Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

The Fourth Cup of the Passover

I found this Scott Hahn talk through a comment on Dawn Eden's blog.There's a lot more on this topic in his book The Lamb's Supper. Good book.

A really nice essay on a darned good artist, which unfortunately I discovered through an essay on snarky obituaries about his dead wife.

A little Googling produced a sermon by Mr. Knippers.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Pope Benedict XVI's First Homily in Office

The BBC has an English translation in PDF format. Found via the comment section on I've transcribed it with a couple additions from (Yes, I know, will have it tomorrow or the next day. I've got it now.)

The Beeb replaced the Papal We with I, which is an interesting choice. Anyway, don't miss the horrible pun at the end.

"Our Venerable Brothers, dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, all you people of goodwill in the universe!

"Grace and peace in abundance to all of you! In my soul there are two contrasting sentiments in these hours. On the one hand a sense of inadequacy and human turmoil for the responsibility entrusted to me yesterday as the Successor of the Apostle Peter in this See of Rome, with regard to the Universal Church. On the other hand, I sense within me profound gratitude to God Who, as the liturgy makes us sing, does not abandon His flock, but leads it throughout time, under the guidance of those whom He has chosen as vicars of His Son, and made pastors.

"Dear ones, this intimate recognition for a gift of divine mercy prevails in my heart in spite of everything. I consider this a grace obtained for me by my venerated predecessor, John Paul II. It seems I can feel his strong hand squeezing mine; I seem to see his smiling eyes and listen to his words, addressed to me especially at this moment: 'Be not afraid!'

"The death of the Holy Father John Paul II, and the days which followed, were for the Church and for the entire world an extraordinary time of grace. The great pain for his death and the void that it left in all of us were tempered by the action of the Risen Christ, which showed itself during long days in the choral wave of faith, love and spiritual solidarity, culminating in his solemn funeral.

"We can say it: the funeral of John Paul II was a truly extraordinary experience in which was perceived in some way the power of God Who, through His Church, wishes to form a great family of all peoples, through the unifying force of Truth and Love. In the hour of death, conformed to his Master and Lord, John Paul II crowned his long and fruitful pontificate, confirming the Christian people in faith, gathering them around him and making the entire human family feel more united.

"How can one not feel sustained by this witness? How can one not feel the encouragement that comes from this event of grace?"

"Surprising every anticipation I had, Divine Providence, through the will of the venerable Cardinal Fathers, called me to succeed this great Pope. I have been thinking in these hours about what happened in the region of Caesarea of Philippi two thousand years ago; I seem to hear the words of Peter: 'You are Christ, the Son of the living God,' and the solemn affirmation of the Lord: 'You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church...I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.'

"You are Christ! You are Peter! It seems I am reliving this very Gospel scene. I, the Successor of Peter, repeat with trepidation the anxious words of the fisherman from Galilee, and I listen again with intimate emotion to the reassuring promise of the Divine Master. If the weight of the responsibility that now lies on my poor shoulders is enormous, the divine power on which I can count is surely immeasurable: 'You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church.' Electing me as the Bishop of Rome, the Lord wanted me as his Vicar, he wished me to be the 'rock' on whom everyone may rest with confidence. I ask him to make up for the poverty of my strength, that I may be a courageous and faithful pastor of His flock, always docile to the inspirations of His Spirit.

"I undertake this special ministry, the Petrine ministry, at the service of the Universal Church, with humble abandon to the hands of the Providence of God. And it is to Christ in the first place that I renew my total and trustworthy adhesion: "In Te, Domine, speravi; non confundar in aeternum!' [I have hoped in You, Lord; let me never be confounded!]

"To you, Lord Cardinals, with a grateful soul for the trust shown me, I ask you to sustain me with prayer and with constant, active and wise collaboration. I also ask my brothers in the episcopacy to be close to me in prayer and counsel so that I may truly be the 'Servus servorum Dei' (Servant of the Servant of God). As Peter and the other Apostles were, through the will of the Lord, one apostolic college, in the same way the Successor of Peter and the Bishops, successors of the Apostles -- and the Council forcefully repeated this -- must be closely united among themselves. This collegial communion, even in the diversity of roles and functions of the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops, is at the service of the Church and the unity of faith, from which depend in a notable measure the effectiveness of the evangelizing action of the contemporary world. Thus, this path, upon which my venerated predecessors went forward, I too intend to follow, concerned solely with proclaiming to the world the living presence of Christ.

"Before my eyes is, in particular, the witness of Pope John Paul II. He leaves us a Church that is more courageous, freer, younger. A Church that, according to his teaching and example, looks with serenity to the past and is not afraid of the future. With the Great Jubilee the Church was introduced into the new millennium carrying in her hands the Gospel, applied to the world through the authoritative re-reading of Vatican Council II. Pope John Paul II justly indicated the Council as a 'compass' with which to orient ourselves in the vast ocean of the third millennium. Also in his spiritual testament he noted: 'I am convinced that for a very long time the new generations will draw upon the riches that this council of the 20th century gave us.'

"I too, as I start in the service that is proper to the Successor of Peter, wish to affirm with force my decided will to pursue the commitment to enact Vatican Council II, in the wake of my predecessors and in faithful continuity with the millennia-old tradition of the Church. Precisely this year is the 40th anniversary of the conclusion of this conciliar assembly (December 8, 1965). With the passing of time, the conciliar documents have not lost their timeliness; their teachings have shown themselves to be especially pertinent to the new exigencies of the Church and the present globalized society.

"In a very significant way, my pontificate starts as the Church is living the special year dedicated to the Eucharist. How can I not see in this providential coincidence an element that must mark the ministry to which I have been called? The Eucharist, the heart of Christian life and the source of the evangelizing mission of the Church, cannot but be the permanent center and the source of the petrine service entrusted to me.

"The Eucharist makes the Risen Christ constantly present, Christ who continues to give Himself to us, calling us to participate in the banquet of His Body and His Blood. From this full communion with Him comes every other element of the life of the Church, in the first place the communion among the faithful, the commitment to proclaim and give witness to the Gospel, the ardor of charity towards all, especially towards the poor and the smallest.

"In this year, therefore, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi must celebrated in a particularly special way. The Eucharist will be at the center, in August, of World Youth Day in Cologne and, in October, of the ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which will have the theme "The Eucharist, Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church". I ask everyone to intensify, in coming months, love and devotion to the Eucharistic Jesus and to express in a courageous and clear way the Real Presence of the Lord, above all through the solemnity and the correctness of the celebrations.

"I ask this in a special way of priests, about whom I am thinking at this moment with great affection. The priestly ministry was born in the Cenacle [Upper Room], together with the Eucharist, as my venerated predecessor John Paul II underlined so many times. 'The priestly life must have in a special way a 'Eucharistic form',' he wrote in his last Letter for Holy Thursday. The devout daily celebration of Holy Mass, the center of the life and mission of every priest, contributes to this end.

"Nourished and sustained by the Eucharist, Catholics cannot but feel stimulated to tend toward that full unity for which Christ hoped in the Cenacle. Peter's Successor knows that he must take on this supreme desire of the Divine Master in a particularly special way. To him, indeed, has been entrusted the duty of strengthening the brethren.

"Thus, in full awareness and at the beginning of his ministry in the Church of Rome that Peter bathed with his blood, the current Successor assumes as his primary commitment that of working tirelessly toward the reconstitution of the full and visible unity of all Christ's followers. This is his ambition; this is his compelling duty. He is aware that to do so, expressions of good feeling are not enough. Concrete gestures are required to penetrate souls and move consciences, encouraging everyone to that inner conversion which is the basis for all progress on the road to ecumenism.

"Theological dialogue is necessary. A profound examination of the historical reasons behind past choices is also indispensable. But even more urgent is that 'purification of memory' which was so often evoked by John Paul II, and which alone can dispose souls to welcome the full truth of Christ. It is before Him, supreme Judge of all the living, that each of us must stand, in the awareness that one day we must explain to Him what we did and what we did not do for the great good that is the full and visible unity of all His disciples.

"The current Successor of Peter feels himself to be personally implicated in this question and is disposed to all in his power to promote the fundamental cause of ecumenism. In the wake of his predecessors, he is fully determined to cultivate any initiative that may seem appropriate to promote contact and agreement with representatives from the various churches and ecclesial communities. Indeed, on this occasion too, he sends them his most cordial greetings in Christ, the one Lord of all.

"In this moment, I go back in my memory to the unforgettable experience we all underwent with the death and the funeral of the lamented John Paul II. Around his mortal remains, lying on the bare earth, leaders of nations gathered, with people from all social classes and especially the young, in an unforgettable embrace of affection and admiration. The entire world looked to him with trust. To many it seemed as if that intense participation, amplified to the confines of the planet by society's media of communication, was like a choral request for help addressed to the Pope by modern humanity, which, wracked by fear and uncertainty, questions itself about the future.

"The Church today must revive within herself an awareness of the task to present the world again with the voice of the One Who said: 'I am the light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.' In undertaking this ministry, the new Pope knows that his task is to bring the light of Christ to shine before the men and women of today: not his own light, but that of Christ.

"With this awareness, I address myself to everyone, even those who follow other religions or who are simply seeking an answer to the fundamental questions of life and have not yet found it. I address everyone with simplicity and affection, to assure them that the Church wants to continue to build an open and sincere dialogue with them, in a search for the true good of mankind and of society.

"From God I invoke unity and peace for the human family and declare the willingness of all Catholics to cooperate for true social development, one that respects the dignity of all human beings.

"I will make every effort and dedicate myself to pursuing the promising dialogue that my predecessors began with various civilizations, because it is mutual understanding that gives rise to conditions for a better future for everyone.

"I am particularly thinking of young people. To them, the privileged interlocutors of John Paul II, I send an affectionate embrace in the hope, God willing, of meeting them at Cologne on the occasion of the next World Youth Day. With you, dear young people, I will continue to maintain a dialogue, listening to your expectations in an attempt to help you meet ever more profoundly the living, ever-young Christ.

"'Mane vobiscum, Domine!' Stay with us, Lord! This invocation, which forms the dominant theme of John Paul II's Apostolic Letter for the Year of the Eucharist, is the prayer that comes spontaneously from my heart as I turn to begin the ministry to which Christ has called me. Like Peter, I too renew to Him my unconditional promise of faithfulness. He alone I mean to serve as I dedicate myself totally to the service of His Church.

"In support of this promise, I invoke the maternal intercession of Mary Most Holy, in whose hands I place the present and the future of my person and of the Church. May the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and all the saints, also intercede.

"With these sentiments I impart to you, venerated brother cardinals, to those participating in this ritual, and to all those following us by television and radio, my special and affectionate blessing (benedictionem)."

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Benedict the Sixteenth on Liturgical Music

First off, you ought to know two things: our new pope is, like Condi, a concert pianist; and his brother is a very well-known choir director of a chant schola.

Confessions of a Recovering Choir Director does a net roundup that's full of interesting stuff.

Frex, the first article traces how the Vatican II definition of liturgy as being centered in the community "wherever two or three are gathered" has made people forget that it's really about the One who is there among us. So why do you have music at a liturgy? To build community and exhibit creativity, right?

But the true answer is supposed to be -- to celebrate God coming to us, and what He does when He's with us. We are there to see Him and be seen by Him and be made more like Him, but we are not there to put ourselves in His place.

That is why church music really isn't supposed to be like any other kind of music. There's nothing wrong with pop music or folk music or opera music or even religious music that's designed for non-liturgical use. But liturgical music is supposed to be designed to celebrate God's presence and actions. It is music for the King, exhorting others to attend Him; it is music for the King's pleasure, done while looking toward Him. Otherwise, there's not much point.

So here's what I'm taking with me:

When we sing a new song for the Lord, we have to sing it while understanding what we're doing. This is not another gig; this is not showing off our talents to the parish. This is performing for God Himself, while knowing that anything you can do is about a zillion levels more removed from impressing Him than a slime mold is from you and me. But it still pleases God, so we ought to do it and do our best at it. Besides, it's not as if we singers can really resist the urge to celebrate, is it? No, we'll always feel our hearts burning within us, whether we want them to or not. So we might as well celebrate with the parish, for Him, as best we can.

UPDATE: For those who actually go to and download mp3s of papal Masses, here's the order of music for Pope Benedict XVI's first Mass as pope, and the order of music for Benedict's installation Mass.

Papst Blue Ribbon!

YAYYYYYYY! We have a Pope -- Pope Benedict XVI. In the midst of a week of sickness and a day of upchucking, something I can be glad about! All hail Papa Ratzi the German Shepherd! (Kudos to Dave Mueller in Amy's comments section for the new nickname.)

I have to say, I've never heard any crowd chanting "Be-ne-dic-tus!" before! But it won't be the last! As Matt W. in the same comment section said, "Pope Benedict, wir lieben dich!" HOODY-VERITAS-HOO!

(Btw, Joy, why is the German word for Pope spelled Pabst and Papst? Is this a dialect thing?)

(Also, pre-announcement over on The Corner, K-Lo noted that this is the feast day of another German Pope, St. Leo IX. Who, K-Lo didn't notice, once had a vision of St. Benedict. He was elected Pope the old way, by the populace of Rome, who "cried out with one voice that him and no other would they have as pope." But then, he also had to deal with the machinations of Benedict IX, one of the popes who was made to resign before his time. Ah, the connections game....)

In honor of the day...a filk ttto an Elvis song! Ad multos annos, Papa!

Viva Il Papa
Lyrics: Maureen S. O'Brien
To the tune of: "Viva Las Vegas", Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman

'Ternal city, gonna set some souls,
Gonna set some souls on fire.
Gotta whole lotta heart that's burnin' for God,
Let's lift His name up higher.
There's a zillion of His people wand'rin' out there,
And they're all needin' someone to care,
Now I'm in the vineyard with work to spare!

Viva il Papa! Viva il Papa!

How I wish that there were more
Than the twenty-four hours in the day,
'Cause even if there were hundreds more,
I couldn't take a minute to play.
Oh, there's schisms and scandals, things to wheel and deal,
And a flock in danger which devils steal
Lord grant me a long sight and the nerve to kneel!

Viva il Papa! Viva il Papa!

Viva il Papa -- while our lives we're trashin';
All our sins on our heads crashin'.
Europe heads down the drain.
Viva il Papa -- God, turn day into God's time
God, turn night into light time
If things just go on,
We'll never get it right again!

I'm gonna keep on the job.
I'm gonna fight with the mob.
Gonna bring back the reason and rhyme.
We all wind up dead -- nicht wahr?
I'm working for the Lord until He tells me it's time.
I'm gonna give it everything I've got.
Lady M, pray for me that's a lot.
Let me write encyclicals and serve 'em hot!

Viva il Papa! Viva il Papa!

Viva, viva il Papa!

Monday, April 18, 2005

The Other Great Event Today

Girl Genius is now online! It takes place in a world where sparks (read: Mad Scientists) rule the world -- and fight each other. Once the Heterodyne Brothers tried to use their powers for good, but they disappeared long ago and must be dead. Europe is being unified against its will by Baron Klaus Wulfenbach, his troops, his clanks (read: robots), and his huge airship-castle. A klutzy normal girl like Agatha Clay has no business aspiring to anything more than keeping her head down as a lab assistant -- right?

Follow the story from the very beginning. Trust me. If you get impatient, order the collections. You won't regret it.

My Unitarian Jihad Name

My Unitarian Jihad Name is: Sibling Katana of Love and Mercy.

Get yours.

On Translation. Again.

This is a very interesting essay on "The Poet as Translator", which quotes a lot of good translations, some in full. The writer's own translations are included elsewhere on the site, and are worth reading.

The essay is very big on getting into the same emotional state as the original writer, or at least thinking you are. I think there's a lot of truth to this. Since there's no way of knowing exactly what was felt and meant, you may as well throw yourself into your interpretation wholeheartedly. As with singing, nervousness is no help. Better to be boldly offkey than shakily true.

On the other hand, there's really no way to feel what someone else is feeling without engaging your brain. And the process of writing itself is a curiously unemotional thing; you and your feelings are no more present in the flow of making than you would be thinking about the rights and wrongs of nations or the details of your buddies' lives in the middle of combat. You are too busy doing to feel or think. You are too busy making words say what you mean (what you feel) to actually feel them. The only use of emotion in poetry is to bring you into a state of making poetry. Emotion comes back afterward, but it's shoved aside during.

The Helmets Are Shaking Their Purple-Dyed Crests

A Sophocles play is being given free rein for the first time in centuries...or at least some lines from it are. The same new infrared techniques that are being used to read the scrolls from Herculaneum's House of the Papyri are now being used on the illegible bits of the Oxyrhyncus Papyri, a bunch of papyrus fragments found in ancient Egyptian rubbish dumps many years ago. My headline is from the results.

(I do like that line. Very horsey.)

But scholars are particularly excited to have gotten a bunch of new lines from Archilochos, a soldier poet revered by many ancients as Homer's equal. He seems to have a lot of down-to-earth wisdom and sense, he was supposed to be the satirist, and he invented iambic verse, according to the Greeks. Here's Guy Davenport's translation of one fragment found previously, inside a mummy.

The most concise account of the Oxyrhyncus Papyri is at Wikipedia. At least until some nutball 'revises' it.

The official site I linked to above contains some interesting articles and pictures on the thousands of papyri that were previously legible, including information on:

616: The Other Number of the Beast

Oxyrhyncus' destruction by Muslim Arab invaders, perhaps because the city was a major regional center of Christianity and religious life. Later Muslim sources celebrated the city as the place where Mary, Joseph and Jesus lived during their brief residency in Egypt.

A list of documents used in daily life.

A circus program, or draft thereof.

An illustrated scroll about Heracles

A private letter about a one-eyed astrologer. Boy, I hope this is just code or slang, because otherwise the letterwriter died a very nasty death.

An ancient horoscope.

A house map.

An order to arrest a Christian.

Verse with musical notation.

Pretty cool, eh? There's a lot more on this site. Check it out.

La Vendetta di Dio

If I'd been feeling better, I would have watched the pre-Conclave Mass. Apparently I missed a nifty homily by Cardinal Ratzinger. Check out this text and translation via and from Zadok the Roman (UPDATE: There's a full-length translation at Inside the Vatican):

Cristo porta nel suo corpo e sulla sua anima tutto il peso del male, tutta la sua forza distruttiva. Egli brucia e trasforma il male nella sofferenza, nel fuoco del suo amore sofferente. Il giorno della vendetta e l’anno della misericordia coincidono nel mistero pasquale, nel Cristo morto e risorto. Questa è la vendetta di Dio: egli stesso, nella persona del Figlio, soffre per noi. Quanto più siamo toccati dalla misericordia del Signore, tanto più entriamo in solidarietà con la sua sofferenza – diveniamo disponibili a completare nella nostra carne "quello che manca ai patimenti di Cristo" (Col 1, 24).

The mercy of Christ is not cheap grace and does not suppose the trivialization of evil. Christ carries in His body and soul all the weight of evil, all its destructive force. He burns and transforms evil in suffering, in the fire of his suffering love. The day of vindication and the year of mercy meet in the Paschal Mystery, in the dead and risen Christ. This is the vindication of God: He Himself, in the person of the Son, suffers for us. The more we are touched by the mercy of God, the more we enter into solidarity with His suffering - we become available to complete in our bodies 'that which is lacking in the suffering of Christ'. (Col 1:24)

Oh, yes, Cardinal Ratzinger is such a cruel hard man. *roll eyes*

It's too bad "the vendetta of God" doesn't mean what it sounds like, though.

"Now at last, I will get my revenge on the children of Adam! Mwahaha! Watch me die for you! Take that! Watch me give you eternal life! Mwahaha, the perfect revenge!"

Sounds like something out of the Gospel of Ninja or Paul's letter to the Mad Scientists....