27 September 2016

Cardinal Koch: "It is a wonderful event to be in front of the Face of Christ"

Earlier this morning I mentioned the Italian text of a recent interview His Eminence Cardinal Koch granted to Paul Badde on the Volto Santo following a recent pilgrimage of seventy Orthodox Bishops who celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello.

Paul has kindly given me permission to publish my translation of his interview here for you, which I give in full:
“We saw in the face the mercy of God”: A dialogue with Cardinal Koch

Paul Badde interviews the president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity on a special event

By Paul Badde

PHOTO: Paul Badde
(Manoppello, September 2016 / 9:15 a.m.) In 2017, it will be 500 years since in the West the Lutheran brothers and sisters began to separate themselves from the Pope and from the Roman Catholic Church. However, even older than the Reformation and the division of the Western Church is the Great Schism of the East, and the division of Christianity into the Church of the East and the Roman Catholic Church in the West, which occurred in 1054 between Rome and Constantinople. Only on December 7, 1965 Pope Paul VI from Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras from Istanbul solemnly cancelled the reciprocal anathemas “from the memory and from the center of the Church” “abandoning them to oblivion.” But the Eastern Church and the Western Church remained estranged, above all from the cultural point of view. Now, however, at the invitation of Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto, on September 18, 2016, seventy Orthodox bishops celebrated the “Divine Liturgy” of Saint John Chrysostom under the Face of Christ, there exposed above the principal altar, together with two cardinals and numerous other prelates of the Roman Catholic Church in the Basilica of the Holy Face of Manoppello.

CNA: Lord Cardinal, Archbishop Bruno Forte calls the “Holy Face” of Christ “the polar star of Christianity.” For him, there is no reasonable cause to doubt that the image on the veil is the sudario of Christ that John cites in the Holy Sepulchre near the burial clothes. But is it not also a provocation for the Orthodox brothers?

Cardinal Koch: Christians believe in one God who showed his concrete face in Jesus Christ. When we know more closely the Face of Christ and when we more deeply identify ourselves with him, the more deeply we become one, as well. For this is a wonderful event to be in front of the Face of Christ, to pray, to venerate the Face, because it fulfills his [Christ’s] desire that we be one.

Catholics have something to bring to the Orthodox. Also for the Orthodox it is so, as for instance for their culture of the veneration of icons. Could it be that from this day forward also in the Catholic Church the images can come to be understood and evaluated in a new way – in the midst of that mighty “Iconic Turn” that the experts of communication today note, in which the images expect a general role in communications like never before?

Yes, the very profound mystery of ecumenism is an exchange of gifts. Today the Church has her gifts. And a particular gift the Orthodox have are the icons. So I think that also many Christians in the West can find a new access to the icons and thus deepening the faith. It is a great gift. It is very important that we also re-evaluate the images in the Western tradition. With the Reform of the sixteenth century, we have placed a whole new accent on the word. But the Word has become flesh, the Word became visible, so also the images belong to the faith. This is a gift from the Orthodox that we welcome gratefully.

At Chieti, in these recent days the delicate question of the theological and ecclesiological relations between primacy and synodality in the life of the Church, then the role of Peter and that of all bishops, was discussed within the commission that has come on pilgrimage to Manoppello. Ten years ago Peter came here in the vesture of Pope Benedict. Since then, there has been an enormous turning point in the evaluation of this image of Manoppello that has become famous throughout the world. What significance do you think will be given to this day of pilgrimage, in which the synod of bishops gathered here?

It is very beautiful that we could come here on this anniversary ten years later. Pope Benedict came in the name of the whole Catholic Church. Today is present here the Church of the East and of the West. So this anniversary maybe can also help in the search for the unity between the Church in the East and the Church in the West.

You, as president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, are responsible to Rome for ecumenism. In this regard, Pope Francis affirmed: “Look at Christ and go ahead with courage!” Which next step would indicate to you today to go with courage to encounter Christ, in a day in which notwithstanding the difference between the Eastern Church and the Western Church you have come together before this image?

In reality, we are always on the way towards Christ. Because it is his will that we find unity, it is not a human project. Christ himself on the eve of His Passion prayed that His disciples might be one, that the world might believe. The credibility of this testimony depends on the fact that we are one. This is also a particular request of Pope Francis, when he says that when we can walk on the same road toward Christ, then we find unity.

Misericordiae Vultus”: with these first Latin words begins the Bull of Indiction with which Pope Francis announced this year of the Jubilee of Mercy. The “Face of Mercy” has given to this year a very particular meaning. What do you sense today being here before the merciful gaze of Jesus, who looks at us from this wonderful veil?

It is a magnificent message that we can have a merciful God, for which we know that there are no cases without hope. Per as long as a man can fall down, he can never fall lower than the hands of God. Now you can really see this face, encounter it, it is naturally a marvelous deepening of this message of the Holy Year. The men of today need nothing more than the mercy of God. And if they can look on the face of the merciful God it is a marvelous gift.

And what will you tell Pope Francis about this event in case you will have the opportunity?

I will certainly tell him that we saw in the Face his great message of the mercy of God. And that this Face is important for the whole Church. It is in a certain way the manifesto of the Church: the merciful face of God!

26 September 2016

The Volto Santo and King Arthur?

Last evening, I sat down at my computer with the intention to finally sort through my e-mail inbox and finally clear it out. However, I became distracted by one particular e-mail from Paul Badde. He had sent an Italian transcript of an interview he had with His Eminence Kurt Cardinal Koch about the Volto Santo.

After translating the interview into English (I'll share the text with you later today), I remembered I had found a few references to the Veronica (as the Volto Santo had been called in Rome for nearly nine centuries) in a book given to me many years ago, The Age of Pilgrimage: The Medieval Journey to God by Jonathan Sumption.

Among these references were mentions of the badges - called vernicles - pilgrims to Rome would return home wearing. Being rather unfamiliar with the word vernicle, I discovered it is a Middle English variant of the Middle French veronique, which comes from the Latin veronica.

Sumption notes that the vernicle badge is mentioned by Geoffrey Chaucer in his The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer says in the prologue of the Pardoner that "a vernycle hadde he sowed upon his cappe" (685). A quick Google search found this image from the Ellesmere manuscript:

It is a bit difficult to make out the vernicle, but you can see the face of the badge resembles the Volto Santo.

Sumption also notes that the vernicle is mentioned by William Langland in his The Vision of Piers Plowman:
An hundred of ampulles on his hat seten,
Signes of Syse and shelles of Galice,
And many a crouch on his cloke, and keyes of Rome,
And the vernicle bifore, for men sholde knowe
And se bi hise signes whom he sought hadde (Passus V, 520-524).    
It helps to read the above text out loud to note the ssimilarities with our modern English.
I had previously read about these badges which bore the image of the Volto Santo, but had not been able to find an image of one. So it was that I conducted a Google image search for vernicle and was rather surprised at what I found:

This is an image I had not seen before and it takes only a glance to see that the image bears a resemblance to the Veil of Manoppello; having seen other manuscript copies of the Volto Santo, this did not surprise me. It was the source of the image, however, that surprised me; it comes from an illuminated manuscript of the History of the Holy Grail, one of the many texts belonging to what was called the Matter of Britain, that is, the legends of the King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. In fact, it is not the only image of the Volto Santo to be found in the Arthurian legends:

Because it has been a long time since I read some of the legends of the Grail quest, I did not remember this particular event. In fact, I have no read, nor do I own a copy of, the History of the Holy Grail (though soon I shall).

Looking through my books of Arthuriana this morning, I found this mention of the Volto Santo in Richard Barber's The Holy Grail: Imagination and Belief:
Robert de Boron derives most of his material on Joseph of Arimathea [who is said to have brought the Grail to England] from the Gospel of Nicodemus, but he then continues to use the same text or group of texts. He tells the story of the emperor Titus' son, Vespasian, who is cured by the sight of an image of Christ belonging to a poor woman named Verrine, or Veronica, which Pilate sends to Rome. This derives from a work often found as a continuation of the Gospel of Nicodemus, the Healing of Tiberius. Veronica had encountered Christ on his way to the Crucifixion, and had lent a cloth for Christ to wipe his face; when she took it home, she found a miraculous image of Christ on the cloth. The story has little to do with Joseph of Arimathea and the history of the Grail, though it motivates Vespasian's attack on the Jews as a result of which Joseph and his followers leave Jerusalem. Its importance lies in the fact that this is the history of yet another relic of the Crucifixion. In effect, two-thirds of The Romance of the History of the Grail is taken up by legends surrounding two of the great relics of the Crucifixion (118).
I went to bed last night laughing at the ways of the Lord. It seems he has found a way to unite a few of my principle interests together. I studied medieval history in college, and still prefer medieval history to all other histories. I have loved the legends of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table since I was a young boy. And the Volto Santo has captured my heart and is never far from my thoughts. This morning, I find myself simply marveling at the ways of the Lord.

Now it seems I will be rather distracted for quite some time, at least until several new books arrive.

24 September 2016

Islamic State in West Africa (formerly Boko Haram) Ongoing Updates - September 2016

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26 September 2016
25 September 2016
22 September 2016
21 September 2016
18 September 2016
17 September 2016
16 September 2016
14 September 2016
13 September 2016
10 September 2016

19 September 2016

Orthodox Bishops celebrate the Divine Liturgy before the Volto Santo

Word of the Volto Santo - the veil that covered the face of Christ Jesus in the tomb and now bears the image of his face after his Resurrection - slowly continues to spread among the faithful as the desire to behold the face of God increases in the hearts of those who love him.

Today, nearly seventy bishops of the Latin and Orthodox Churches taking part in the fourteenth plenary session of the joint commission for theological dialogue between the Churches visited the Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Italy where the Divine Liturgy was celebrated before the Volto Santo:

PHOTO: Antonio Bini
I learned of the plans for this celebration some months ago and have anxiously been awaiting photographs and stories from the day's celebrations (which I hope to share with you as I receive them).

PHOTO: Antonio Bini
Antonio Bini, to whom I am grateful for many kindnesses over these past several months, reports that a representative of each of the fourteen Orthodox Churches prayed in ten languages before the Volto Santo. Afterward, they prayed the Our Father together in Italian.

Let us pray that the Lord Jesus will restore unity to his Church through a mutual desire to look upon his Holy Face!

17 September 2016

The decline of American culture and politics, as seen in a Halloween parade

His Excellency the Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Conv., Archbishop of Philadelphia, gave the 2016 Tocqueville Lecture on Religious Liberty yesterday at the University of Notre Dame. He titled his lecture, "Sex, Family and the Liberty of the Church."
Within his remarks, Archbishop Chaput gave a rather blistering assessment of the current political situation in these United States of America (and it was not the first time he has done so in recent weeks):

Only God knows the human heart, so I presume that both major candidates for the White House this year intend well and have a reasonable level of personal decency behind their public images.  But I also believe that each candidate is very bad news for our country, though in different ways.  One candidate, in the view of a lot of people, is a belligerent demagogue with an impulse control problem.  And the other, also in the view of a lot of people, is a criminal liar, uniquely rich in stale ideas and bad priorities.

So where does that leave us?  The historian Henry Adams once described the practice of politics as “the systematic organization of hatreds.”  And there’s plenty in our current political season that invites cynicism.  But Christians don’t have that option.
I cannot say I disagree with his assessment. In fact, I think he has accurately described the current state of our political climate. The country I left three years ago when I began my studies in Rome is not the same country I returned to almost three months ago, and this saddens me greatly.

As it happens, I am one of those who sees one candidate as a belligerent demagogue and the other as a criminal liar. As such, I cannot, in good conscience, vote for either candidate of the two major parties; what your well-formed conscience tells you, I do not know.

I find myself thinking the same thought as Dr. Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, though he expresses it much more eloquently than I have previously managed to do:
I guess it will be my fault. Whichever way the election comes out, it's my fault. My friends who, for fear of Trump, are reluctantly but firmly supporting Clinton are telling me that unless I vote for her (not a chance!) I'm in effect voting for him. If he's elected, it's my fault. But my friends (there are more of them) who, for fear of Clinton, are supporting Trump, however reluctantly, are telling me that unless I vote for him I'm in effect voting for her. If she wins, it's my fault. So either way, it's my fault (or, as my friends on both sides say, "you own it"). But I'm still left baffled by the question of which one I'm actually voting for by not voting for either of them.
As I've considered my options these past many months, I'm intrigued by the American Solidarity Party, which is currently in something of its infancy, though I think it has a promising future.

When he surveyed the political landscape, which is necessarily shaped by the moral landscape of the country, Archbishop Chaput made this excellent observation:
But here’s my larger point: We’ve reached a moment when our political thinking and vocabulary as a nation seem exhausted.  The real effect that we as individuals have on the government and political class that claim to represent us – the big mechanical Golem we call Washington — is so slight that it breeds indifference and anger.

As Christians, then, our political engagement needs to involve more than just wringing our hands and whining about the ugly choice we face in November.  It needs to be more than a search for better candidates and policies, or shrewder slogans.  The task of renewing a society is much more long term than a trip every few years to the voting booth.  And it requires a different kind of people.  It demands that we be different people. 

Augustine said that complaining about the times makes no sense because we are the times.  And that means, in turn, that changing the country means first changing ourselves.
Be sure to read the entire text of the lecture he delivered at Notre Dame; you will not regret it.

This morning I wasvsurprised to learn that the Halloween parade in Vandalia, Illinois - a town within the boundaries of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois - will not involve the tossing of candy (or any candy, for that matter) this year. The decision was made by the Lion's Club, the organizing sponsor of the parade, after repeated warnings over the years. The reason for the decision is really quite reasonable:
The crowds have pushed further and further into the street requiring drivers of vehicles to constantly have to be on guard for children darting into the street to get that last elusive piece of candy.  Sadly, some parents actually push their children to run out and retrieve candy and some have created combative situations with crowd control personnel.  As has been stressed by the Lions in the past – this is extremely dangerous.  Large vehicles such as tractors and large 4 wheel drive trucks simply cannot see immediately in front of their vehicles [more].
Many people, both parents and children, will, I suspect, likely grumble and moan against the Lion's Club for this decision without ever realizing that they brought it upon themselves. This is, of course, what a self-centered culture leads to.

While Archbishop Chaput used the declining state of marriage and family life to highlight what needs to change in us as a people before our political climate changes for the better, he might just as easily - and just as effectively - have used the sad situation of the Vandalia Halloween parade. After all, if we are honest, this situation also stems from the declining state of marriage and family life.

12 September 2016

A name loved by angels and terrible to demons

As we celebrate today the Memorial of the Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we do well to consider what the name of Mary means.

In his Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, Saint Bonaventure tells us that "Mary is interpreted to mean star of the sea" (1.45), a title we considered last week when we celebrated her Nativity. 

In his sermon on the Annunciation, Saint Anthony of Padua said this about the Archangel Gabriel's address to Mary:
Note that the angel did not say, 'Hail Mary', but, 'Hail, full of grace'. We say, 'Hail, Mary ('star of the sea'), because we are in the midst of the sea, tossed by the waves and submerged by the storm. So we cry 'Star of the sea!', that through her we may come to the harbour of salvation. She it is who rescues those who call on her from the storm, shows them the way, and leads them to harbour. Angels need no rescuing from shipwreck, being safe in their homeland, whom the glory of God illuminates, and their lamp is the Lamb [cf. Revelation 21:23]. And so the angel did not say, 'Hail, Mary'. But we poor souls, cast into the sea from before God's eyes, at ever hour storm-tossed and at death's door, cry continually, 'Hail, Mary' (14).
What is more, the Archangel greeting Mary with 'Hail', a greeting that in Latin is rendered as Ave. Saint Anthony tells us that "the name 'Eva' [Eve] ('woe' or calamity) reverses the word 'Ave'. The name of the soul existing in mortal sin is 'Eva' ('woe or calamity'); but when she is converted to penitence, she hears 'Ave' (a-vae, 'without woe)" (11).

Earlier in the same sermon, the Doctor of the Gospel asked, "What is Mary but 'star of the sea', lighting the way to harbour for those tossing on the bitter waves? A name beloved of the angels, terrible to demons, health to sinners and sweet to the just" (3).

In his encyclical letter Spe salvi, Pope Benedict XVI wrote beautifully of the Star of the Sea and addressed a prayer to her:
With a hymn composed in the eighth or ninth century, thus for over a thousand years, the Church has greeted Mary, the Mother of God, as “Star of the Sea”: Ave maris stella. Human life is a journey. Towards what destination? How do we find the way? Life is like a voyage on the sea of history, often dark and stormy, a voyage in which we watch for the stars that indicate the route. The true stars of our life are the people who have lived good lives. They are lights of hope. Certainly, Jesus Christ is the true light, the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history. But to reach him we also need lights close by—people who shine with his light and so guide us along our way. Who more than Mary could be a star of hope for us? With her “yes” she opened the door of our world to God himself; she became the living Ark of the Covenant, in whom God took flesh, became one of us, and pitched his tent among us (cf. Jn 1:14).

So we cry to her: Holy Mary, you belonged to the humble and great souls of Israel who, like Simeon, were “looking for the consolation of Israel” (Lk 2:25) and hoping, like Anna, “for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Lk 2:38). Your life was thoroughly imbued with the sacred scriptures of Israel which spoke of hope, of the promise made to Abraham and his descendants (cf. Lk 1:55). In this way we can appreciate the holy fear that overcame you when the angel of the Lord appeared to you and told you that you would give birth to the One who was the hope of Israel, the One awaited by the world. Through you, through your “yes”, the hope of the ages became reality, entering this world and its history. You bowed low before the greatness of this task and gave your consent: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). When you hastened with holy joy across the mountains of Judea to see your cousin Elizabeth, you became the image of the Church to come, which carries the hope of the world in her womb across the mountains of history. But alongside the joy which, with your Magnificat, you proclaimed in word and song for all the centuries to hear, you also knew the dark sayings of the prophets about the suffering of the servant of God in this world. Shining over his birth in the stable at Bethlehem, there were angels in splendour who brought the good news to the shepherds, but at the same time the lowliness of God in this world was all too palpable. The old man Simeon spoke to you of the sword which would pierce your soul (cf. Lk 2:35), of the sign of contradiction that your Son would be in this world. Then, when Jesus began his public ministry, you had to step aside, so that a new family could grow, the family which it was his mission to establish and which would be made up of those who heard his word and kept it (cf. Lk 11:27f). Notwithstanding the great joy that marked the beginning of Jesus's ministry, in the synagogue of Nazareth you must already have experienced the truth of the saying about the “sign of contradiction” (cf. Lk 4:28ff). In this way you saw the growing power of hostility and rejection which built up around Jesus until the hour of the Cross, when you had to look upon the Saviour of the world, the heir of David, the Son of God dying like a failure, exposed to mockery, between criminals. Then you received the word of Jesus: “Woman, behold, your Son!” (Jn 19:26). From the Cross you received a new mission. From the Cross you became a mother in a new way: the mother of all those who believe in your Son Jesus and wish to follow him. The sword of sorrow pierced your heart. Did hope die? Did the world remain definitively without light, and life without purpose? At that moment, deep down, you probably listened again to the word spoken by the angel in answer to your fear at the time of the Annunciation: “Do not be afraid, Mary!” (Lk 1:30). How many times had the Lord, your Son, said the same thing to his disciples: do not be afraid! In your heart, you heard this word again during the night of Golgotha. Before the hour of his betrayal he had said to his disciples: “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (Jn 14:27). “Do not be afraid, Mary!” In that hour at Nazareth the angel had also said to you: “Of his kingdom there will be no end” (Lk 1:33). Could it have ended before it began? No, at the foot of the Cross, on the strength of Jesus's own word, you became the mother of believers. In this faith, which even in the darkness of Holy Saturday bore the certitude of hope, you made your way towards Easter morning. The joy of the Resurrection touched your heart and united you in a new way to the disciples, destined to become the family of Jesus through faith. In this way you were in the midst of the community of believers, who in the days following the Ascension prayed with one voice for the gift of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14) and then received that gift on the day of Pentecost. The “Kingdom” of Jesus was not as might have been imagined. It began in that hour, and of this “Kingdom” there will be no end. Thus you remain in the midst of the disciples as their Mother, as the Mother of hope. Holy Mary, Mother of God, our Mother, teach us to believe, to hope, to love with you. Show us the way to his Kingdom! Star of the Sea, shine upon us and guide us on our way (49-50)!
Trusting in her maternal care for us, let us call frequently upon the holy name of Mary. Let us love her name with the angels and let us fear and revere her name with the demons (because the light she reflects from her Son illumines our sinfulness). If we call frequently upon her name, we will be guided by the Star of the Sea to her Son, before whom we will confess our sins; in this way, her name will be health and salvation for us. If we call frequently upon her name, we will be just and her name will be sweet on our lips and in our hearts.

09 September 2016

Mary, the true Lucifer

In our post-Enlightenment day when everything is viewed in black and white, as either/or instead of both/and, it may surprise some of the faithful to learn that the Doctor of the Gospels referred to Mary as the true Lucifer.

The name of title of Lucifer is generally taken to refer to the Evil One, to Satan, the one who scatters. The Lucifer is a Latin composite mean "light-bearer." It is applied to the prince of this world because he is said to have been the most beautiful of all of the angels. Historically, however, the title of Lucifer has also been applied to others.

Saint Anthony of Padua says that because "the birth of the blessed Virgin gave light to a world covered by darkness and the shadow of death," this verse can rightly be applied to her: "Like the morning star among the clouds" (Sirach 50:6).

In his first sermon on the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Anthony continues, saying:
The morning star is called Lucifer, because it shines more brightly among all the other stars, with what is properly called 'radiance'. Lucifer, going before the sun and heralding the morning, scatters the shades of night with the brightness of its light. The true morning star, or Lucifer, is blessed Mary; who, born in the midst of a cloud, put to flight the shadowy cloud, and in the morning of grace heralded the sun of justice to those who sat in darkness (2).
He summarizes all of this at the end of his sermon, saying simply, "She is called 'light,' because she scatters the darkness" (4).

Another of the early Franciscans, Saint Bonaventure, explains what it means to call Mary the morning star:
Her nature was made in a special way by God; Psalm 73:16: "You have made the morning light and the sun," that is, the Virgin and her Child. The morning light is mentioned before the sun, even though the dawn is created by the sun, the Virgin in time preceded her Child even though she was created by him; Psalm 86:5 says: "A man is born in her and the Highest himself has founded her;" Sirach 24:12: "He that made me, rested in my tabernacle." Colors are not apparent before dawn; so before the Virgin neither graces nor virtues were apparent but it was said: "O Lord, your mercy is in heaven" [Psalm 35:6] (Sermon 6 on the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin).
As the first light of day precedes the rising of the sun, so Mary precedes the coming of her Son.

In addition to calling her the Morning Star and the true Lucifer, Saint Anthony refers to Mary as "the full moon" (cf. Isaiah 30:26) because "she is perfect in every way." He explains: "The half-moon is imperfect, having markings and horns; but the glorious Virgin had no spot in her birth, because she was sanctified in her mother's womb and guarded by angels; and no horns of pride in her days, so that she shines fully and perfectly."

As we celebrate, then, this day of Mary's birth, let us pray with Saint Anthony:
We ask you then, our Lady, that as you are the morning star, you may by your splendor drive away the cloud of the devil's suggestions which covers the earth of our minds. Do you, who are the full moon, fill our emptiness and scatter the darkness of our sins, so that we may be able to come to the fullness of eternal life, to the light of unending glory. May he grant this, who brought you forth to be our light, who made you to be born on this day, that he might be born of you. To him be honor and glory for ever and ever.