Latin liturgical reform

1.) Cards out: Between the Novus Ordo (TNO) and traditional Latin Mass (TLM) I don’t know which I like less. That sounds snippy, but it was the simplest way to say that I’ve attended, argued about, taught, and mulled over both Masses many times without coming to a clear preference. I guess you could say I have no preference, but it’s not for lack of trying to see if I should form one.

2.) Sacrosanctum Concilium wanted neither TNO or TLM, so Vatican II leaves us neither going forward with what we have nor going back to what we had. Liturgical experiments have been tried and failed before, so perhaps TNO could be abandoned. But this would just leave us with new names for the same old problem: either TNO 2.0. or a TLM that needs reforms.

3.) And the TLM does need reform. But to the TNO first: it’s main problem is that it does not represent the patrimony of the Latin Church since its creators moved too quickly and pushed the symbols beyond the point where they could be seen as continuous with what came before. This is all I’ll say in critique of it, but it’s all I think one needs to say.

4.) The main problem of the TLM is that through historical accidents it lost a large part of its ability to symbolize the pascal sacrifice, which is essentially a sacrificial community meal presenting the sacrifice as a culmination of God’s fidelity in salvation history according to the scriptures. I wholeheartedly endorse the most strident traditionalist who insists on “the holy sacrifice”, but the claim that we have to choose whether the Mass is a sacrifice or a supper completely misses its nature. Passover is a sacrificial meal. If this is Protestantism, then the Protestants were right about something. So what?

5.) We have no record of Christ saying how often the new passover should be sacrificed, but over time the frequency with which it was offered and the number of priests offering it made it impossible to represent it as a community meal. Far from gathering the community, most Masses were individual. This was neither anyone’s intention nor anyone’s fault. It just happened. But it harmed the liturgical symbol and deserved to be fixed.

6.) The community didn’t just gather for passover but took part in its celebration. As part of the ceremony, for example, the son would ask his father “why is this night unlike other nights?” and his father was required to explain how all the symbols were as a memorial of how God had delivered his people according to the scriptures.* Problematically, he TLM cited very little Scripture (4% of the OT and only the Gospel of Matthew) and a father-son dialogue can’t be done between Father and himself. This too damaged the Mass’s liturgical force, though, again, there are no villains here, just historical drift and accident.

7.) No one can fault TLM for representing sacrifice, but it’s hard to argue that its symbols were the ideal representation of Christ’s commandment to be remembered in the pascal mystery. Though I think #3 is an insurmountable objection to TNO, one can’t deny its superior liturgical representation of a community meal whose saving action occurs in accord with the scriptures, the readings from which were massively increased.

8.) I have no interest in the usual critiques of the TNO, most of which are historical accidents of TNO crowds being taken from all Catholics while TLM crowds are only one subset of a larger group of the devout (i.e. most devout aren’t TLMers, but most TLMers are devout.) The non-devout will drag down anyone’s poll numbers for Catholic orthodoxy, will make a casual and irreverent atmosphere, and generally make for an atmosphere obnoxious to the devout. Anyone shocked by this can go run his hands under the tap and marvel over how water’s wet.

*This part was connected to the passover ritual of saying “the Lord be with you/ and which your Spirit/ Lift up your hearts/ we have lifted them…etc” and which would conclude with the “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God, etc”

Hypothesis on temporal

Beings are temporal iff the possession of all their possible perfections involves contradiction.

We can’t have the energy of youth and the experience of age, the quiet of solitude and the excitement of company, the enjoyment of ice cream and mustard…

This temporality divides into temporality in substance and temporality only in accident.

In substance, temporality is based on matter, though it divides into the matter of the imperishable and the perishable. Imperishable matter used to be the supra-lunar bodies, but it’s now seen as more immanent – in one sense it’s all conserved quantities though more properly it’s all physical existence moving at c.

Temporality only in accident is thus peculiar to non-material entities whose operations cannot have all possible perfections, and so are intellects that cannot know all in one thought and consequently cannot love all that they love in one act of will. But their substance is fundamentally different from this, which is exactly what we need to focus on.

Temporality only by accident – the aevum – is a domain without history, narrative or development, since all these things are impoverishments of the aevum that can be conceptualized as introducing exclusions into it. To go from temporality to the aevum is to elevate to a domain where exclusions and contradictions fall away. This is true not just of the intrinsic perfections of the subject but the extrinsic perfections that can be evils to a subject, like its punishments. In time, for example, physical pain often distracts from the pain of loss in the same way that one can’t experience the pain of burning and the pain of freezing.

Seen from the temporal, the aevum is the domain of either unspeakable joy or unspeakable horror, since while goods and evils exclude each other, neither the totality of goods or the totality of evils for a subject exclude each other.

Note on Corruptionism (2)

What difference could we find between a human person and a human self? Can we have a human self even where there is no human person?

Many of our ideas of self can be saved with a notion of self as even a part commanding the whole. This is the sense of “Grant fought Lee in the Overland Campaign” or “Wellington beat Napoleon at Waterloo”. This is not mere synecdoche, like talking about employees as hired hands, but rests on the identity that the will can effect with that which it commands.

Note on corruptionism

The basic argument for Thomistic corruptionism:

1.) Death is separation of form and matter.

2.) No hylomorphic substance exists with form and matter separate.

3.) The human person is a hylomorphic substance.

I take (1) and (2) as inarguable and even definitional. (3) is the tricky. We have to preserve some sense in which it is true, which requires denying an identity of person with the non-material. For all that, hylomorphic substance taken formally is a composite existence and its consequent activity. No Thomist would imagine describing God or angels as hylomorphic or as positing an activity in a stone or a cat that was not of a form-matter composite.

But then there’s us.


Thomism without perfection

0.) Our greatest impediment to understanding Thomisim, especially his theology, is that we want to understand it without the idea of perfection. This creates a strange set of translations of classical ideas into contemporary discussions. In the Aristotelian tradition perfection is foundational and therefore indefinable, demanding continual vision and cultivation as distinct  from reductive analysis.

1.) When being is not seen as a perfection, we lose the sense of pure or unmixed being and replace it with necessity.

2.) Divine simplicity or pure act is not seen as God’s transcendence or eminence with respect to his various attributes but as the “identity of God with his attributes”.

3.) The indifference of the will to a later determination is not seen as an imperfection within the act of choice.

The resistance and indifference of the inertial

For Aristotle, change draws out an inherent desire from the mobile. Violent motions exist too but presuppose natural desire.

From Newton till now, motion imposes force on inertial mass. This means either (a) if the inertial is resistance then motion is violence or (b) if inertia is sheer indifference to motion or rest then neither motion nor rest as such are perfective or corruptive. (b) seems closer to what we have in mind.

But what is sheer indifference? There is obviously something mobile, but “mobility” would be a purely extrinsic form imposed on an inertial N which was neither mobile or not. This means that “motion” stands to N like “2×4” stands to tree – but not quite, since making 2×4’s is an act of violence whereas, ex hypothesi, N is sheer indifference.

If it is sheer indifference, though, where is the resistance coming from? Presumably, from another purely extrinsic form in N. But then we’re saying that resistance is both formal to N as inertial and extrinsic to it.

There’s something significant here but I’m not certain what it is.

Knowledge and eating

Something eaten and something experienced both enter the life of another; the first by being destroyed, the second by being preserved.

Eaters don’t destroy objects utterly but live off the transfer of material that they take in. Given knowledge differs from eating but still lives by taking things in, its taking-things-in is non-material.

In both eating and knowing, something of the world is communicare or shared with life. In eating, what is shared is zero-sum-game and so is the element of things that cannot be common to many. In knowledge, that which is shared or communicated is necessarily one in many. But what is one in many cannot be the principle of multitude, i.e. matter as opposed to form.

Eating and knowledge involve transference of world into life. So how is sensation knowledge? So far as the sensible in potency (an object) causes the sensible in act (a modified sense organ).

Knowledge is not JTB but the living act of taking in others so as to preserve them as they are in themselves, whether as causes acting on matter by their likeness to it (as in sensation) or simply (intellection).

Wanting every child to succeed

I’ve been a teacher for my whole professional career and have taught every grade. I’ve sat untold hours in staff meetings, conferences, IEP meetings, grading discussions, etc all predicated on the axiom that every student should succeed. They should, of course : What else should one try for?

Still, this rarely gets balanced against the sense in which not every student should succeed. Any endeavor in which everyone could excel would be almost by definition pathetically mediocre, and would certainly have to be both rigged and contrived. Though I have no idea how I would carve up all the activities I have to engage in, any fair divvying them up would make me average at most of the them and below average in many others. Even where I’m above average, is it any great shakes to be in, I dunno, the 72nd percentile? Said another way, would you feel that tall if you’d were a woman between 5 ft 4 and 5 ft. 5?

So we have a human instance of antecedent and consequent will: antecedently, we wouldn’t make a school or admit any student with an eye to them failing, and every one enters a program that expects him to succeed. For all that, consequently, the very nature of success makes it impossible that everyone achieve it.

Both antecedent and consequent will are real and structural. The antecedent will isn’t wishful thinking undone by the consequent will’s hard facts, nor is the antecedent will any more abstract and idealistic than the consequent will. They are simply different axes of the one reality of wanting everyone to succeed.

It’s not hard to see that our era focuses on the antecedent will to the suppression of the consequent one, though this is a contingency that has been different in the past and will be different again. Seeing reality requires seeing both wills, but this is hard both to manage and accept.

“Grant to me the joy of your salvation”

Psalm 51 is the paradigm of penitential psalms, attributed to David after Nathan told him of what he did to Bathsheba and her husband, Uriah.

..[W]ash me, and I will be whiter than snow…
Grant onto me the joy of your salvation…
    let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

David, in other words, is asking not just for juridical relief from his penalty, but to be made happy again after what he’d done.

In response to this is easy to imagine a contrary voice demanding a hearing, or even David thinking to himself:

David, let’s look at things again. First, you sat at home sleeping and lounging about when your army went to war. One day after many long naps and laying about you noticed the wife of your friend bathing. You ogled her naked for a while before demanding that she be brought to her so you could demand that she sleep with you (and, let’s face it, consent is pretty attenuated when the guy who can command executions is telling you to do something. This is exactly the sort of abuse of power that now gets called rape.) After getting her pregnant, you lied to your friend and ultimately killed him to save your reputation and ego. Oh yes, and now you’re going to keep his wife and not confess publicly what you did, but have YOUR LINE perpetuate through Uriah’s wife.

And now you want God to make you feel better? But how is this different from wanting to get away with it? I’m sorry, but maybe you can stop thinking of yourself and suck it up. Aren’t you ashamed to ask to feel better in the face of all the things you not just can’t fix, but won’t fix?

The whole scriptural story depends on understanding why this belief is both utterly reasonable and completely contradicted by the both Testaments.

Christ saves sinners. He consoles victims too, to be sure, but saving sinners isn’t about consoling victims but giving exactly the sort of comfort to offenders that David is asking God to grant. David is asking of God exactly what God is offering. So what does God have to say to that other voice?

The other voice is the accuser or Satan


The free choice of pure act (3)

9.) Argument #2. An effect caused ~UP corresponds to what causes ~UP. By definition, creation is such an effect. Therefore, the creator is ~UP or pure act.

Again, for an agent to actualize his potentials in another requires the potentials of the other be given. But creation consists in such potentials not being given. Therefore, a creating agent does not actualize potentials, and so is pure act.

10.) Creation does not actualize a potential in the creator. Given the intelligence of the creator, he is an intelligent being that does not depend on another in action. But an intelligence that does not depend on another in acting is free with respect to that other. Therefore, if a creator creates by intelligence, he creates freely. Pure act thus unifies creation and freedom, rather than making them repugnant.

11.) Intelligence is not a supposition to the argument but integral to it. Pure act as such is intelligent, since actuality as such is the immanent action of life so what is pure act has the highest from of life by way of intelligence.

Again, If pure act acts it acts entirely of itself. But only an intelligent being acts entirely of itself, all else being either entirely trapped in its own subjectivity (the non cognitive) or entirely without reflection that allows it to see itself in opposition to another (the animal, the newborn/ infant.)

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