wore a particular shirt, but am I expected to dress in their clothes as well?
Apart from its flaccid account of nationhood, this view takes states to be a necessary restraint against disorder, and, if it justifies their diversity, it does so in liberal terms as a balance of power safeguarding against despotic hegemony.
This may be why many Catholic political theorists did not resist the destruction of the commons: if the individual is a moral agent and the state a moral restraint, the one’s private property and the other’s state property have their place in the economy of salvation. The commons, however, would be a field of chaotic, sinful desires and conflicting interests destined for tragedy. We are to restrain nature (including human nature), until it receives grace, rather than shepherding forth inherent archetypical realities by which the names of God might reveal themselves and magnetize us to proper worship.
The opposite perspective would champion economic arrangements that cultivate self-perpetuating, organic, virtuous sociability distinct from individual-level moral calculus and state administration.
To summarize, then: this understanding sees in the picturesque, coherent distinction of a nation and culture the occasion for contemplating the presence of God (his “names” and archetypical realities), and in the diversity of nations it finds occasion for contemplating His transcendence, which exceeds forms even as it draws them into a harmony expressive of oneness. As Proclus puts it, what diverse forms have in common is imparted “both to each other and to the whole.” Nations, therefore, must express universal virtues like justice, order, and sociability within and between themselves; they must constitute both coherent wholes in themselves and a communal harmony together.
If the integrity of a nation manifests God’s oneness in the mode of presence, the interaction of nations manifests it in the mode of transcendence.
Nations are necessarily loci of political participation, and it is likewise legitimate for groups of nations with something in common (and, indeed, in a final instance, the whole of humanity) to share political institutions. The form this takes should vary depending on historical conditions, but we may seek guidance in Plato’s move towards what we might describe as a Hellenic federation, a virtuous equivalent to the yoke of that Persian conquest whose tyranny the Athenian precisely criticizes in The Laws for its vicious effacement of the distinction of peoples, but whose imperial imperative can be imitated in an organic form.