An eminent scholar recently brought the following quote to my attention. My more philosophical co-bloggers will be better than I am at explaining why this constitutes an example of illogic, by making opposites of two perfectly reconcilible options.

It is disgusting to notice the increase in the quantity of coffee used by my subjects, and the amount of money that goes out of the country as a consequence. Everybody is using coffee; this must be prevented. His Majesty was brought up on beer, and so were both his ancestors and officers. Many battles have been fought and won by soldiers nourished on beer, and the King does not believe that coffee-drinking soldiers can be relied upon to endure hardships in case of another war.

Frederick the Great of Prussia (1777)

With the resignation of Bishop Conry, I am praying for new Bishops with a Eucharistic faith.

Bishop Conry was the chosen disciple of Cardinal Murphy O’Connor – we can pray that an important characteristic of new appointments may be that they hold no favour with such people.

Let us pray that the Lord preserves his Bishops who love him; protect them from harm so that we may be guided by them to eternal life.

Please God, send us more Bishops like this:

GB

Fr Martin Rhonheimer, who teaches at the Opus Dei university in Rome, and who is known for defending various other indefensible things, such as the use of prophylactics and (so I’m told) the crushing of the heads of unborn children, both of course only in unusual circumstances, has renewed his attack on the Church’s teaching on the duties of the State. In a recent article in Nova et Vetera he argues that the pope and bishops should never have called upon Catholic civil magistrates to repress heresy. The civil power has no duty to submit to the authority of the Church, he says, because it is substantially secular. We used to think it did have such a duty, but we were wrong; Vatican II has changed all that.

He makes some strange claims. At one point he says that the view that the secular arm was subject to the spiritual arm has no roots in patristic tradition. Then a couple of pages later, he says that it comes from St Gregory the Great and St Isidore of Seville! When does he think the patristic period was? He also says that the two swords’ doctrine is ‘heterodox Augustinianism’ –  a misinterpretation of St Augustine’s ‘City of God’. But St Augustine warmly applauded the intervention of the Roman civil authority which helped to suppress Donatism in north Africa (the saint had been opposed originally, as he had thought it would be counter-productive; but when he saw that it led to sincere conversions, he changed his mind and said so.) I am surprised that Nova et Vetera would let such claims get through.

So, should the secular arm be subject to the spiritual one?

Now Eliseus was sick of the illness whereof he died: and Joas king of Israel went down to him, and wept before him, and said: O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel and the guider thereof. And Eliseus said to him: Bring a bow and arrows. And when he had brought him a bow, and arrows, He said to the king of Israel: Put thy hand upon the bow. And when he had put his hand, Eliseus put his hands over the king’s hands, And said: Open the window to the east. And when he had opened it, Eliseus said: Shoot an arrow. And he shot. And Eliseus said: The arrow of the Lord’s deliverance (4 Kings 13).

What is the arrow that flies toward the East, if not the intention of man hastening towards Christ and Heaven, with undeviating aim? And whose hands direct him thither, if not the king’s, held firm by the prophet’s?

Today is the 200th Anniversary of Britain’s sack of Washington DC and burning of the White House. About which Canadians (I spoke to one yesterday) remain extremely smug. I’m told the Iron Duke was confident his veterans could re-conquer the thirteen colonies but advised it was not worth the endless hassle from the disaffected neo-subjects. A Canadian musician introduced me to this song a few years ago and I thought the bicentenary was a good opportunity to post it here while my UEL relatives retain a numerical preponderance. The Americans ought to be grateful really as the campaign also gave rise to a slightly more famous ditty.

Assumption

The last scene in Elijah’s life so far is well known. He was walking with his spiritual son Elisha in the region beyond the Jordan when a fiery chariot drawn by horses of fire parts them. As he sees Elijah ascend skywards in the chariot, Elisha cries out: ‘My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its driver!’

The prophet Elijah is in a strange way a figure of the Blessed Virgin. At least, his life is evocative of her. His greatest miracle took place on Mount Carmel, the place more than any other which is used for one of Mary’s titles.  He cast his mantle over Elisesus to call him to the prophetic life. Our Lady casts the scapular, especially that of Mount Carmel, over her spiritual children so that they may imitate her fidelity to the Word. When the famine of three and a half years is about to end, Elijah sends his servant up to the top of Mount Carmel, and he sees at last a cloud no bigger than – what? The modern versions tend to say ‘a man’s hand'; but the Vulgate and the Septuagint, consistently with the Hebrew, which is patient of either sense, say ‘a man’s foot’. It is then a symbol of that heel, which God declared in Eden would one day crush the head of the enemy and bring to an end the famine of the Word of God.

Given such things, it is natural to see the assumption of Elijah, though it was not into the glory of heaven, as a prefigurement of today’s feast.

Yet there is more than this. The cry of Elisha, ‘The chariot of Israel and its Driver!’ seemed to pass into a proverb in Israel. For when Elisha also was at the end of his life, and lying on his death-bed, King Joash of Israel came to see him, and wept, and said ‘My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its Driver!’ (3 Kings 13:14).  It is a cry of sorrow, no doubt, at parting, but also of hope. Joash does not speak to Elisha about the prophet Elijah but rather evokes that mysterious vision before which even Elijah had been silent. Who then are the Chariot of Israel and the Driver thereof? God after all did not need to send them; He could have taken up Elijah without visible means; so they must have some great significance.  It seems to me that they are figures of Mary and Jesus, coming to help the faithful in their dying moments. They do not come bodily, since the faithful do not ascend into heaven bodily until the end of the world. But they come spiritually, as the faithful are to ascend spiritually. Our Lady is compared to the ‘chariot’ and our Lord to the ‘charioteer’, to show that she is perfectly responsive to His will. Thus the same death-bed hope that under a veil of metaphor comforted the faithful ones of the old covenant now comforts the true Israelites who look with face unveiled to where Christ and His Mother await them in a holier place than that to which Elijah himself was taken.

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