Collect for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity

O God, the protector of all that trust in thee, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: increase and multiply upon us thy mercy; that, thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal; grant this, O heavenly Father, for the sake of Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Year in Revue

I decided to something fun this New Year's Eve, i.e., I'm staying home with a bottle of port and some actual time to write. I traditionally do a short happy new year video to you all, specially to my international readers, in which I embarrass myself and mangle your languages with my wild-ass guesses at pronunciation; this year I thought I'd expand it a bit into a retrospective of stuff I dig that happened this year.

For me, this chiefly means music. 2015 did modestly well here; I mean, it wasn't 2011, which even Fleet Foxes, Justin Bieber, and Nickelback between them couldn't ruin, but you don't get years like that very often. We got excellent new albums from Passion Pit, BØRNS, and Florence + the Machine.

Kindred, particularly "Lifted Up (1985)," maintained the childlike energy that characterized Manners and Gossamer, but with a slightly more house-inspired, wall-of-sound ethos that feels like Michael Angelakos has sort of filled out artistically. It would've been easy to go very conventionally pop, but he still has the lightness and the ambient motifs that grabbed my attention in the first place.

BØRNS is a newcomer, and an outstanding one. Harking back to the unabashed flamboyance and glamor of bands like Journey and Cutting Crew, but with a deeper, more substantial sound that the synth of the eighties tended to lack, Dopamine is one hell of a debut album. His lyrics could be accused, not quite unjustly, of being a bit generic, but even so they're much better written than most other generic lyrics, and frankly, he can afford it anyway: the layers of sound contained in "Electric Love," and the patient control with which it builds, put the trite pretensions of glam metal to shame. (Be warned before watching the linked music video that, if you attended Woodstock or the Summer of Love, you may think you're having an acid flashback.)

Similarly, the inimitable Florence Welch brought us How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, a worthy follow-up album to her unforgettable, baroque fantasia, Ceremonials. She infused a wonderfully strong rock vibe into her new production, above all in the arresting single "What Kind of Man" (warning: brief boob shot), which literally makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck, it's so good. She's one of the few contemporary popular artists other than Lady Gaga who's made a bold use of religious imagery in her work, and I think that's one of the main reasons that her work exhibits such power: it taps into an element of human experience that is largely ignored by modern art (save for the occasional, usually juvenile, blasphemy), and does so in a way that evokes the grandeur and mystery of the religious impulse without cheapening it by reducing it to sex -- even if it sometimes combines the two, as in "Bedroom Hymn" -- or diminishing it to mere sentimentality.

But above all, it is impossible to let Sufjan Stevens' latest pass us by. He's almost the sole contemporary Christian musician (mewithoutYou and Psalters are the only others that spring to mind) that I actually find interesting enough to listen to, partly because he's not afraid to deal in grit, uncertainty, spiritual conflict, and his own ugly aspects and experiences -- something many Christians are, to be blunt, too cowardly for. And I think I say this every time he releases an album, but Carrie & Lowell may be his best work yet. I didn't think he would ever surpass The Age of Adz, and his stuff is so good that I didn't even care. Still less did I think that piling achievement on top of achievement would come by revisiting the sound that characterized some of his earlier albums, like Michigan and Seven Swans. But Carrie & Lowell is, words fail me, great. Elusive without being annoying, melancholy without self-indulgence, spare and haunting and magical. "Fourth of July," "Drawn to the Blood," "All of Me Wants All of You," "John My Beloved," and "No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross" are -- well, nearly half the album, but some of my favorites. Seriously, I just, no words. Go forth and buy.

There were also some new book releases this year that I warmly recommend, among them Bill Hoard and Ben Faroe's episodic Hubris Towers, a Baltimore-based homage to John Cleese's beloved Fawlty Towers series, for which I think phrases like "a madcap romp" are most appropriate. Hoard, additionally, just recently released his own first book, The Dagger and the Rose, a classically constructed fairy-tale, which I'll be reviewing next month.

And now, turning to 2016, which is fast upon us, and which many of my readers are already in. My top ten readerships come from here in the US, Great Britain, Canada, France, Ukraine, Russia, Germany, Australia, Poland, and Malaysia. Greece and Belgium have been more to the fore of late, and, for whatever reason, my Russian readership has been way up over the last month. I always like wondering what prompts people from other countries to read my blog; surely some of them are Americans or other native Anglophones overseas, but I expect that at least some do hail from the countries they're reading from. I can't help but have my curiosity piqued by guessing at what could make a gay, anarchist Catholic interesting to a Russian reader.

In any case, thank you all so much for reading my blog; I'm glad you enjoy it (assuming you do -- but if you hate Mudblood Catholic, I wish you wouldn't read it, since I can only suppose it must be rotten spending your time on it). I hope you find it uplifting and thought-provoking, and, to you all,

Happy New Year
С Новым Годом
Bonne Année
Щасливого Нового Року
Frohes Neues Jahr
Szczęśliwego Nowego Roku
Selamat Tahun Baru
Εὐτυχισμένο το Νέο Ἔτος

And don't forget to go to Mass tomorrow in honor of the Mother of God. Goodnight.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Prayers for Christmas

Some of the prayers for midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, according to the Anglican Use. (I've included the Sanctus-Benedictus, though it is part of the ordinary of the Mass, on account of the unique translation used by the Ordinariate.)

Kalenda, or Christmas Proclamation

Today the twenty-fifth day of December,
When ages beyond number had run their course from the creation of the world, when God in the beginning created heaven and earth, and formed man in his own likeness;
When century upon century had passed since the Almighty set his bow in the clouds after the Great Flood, as a sign of covenant and peace;
In the twenty-first century since Abraham, our father in faith, came out of Ur of the Chaldees;
In the thirteenth century since the People of Israel were led by Moses in the Exodus from Egypt;
Around the thousandth year since David was anointed King;
In the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;
In the year seven hundred and fifty-two since the foundation of the City of Rome;
In the forty-second year of the reign of Caesar Octavian Augustus, the whole world being at peace,
JESUS CHRIST, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, desiring to consecrate the world by his most loving presence, was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
And when nine months had passed since his conception, was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem of Judah, and was made man:
The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.

Blessing of the Creche

Almighty and everlasting God, who as on this night didst cause thine only-begotten Son to be born of the blessed and glorious ever-Virgin Mary for our salvation:
Vouchsafe, we beseech thee, so to hallow and bless this Crib, wherein are shown forth the wonders of that sacred birth; that all those who, beholding the same, shall ponder and adore the mystery of his holy incarnation, may be filled with thy heavenly benediction unto life eternal;
Through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Introit for Christmas Eve

The LORD spake, and said unto me: Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.
Why do the heathen so furiously rage together, and why do the people imagine a vain thing?
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost: As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Collect for Christmas Eve

O God, who hast caused this most holy night to shine with the brightness of the Light of life:
Grant, we beseech thee, that as we have known the revelation of his light upon earth, so may we attain unto his heavenly joys;
Who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

Preface of Christmas

It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto thee, O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty, Everlasting God:
Because thou didst give Jesus Christ, thine only Son, to be born for us; who, by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, was made very Man, of the substance of the Virgin Mary his mother; that we might be delivered from the bondage of sin, and receive power to become thy children.
Therefore, with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious name, evermore praising thee and saying:


Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts: heaven and earth are full of thy glory. Glory be to thee, O Lord most high.
Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

This is the Mass my parish used last night: Tomas de Victoria's Missa O Magnum Mysterium, a lovely example of late Renaissance polyphony (we omitted the Credo, using a shorter version habitual at our parish, but did the rest of the ordinary).

And finally (though, alas! it is not part of any liturgy I know), the music and the lyrics of Sufjan Stevens' magnificent Star of Wonder.

I call you
From the comet's cradle
I found you
Trembling by yourself
When the night falls
Lightly on your right-wing shoulder
Wonderful know-it-all
Slightly where the night gets colder

Oh, conscience!
Where will you carry me?
I found you
Star of terrifying effigies
When the night falls
I carry myself to the fortress
Of your glorious cost
Oh, I may seek your fortress

When the night falls
We see the star of wonder
Wonderful night falls
We see you, we see you

I see the stars coming down there
Coming down there to the yard
I see the stars coming down there
Coming down there to my heart

Monday, December 21, 2015

Death's Dream Kingdom

Gentles all:

I have written a book! An actual book that you can buy for money!

I've excerpted it here on the blog before, and now, Death's Dream Kingdom, my first ever novel, is available on Clickworks Press and Amazon. It is about vampires, ghosts, telepathy, murder, macabre art, English Catholicism, the deep abysm of history, and of course, voluminous Victorian gowns.

So far it is only available in e-format, though that will be remedied as soon as you stop screaming. Please stop screaming, it's just lots and lots of blood. Screaming solves nothing. Please lie back.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Serious Business

I'm working on a real post, but I just can't get in the right headspace for it at the moment. So, for your viewing pleasure, I offer you some Eye-of-the-Tiberian/Onionesque Catholic headlines that I jotted down a while back, having been inspired by some exceptionally bad music at a Mass in upstate New York this past summer.

Spirit of Vatican II Cast Out of Jesuit Professor After 57-Hour Exorcism
Fr Gabriele Amorth "Remain[s] Pessimistic" About Ridding Notre Dame of Infestation

Charismatic Catholic Retreat Declared "A Mixed Success" Due to Nonstop Glossolalia

Cardinal Kasper Caught After Harrowing 140mph Chase on Autobahn
German Catholics Report "Deep Sense of Relief" on Rogue Prelate's Capture

Nancy Pelosi Voted Head of US Episcopal Church

Pious Housewife Scandalized by Literally Everything

Local Parish Builds Cry-Room for Musicians

USCCB Releases "Choose Your Own Adventure" Missal

CDF Commissions Investigation of What the Hell a "Maniple" Is
Could It Be a Tropical Fruit? Some Kind of Disease? Who Knows?

Local Parish Replaces Dour Crucifix With Balloon Version

Current Antipopes Nearly as Numerous as Protestant Churches With "United" in Name

GOP Proposes Institution of Index of Prohibited Encyclicals
Rick Santorum: "Anything With Annus in the Title Needs to Go, That's for Sure"
Bill O'Reilly: "If Necessary, We Will to Resort to Reading Them to Decide Which Ones to Ban"

Fart Disguised as Sob of Devotion

Missouri Synod Lutherans Collectively Shrug, Become Catholics
"Eh, Fuck It," Reports Rev. Matthew Harrison

Pope Francis Realizes What a Terrible Influence He Is Thanks to Local Combox Warrior

Archdiocese of Detroit to Release New Flavors of Host to Draw Attendants
"Grace of Guava," "Cherr-ity," "Pecan Possession"; Approval Pending for "Forbidden Fruit Punch"

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A Portrait of Mary

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is this coming Tuesday, and with it comes the Jubilee Year of Mercy* that Pope Francis is promulgating. I haven't followed that very closely in itself; my bad habits make me an unlikely candidate for complete detachment from sin, and anyway I can't afford to visit Rome for the foreseeable future (though I really want to go back some day -- I've only been once, and I was at the height of my Romaphobic fundie phase at the time, so).

But it got me thinking about the Blessed Virgin Mary, not so much as a topic of Catholic doctrine, but as a historical person -- which, after all, is what the doctrine's about. (It's kind of arresting, when you're used to thinking of things as abstractions because you've encountered them intellectually at first, to realize suddenly that they were and are actual things, things you could bump up against if you were in the right place at the right time. Walker Percy is great at provoking this realization.) Devotion to her as the Queen of Heaven and the Mother of God has always been intuitive to me; even before I accepted Catholic beliefs about Mary, Catholic attitudes toward Mary seemed like the natural way to feel toward her, except maybe that reverence came more easily to me than affection. Still does. But I've only rarely thought about her as a living, breathing person. And when you do, you realize that she was kind of a shocking one.

Theotokos of Vladimir, ca. 1130

It's easy to say that. Christians, especially Catholics, love talking about how shocking the heroes of the faith were, usually with mouths that have clearly never said anything more shocking than "Surprise!" at a friend's party. But seriously, think this over:

First, according to St Luke's account of the Annunciation, she was betrothed to St Joseph but not yet living with him (which was normal practice at the time: about a year normally passed between legal betrothal and the marriage proper). Given the customs of the time, this would probably put her at about 13 or 14 years of age. This girl, at the age when most girls today are deciding which of the members of One Direction should dominate their Pinterest collection, responded to the appearance of an archangel -- something that terrified a large group of grown-ass men with heavy club-sticks at their disposal -- with, apparently, little more than a disconcerted expression: no screaming, no prostrations, even a clarifying (not to say challenging) question to test the spirit speaking to her. That, ladies and gentlemen, is some gorram poise.

The Virgin of the Annunciation, Fra Angelico, 1446

Next, as a girl who is now both unmarried and pregnant, which could get her at least disowned by both her parents and her fiancee, she runs off -- alone -- to the suburbs of the capital. Again: a pregnant maybe-fourteen-year-old girl runs off, presumably on foot (since taking an animal would only get her in more trouble), through a wilderness festively decked with criminals, that will probably take her more than a week to traverse. By herself. I can't stress that enough. The girl had serious guts.

After this, and after singing a fierce hymn of her own devising** with an epic guitar solo (probably), she goes back to the town, family, and fiancee that she bolted from three months ago. Also gutsy. And then, in the face of the tiny, gossipy town, she and her fiancee make it known that they are getting married.

Mary's subsequent history, so far as we know it, leaves the same impression. She receives foreign dignitaries in a carpenter's house, under the nose of Herod the Great of all people -- the same ruler who executed three of his sons, his wife, mother-in-law, and brother-in-law -- in Bethlehem, which was within spitting distance of Jerusalem. She (shortly thereafter) picks up her kid and runs with her husband to Egypt for an indefinite period. Her next recorded visit to Jerusalem, maybe ten years later, portrays her going into the Temple -- how far in exactly we aren't told, but if Jesus was "sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions," it may have taken place in the Court of the Israelites, which women were not allowed to enter*** -- once again to pose a challenging, and very motherly, question, this time not to an archangel but to God. I mean ... what do you even say about that?

The Flight into Egypt, Giotto, 1306

She prompts Jesus to perform His first miracle. She stands beside the gallows onto which her Son has been nailed as a convicted blasphemer and accused nationalist insurgent, watching the execution -- never mind the fact that, as an immediate family member, she could be dealt with too. Less than a couple of months later, she is found right in the middle of the same group of malcontents, prostitutes, illiterates, and scumbags who massed around Jesus in the first place, who have not only stuck together despite the very public and horrible judicial murder of their leader, but have started talking loudly about the whole affair in no uncertain terms and doing the same sort of frightfully dramatic things that alarmed the Sanhedrin in the first place.

I mean, say what you want about Catholic Mariology, but you can't deny the woman had style.

The Coronation of the Virgin, Diego Velazquez, 1636

*For those not familiar, a jubilee year is a year in which plenary indulgences are given to the faithful who 1) fulfill the normal conditions of an indulgence and 2) make a pilgrimage to four specified basilicas in Rome. An indulgence itself, as I've written a bit about before, is basically a grace obtained by the Church that lets us off from the unpleasant spiritual consequences of our sins (which is why they shorten one's stay in Purgatory, since Purgatory is basically the place where you sort through unfinished business). If you'd like a little more technical detail about jubilees, feel free to read this, and if you summon the patience to figure out what it means then feel free to tell me.

**Many New Testament scholars think that the Magnificat was composed by someone else and inserted later as "decoration" to the original story. I don't think this hypothesis at all necessary. The Blessed Virgin would presumably, like most of Nazareth, have been illiterate, living in a culture with a strong oral tradition, and one steeped in the language of the Torah, the Psalms, and the whole history of the Jewish people; both reciting and composing poetry probably came far more naturally to them than it does to us, especially since they didn't make a fetish out of being original. The amount of "stock" material in the Magnificat is high, and I see no reason to suppose that Mary could not have composed it herself, even on the fly.

***The Temple of that time consisted in: the Court of the Gentiles, which anyone could enter, and which was largely turned over to commercial purposes (this being the part of the Temple that Jesus cleansed during Holy Week); the Court of the Women, which all Jews were allowed to enter; the Court of the Israelites, in which only Jewish men were permitted, and from which one could see the next court, where most sacrifices were performed; the Court of the Priests; the Holy Place, which contained the menorah and the table of the showbread; and the Holy of Holies, which had once contained the Ark of the Covenant.