Thursday, August 31, 2006

the dissolving world

If the world were made of construction paper and it began to rain, the edges of everything sopping and blurring; then the world would be a living watercolor. I personally believe that the only medium of visual art that can best watercolor is a good pastel. The following are from Turkish-Canadian watercolorist Asuman Dogan.

A Family in Afyon Street

Montmartre at Night

Grand Market, Istanbul


Karl Pilkington has again composed a poem for the second episode of the podcast. I think I will dub him Poet Laureate of the Aether. This week he regales us with a little tercet:

Bubbled wallpaper: what a mess.
Washer-dryer knackered: what a mess.
Siamese twins separated: one leg less.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

continuation on disbelief

The image above is part of an installation art exhibit in Australia called "Suspended Disbelief", by Nola Farman. Inside the pile of books there is a looped audio that is a stringing together of pieces from sixty different novels, which form a strange narrative. Her other works listed at the bottom of the link are equally interesting.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Decephalization of an Angel

The Apparition, Gustav Moreau

"Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man,
and kept him in custody.
When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed,
yet he liked to listen to him."
From to today's Gospel (Mark 6)

There is a beautifully written passage in the old breviary lessons for today, from a treatise on Virgins by St. Ambrose: "What hath merry-making in common with cruelty? or pleasure-seeking with death-dealing? .. He was slain with the sword , and his head was served in a charger. This was the new dish demanded by a cruelty which the banquet had been powerless to glut." And so we have it concisely, a beheading in the midst of revelry, the ultimate in decadence.

It is interesting to note that in eastern art St. John is always represented as having wings like an angel and carrying around his head. He is the only person I know of where this is the case, probably because he is given the title of the holiest man to ever be born by Christ.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Bleak House

Santa Cruz del Valle de los Caídos, Burial Place of Franco

Today was a wonderfully dreary day, I enjoyed the overcast sky and slight drizzle. On the radio I heard a little piece on NPR about Spain, and how they choose not to talk bad about anything that happened under General Franco, they called it the "Pact of Oblivion". It got me thinking about Franco, and upon looking around I see that people are rather vitriolic about him, all in mimed cliche. The man did bad things, that should be recognized up front, but he is not what people make him out to be, in fact he seems rather noble in intent. Prior to the civil war the leftists were systematically killing Catholics, destroying and stealing the churches property, and it was Franco who stood up to defend the church. Luckily he was able to stop their massacre. During World War II he helped up to 60000+ Jews by granting them asylum, when told how Hitler would react he responded that he would rather face Hitler for aiding the Jews than to face God for not aiding them. Interestingly he heard mass every morning and prayed a rosary every night with his wife. I realize that he wasn't a perfect man, but I also realize he wasn't a two-dimensional cliche, he was vast, he contained multitudes, this is what makes him an interesting figure. (above: Francisco Franco, Leon Golub) (below: Franco next to Unamuno in a mural located in the Salón de Plenos)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sinking in the Desert of Disbelief (Ceramic), Van Wessels

Many of Jesus’disciples who were listening said,
“This saying is hard; who can accept it?”
Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this,
he said to them, “Does this shock you?
What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending
to where he was before?
It is the spirit that gives life,
while the flesh is of no avail."
From today's Gospel (John 6)

"There are two ways," starts the Didache, "The way of life and the way of death; and the difference between them is great." There are two distinct ways, very different, and very much at odds. I would posit that one is the way of disbelief and the other is the way of belief.

(To the right: The Willing Suspension of Disbelief, Liz Cohn) Disbelief is sinking stagnation: a simple drifting into the pit of reason and all its wiles. The way of belief is release, is infinite, is without bounds. The way of life is belief and the way of death is disbelief.

There's nothing more dull and drearisome than a fact, and contrariwise nothing is more true than a well told fiction.

Facts have meaning but no value, whereas belief has no meaning but only value.

I think now of the man in Mark's Gospel who cried out to the Lord: "I do believe; help my disbelief." Likewise should our prayer be.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Pilkington the Obscure

Karl the Bewildered, by Joe Murray

Some folks say Karl Pilkington doesn't really exist, but much like the magical island that is perfect in our minds, he must exist, because no man could make such a fantastic creation. Karl Pilkington is an ex-producer of XFM radio in Britain, and of course the main force behind The Ricky Gervais Show, which is simply an Internet version of what they have been doing since 2001 on XFM. This week the podcast has started again, and it is as brilliant as ever, Karl having witnessed the heart attack of a bee seemed somewhat sullen and keenly aware of our mortality. He also composed a rather grand poem, which goes as follows:

If moths had eyes would they be happier?
How do they know they're not dead?
Cave men hunting for food,
but not before they style the hair on their head.

What would last longer in Dinosaur times?
A blind man didn't stand a chance,
not with all them rocks about.
I'd rather be a blind moth.

Here is Karl's brief history of evolution: "It was bacteria, fish, mermaid, man, onwards and what have you." Another great thought was about how he slept as a kid: "I once laughed myself to sleep, because I couldn't believe my luck."

And finally my favorite quote of all: "Knowledge is hassle."

Thursday, August 24, 2006

not really final judgment yet

I was searching high and low for some nice paintings of Heaven and Hell, and I'm now unsure why exactly I was doing this, but regardless of the why I came across something that was rather nice. Though these aren't really that menacing, its nice to see how one thought can metamorph into something completely different. The following paintings are by Joe Soren:

Jess and Henry
Holden's Moment
Cat in Space
Heaven and Hell

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

less than a step from nothingness

Nothingness, dai inami*

Some more good quotes by E.M. Cioran:

"The ecstasy of dissolution and inactuality in life are the conditions
for the actualization of paradise."

"The initial revelation of any monastery: everything is nothing. Thus begins all mysticisms. It is less than one step from nothing to God, for God is the positive expression of nothingness"

"If God were a Cyclops, Spain would be his eye."

"There are tears which pierce through the earth and rise as stars in other
skies. I wonder who has wept our stars?"


*(Sadly I can't read Japanese, so I have no idea what anything on his site says, but his art is rather nice, and heres a few more from his selection):


Boarder of Heaven and Hell

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Octave of the Assumption - Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix

Mary the new Eve, Sr Mary Grace Thul O.P.

By woman we were loosed and by woman we were reclaimed. As the great inversion goes, from eva~ave. There are four defined dogmas of the Virgin Mary(Immaculate Conception, Perpetual Virginity, Assumption, Mother of God), and a fifth that this currently being defined, that being the title of Co-Redemptrix. The title has already been used as an attribute for Mary by both Pope John Paul II and Pius XI. Its an interesting conundrum to think what would have happened if she had said no, as all humanity had to that point, if she had not bourne God. Her role as the Mediatrix of all Graces has been accepted far back into the early Middle Ages, later and most eloquently describe by Saint Louis de Monfort. The current work toward this dogma is done by the Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici, whose website has alot of information.

The Image to the left is titled "The Eighth Day" and is By the Sister mentioned above. They are both from a collection of paintings and woodcuts called "Visual Prayers", stemming from invocations Pope John Paul II had concerning Mary.

Monday, August 21, 2006

the end of all alphabets - Saint Gaudi ?

If anyone has seen the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona they are tempted to say it is the most beautiful church ever created. The man who willed it into being is Antoni Gaudi (nicknamed God's architect), who spent half his life living inside the church as a hermit, renouncing all his wealth to help fund the building and begging on the street to help raise funds to build this masterpiece. And while I consider him the greatest architect, I was still surprised, and greatly pleased, to discover that he is on a somewhat fast track for sainthood. Here is a nice article explaining why he is being considered, and here is another good article. (to the right is an image of the Sagrada Familia) If, or when, Gaudi is beatified he will be the first lay artist to be given this title, and to no greater artist could it be given. When the workers on the church became angry at the slow progress of the building Gaudi, acknowledging God, said that "my client can wait", because he was sure that God was in no hurry.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Taf - Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Disputation of the Eucharist, Raphael

"The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him."
From todays Gospel (John 6)

We are vampires. It's what Jesus commanded of us, I mustn't argue with him.

By true Jesus didn't mean fake, no matter how much some "theology" protests. When everyone was startled at his demand of cannibalism Jesus didn't say "Just kidding guys, I was pulling your leg." Rather he said what he said and nearly everyone deserted him. Its crazy, its fantastical, it makes no rational sense, but its true. Credo quia absurdum, I believe because it is absurd.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

sin - on sin

The eve of Original Sin (from the series Inhumans), baron samedi.

I've come to the letter Sin and feel it appropriate to write on something that is quite hush-hush these days, living in the age of advanced capitalism where most sins are seen as cultural virtues. Looking into sin is a complicated matter (CCC), and not any less complicated if one understands what is said. It seems sin is defined by anything contrariwise to the "eternal law", but what is the eternal but God himself. Here in our lives on the lower spheres our actions tend toward two poles, the finite or the infinite, toward the sensual or the ecstatic. Here is where I would develop a sense of sin, those things which draw us down toward the finite is sin, and that which draws us outward is virtue. Those things that occupy and fill us with this stagnant reality are the sins we are told to avoid, whereas the greatest virtue is to empty ourselves, pour out and become hollow. This, to me, seems simpler to understand, and easily compatible with Aquinas's idea of sin as deprivation of perfect being. I'm afraid that perhaps I 've made little to no sense, but that is generally my way of argumentation.

Friday, August 18, 2006


from St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague. made by Alphonse Mucha

If our existence is a house, art is a window. My brother recently posted a thought about how art is a mirror, and to some extent I can see what he is saying, and yet I feel this is only a side effect and not art's reality. So it got me thinking of an analogy that I preferred more, and I came up with that of a window. It is possible to see oneself reflected in a window, but I wouldn't call it a mirror, the reflection is faint and surface. What a window actually does is show something beyond, outside of reality, beyond ourselves, though we are flickering on the boundary between, in our transparent reflection. Art is this thing that sits solemn touching the finite, but also allowing us to peer into the infinite, beyond the house, out into the azure.

But I'm rambling now and want to talk about this stained glass pictured above. It was designed and made by the great symbolist painter Alphonse Mucha (a nice timeline). It was commissioned for the St. Vitus Cathedral of Prague in 1931. I rather enjoy when great artists do designs for the Catholic Church, it reminds me of the great medieval and renaissance days, when all good artists did work for the Church. :)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Resh - on the superiority of the fantastic

The Communion of Saints in Cosmic Symphony in Heaven,
From the Scivias of St. Hildegard von Bingen

A fantastic passage from my continued reading of E.M Cioran's "Tears and Saints":

"All of the philosophers put together are not worth a single saint. Philosophy has no answers. Compared to philosophy, saintliness is an exact science. It gives us exact answers to questions that philosophers do not dare even consider. Its method is suffering and its goal is God. Since it is neither practical nor easy, men place it in the domain of the fantastic and worship it from afar. ... For whatever is valid in philosophy comes from its borrowings from religion and mystical revelations. In itself philosophy, like the rest of culture, is nothing.
Philosophers are cold blooded. There is no heat except near God. That's why the Siberia of our souls clamors for the saints."


This is a fantastic link to a flash animation about the Vatican Space Program, i stumbled on it a few days late for Mary's assumption, but I find it rather grand.

Also a late entry on the assumption is the Pope's comment on the feast.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Kuf - Art and papal cats

I had posted a painting by John Armstrong a while ago, but I didn't mention anything about him. He is a Catholic artist from the UK whose work ranges quite a bit. At this website you can find both his art and his wife's. Here's a few selections:

Dream of the Rood

Self Portrait, age 19

St Edward the Confessor (Sign), Keymer, Sussex

Portrait of an Apostle


When Pope John Paul II was still a cardinal, and prior to his first visit to New York in 1969 he had a dream about homeless mother cat and her kittens roaming the streets looking for food and shelter. The cat only found refuge at the house of one of the poorest people. It is a rather strange story, the whole story with a bit of commentary is here.
Here is a bit about Pope Benedict XVI concerning the cats he visits in Rome, which he speaks to in "a strange language".

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

tsadee - The Assumption of Mary

"There is no one in existence who is able to praise worthily the holy death of God's Mother, even if he should have a thousand tongues and a thousand mouths. Not if all the most eloquent tongues could be united would their praises be sufficient. She is greater than all praise."

Today is the Assumption (wiki), The Virgin Mary's heavenly birthday. In the east they call this feast the Dormition, reflecting the death/sleep of Mary, whereas in the Roman rite the tradition is that may was either assumed into heaven a moment before death, or resurrected from death and then assumed.

Here is a collection of saying by the early church fathers about the Assumption.

Mary Queen of Heaven, ora pro nobis.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Pey - faraway graffiti

a banner made for a 1987 "happening"

Starting the mid 1980's Waldemar Fydrych began an surreal-absurdest graffiti/performance group to protest Communism in Poland called the Orange Alternative. The name derives from the mixing of the two major influences on Poland, Red-Communism and Yellow-The Church. One of the main motifs was dwarfs, Fydrych said: "Can you treat a police officer seriously, when he is asking you the question: 'Why did you participate in an illegal meeting of dwarfs?" (to the right and below are some of the dwarfs that still remains to this day). Beyond the images the movement held "happenings" that are reminiscent of the Dada gatherings of the 20's. These ranged from singing Stalinist hymns to caged monkeys to stageing strikes in the name of Lenin.
Fydrych was also noted for saying there were only three places where one could be free: the church, prison, and the streets. Since its inception the group has be lauded by many organizations for its use of non-violent protest.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Ayin - Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Elijah went a day’s journey into the desert,
until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it.
He prayed for death saying:
“This is enough, O LORD!
Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”
from the first reading (1 Kings 19)

There is no more evident sign that anyone is a saint and of the number of the elect, than to see him leading a good life and at the same time a prey to desolation, suffering, and trials.

-- St Aloysius Gonzaga

Suffering is a strange motif in the bible, from the pain of the fall, to the inexplicable dolors of Job, to the redeeming sufferings of Mary and, ultimately, Jesus. While the redeeming nature of Christ suffering can be grasped by many, all the suffering that floods the world still baffles most and remains a mystery, and to a large part will remain so until the end of time.

(to the right is William Blake's etching of God Speaking to Job) For 37 chapters Job beseeches God for an answer to these questions of suffering, and finally God breaks his silence, but the response, one can almost be assured, is not what Job was expecting: "Then the Lord answered Job out of a whirlwind, and said: Who is this that wrappeth up sentences in unskillful words? Gird up thy loins like a man: I will ask thee, and answer thou me. Where wast thou when I laid up the foundations of the earth? tell me if thou hast understanding."(Job 38:1-4) And so God continues for the rest of the book, basically showing the finite nature of man, but in the end nothing is answered, if anything we are left even more baffled.

And then there is the advent of God become man, the birth of Christ and his successive sufferings. Perhaps in the light of those mysteries Job is more understandable, for how was Job to know that through suffering there could be redemption. And yet there is still suffering, even after Christ, which again makes us wonder.

St. Paul writes in his letter to the Colossians, "now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church." Here it seems is the reason for our continued suffering, unification with Christ by our suffering and alleviating the shortcoming of the Church. By this we can understand how suffering is not only present, but in a great sense necessary and laudable, as we can see in the many lives of the saints whose suffering shows us a reflection of Christ and whose pains strengthen us and the Church throughout the ages.


As a side note: Here is an interesting summery of a lecture given on the good of sufferings from a professor of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Samech - tons on nuns :)

(Holy Card) Nun receiving a wedding ring from Christ

I really love nuns, and I have ever since I realized I was to be a Catholic. Monks are great too, but for some reason nuns have fascinated me the most. In my home town there is a cloistered group of nuns called the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters, but because of the color of their habit everyone calls them the Pink Sisters. They gather in the chapel for every office of the breviary and for night prayer the community is welcome to join in, they provide all the materials to follow along with prayers. There are many a night I have spent in that chapel, and they have been fruitful nights. Once during RCIA our group got to speak with the nuns and they were really great, probably the happiest people I had ever met. Something, I'm not sure exactly what, has made me think of them tonight.

Another great thing about nuns, in general that is, are they're habits of course, and the profession ring some orders wear (symbolized mystically in the image atop). (To the right is an image of a Poor Clare showing off her ring shortly after her profession was made.) I found one description of the ceremony by the prioress of some Benedictines and she said thus:

"The beautiful and symbolic ceremony of solemn profession takes place during the Eucharist. After the nun prostrates during the Litany of the Saints whose intercession is invoked, the offering of herself to God through obedience is shown by placing her hands into those of the Superior. The nun then reads her vow formula, signs it on the altar, and places it upon the altar to unite her offering with the sacrifice of Jesus. From Psalm 119, she sings the Suscipe (“Uphold me, O Lord, as you have promised that I may live and let not my hope in you be disappointed.”) with her arms outstretched to show the total gift of herself to God.

The nun receives her ring inscribed on the inside with her name + Jesus. A wreath indicating consecrating one’s virginity to Christ and the final victory of eternal life promised by Jesus is placed upon her head. She receives a copy of The Liturgy of the Hours and is charged to pray it on behalf of the Church. As part of the Offertory procession, the solemnly professed nun caries up her lighted profession candle."

(above is a picture of a Carmelite nun during her profession receiving her ring) Here is the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on rings which also mentions this tradition which seems to go back much further than St. Ambrose, who talked of it as though it were an ancient custom.

And finally, here is a cool link of the step by step evolution of a nun.

Friday, August 11, 2006

nun - appropriately St. Clare

The Bishop of Assisi Handing a Palm to Saint Clare, ca. 1360

Each title for this month is going through the Hebrew alphabet, how appropriate that nun falls on St. Clare's feast. The only time I was in Assisi was during lunch one July five years ago, and the monks had closed St Clare's so they could eat. By the time my group left I didn't get a chance to visit it, and though St. Francis's was fantastic I am always sad that I didn't get to go to Saint Clare's.

I hadn't ever read any of the writings of Saint Clare until very recently and was struck by her poetic tone, you can find all of her letters here. One passage I found rather beautiful was as follows:

"let the noises of the fleeting world and its shadow not confound you; let the empty specters of the deceiving world not drive you mad; shut your ears to the whispers of hell and, strong, break down its attempts against you."
Letter to Ermentrude of Bruges

Thursday, August 10, 2006


The rose has no “why?”; it flowers because it flowers.

Angelus Silesius, Cherubic Wanderer.

I love this quote. Beauty is, and is no more. Forget any supposed purpose, and enjoy what beauty is. So, along those lines here are some selections from the virtual gallery Albatique, which is devoted to the promotion of Canadian art, and what they display is rather nice. These are just a few from diffrent artist, but there is much more at the site, in the way of artists and paintings.

by MauricioEspinosa

By Bertrand Lavoie

by Alejandra Caballero

by Alejandro Senn

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

lamed - blessed are the peacemakers

Blessed are the Peacemakers, John Armstrong

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. ... "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust."
Matthew 5:38-45

Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, on your part, live at peace with all. Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." Rather, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head." Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.
Romans 12:18-21

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