Piety, ritual, and divine incarnation: then and now

Learning how to behave toward the gods, in daily piety and ritual, and how to negotiate the incursions of the divine into the human—from interpreting oracles and portents to facing the presence of a god in disguise or in epiphany—all of this tests and defines what it is to be human. –Ralph J. Hexter, A Guide to the Odyssey: A Commentary on the English Translation of Robert Fitzgerald.

How to make palm crosses

Nowadays you kids have websites and videos, but back in the olden days the ancient ways were handed on via email. From the archives of a mailing list I was on back in the ’90s:

“As far as I can tell, the palm should be “fresh,” meaning that you probably should do this when you get home from church on Palm Sunday. Pat and I debated whether crosses could be made with palms a few days old (and drying) and soaked in water to limber them up. Anyway …

Split the palm lengthway. Typically the palm is “hinged.” Split it at the hinge. You should have two long slender palms. Take one.

About one fifth up from the broad end (the bottom), fold down. Take the longer of the halves and fold up and to the right about a third from the first fold (now the top). With this second fold, you are forming part of the crossbeam.

You are now going to make the third fold, and thus the length of the crossbeam to the right. Find a point on the palm facing away from the cross (from that second fold) that is about the same distance from the center of the cross as is the top part of it. Fold to bring the palm back toward the cross and forming the crossbeam.

For the fourth fold, again, find a point on the left half of the crossbeam equal in distance from the center of the cross as the right side. Fold to bring the palm back to the body of the cross, completing the crossbeam. The cross itself is finished, but it won’t hold without completing the finishing work.

Take the remaining palm and fold up and to the right, folding over that corner. What you are going to do is wrap the remaining palm around from the top corner, over the front and to the bottom opposite corner. Bring it up the back, to the upper right corner again and repeat. As you bring the remaining palm back around, bring it horizontally across the back. As you bring the palm back toward the front again, bring it across the front to the opposite corner and around to the back. The front should almost like draped cloths criss-crossing the cross.

Should should have a couple inches of very thining palm remaining. Take the remaining palm and thread it in and around the layers in the back (much like taking thread and weaving it in and out of itself when sewing, to finish it off.). Flatten it out, take any kiltering out of the cross and you should have the finished product.

I hope these instructions made sense. I’m a communicator by trade, but I am very accustomed to having visual aids present!

Filia mea

Ego sum Sarah White, secunda librorum (prima filiarum) Carli et Lisae. Ego habeo XIV anna.

Benny cattus parvus est, niger et albus. Casey magna catta est, sed non mater Benni. Harry quoque cattus magnus est, sed non maritus Casiae et non pater Benni.

Catti neque maritus neque uxor, non pater, non mater, non filius – sunt neutrum.

Amao,

filia tua Sarah

Discovering Dorothy Day

I’m reading through her writings for the Catholic Worker in chronological order from January 1, 1933.  I last turned my attention to her when I was a college Republican in the 1980s and I’d filed her under “crazy radical”.  Turns out she wasn’t crazy at all.  It’s exciting to see her Catholic orthodoxy mix with and ferment her social radicalism. 

Pope Francis

Whoever was in charge of the smoke bombs in the Sistine Chapel did a terrific job this time around. The smoke was thick and plentiful, giving one plenty of time to head to the bathroom and return without missing anything.

After the white smoke appeared this afternoon we all gathered around my computer to watch the video broadcast from Radio Vaticana, which provided intelligent and sympathetic commentary. Kids came and went and I called them in whenever something was about to happen.

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the Habemus Papam guy this time around, looked a bit halt and spoke with some effort. Wikipedia says he has Parkinson’s disease.

And after a delay, Pope Francis appeared. Not “Francis I” – a Vatican guy pointed out that he’ll become Francis I when there’s a Francis II. He seems like a serene sort of guy. I won’t attempt any analysis or predictions, except the safe prediction that we’ll see what the future brings. Before Francis and John Paul, the last pope to take an original name was Lando, from the early 900s.

Was anyone else worried about suicide bombers in that huge crowd outside St Peter’s?

To unify the scattered self

Here’s an essay on Hugh of St Victor by Brian FitzGerald.  A quote (but read the whole thing):

In his sermons, Hugh evoked the strong pull of distraction;he must have been particularly attuned to this weakness, looking upon the faces of students eager to keep up with the latest developments or to encounter the frenetic energies of Paris. Against such distractions, Hugh insists, we must learn to be with ourselves in a new way, to see again. To unify the scattered self and find rest for our restless hearts,he writes, you must build “the ark of your heart” out of your learning. This ark will carry you safely across the fluctuations of life or its disordered concatenations. The ark of our hearts touches the floodwaters; it must, for we are creatures in the world and we must encounter reality. But, it also floats above those waters, with its central pillar stretching up to the heavens. Looking out safely from the ark upon the waves, we can contemplate the world and engage with it lovingly.