Advent, Hercules, and the End of the Olympian Gods

As we advance through Advent, we recall the darkness of the world before Christ arrived. While Israel clung, sometimes by a  thread, to the Law and the Prophets, most of the world dwelt in the darkness of paganism. My academic background is in the Greek and Roman classics, and you see the disordered passions and anxieties of these peoples projected onto their gods (or, if you prefer, these gods were demons inspiring disordered passions and anxieties among their worshippers).

Two of the most comprehensive instantiations of Greek myth are Hesiod’s Theogony and Homer’s Iliad. Continue reading

Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

Happy feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Queen of Mexico, Empress and Patroness of the Americas! Fun fact: the treaty that ended the Mexican-American War in 1848 is known as the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo because it was signed at the high altar of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, located in Villa Hidalgo (now part of Mexico City). The treaty was signed on February 2, 1848, the feast of the Purification of Our Lady (celebrated in the Novus Ordo as the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple). I assume that the tilma (miraculous image) of Our Lady was enthroned above the high altar at the time. Thus the Hispanic Southwest (California, Nevada, Utah, Texas, most of Arizona and New Mexico, half of Colorado, and parts of Wyoming, Kansas, and Oklahoma) passed into the hands of the Americans under Our Lady’s watchful eyes.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for Mexico and the United States!

The Immaculate Conception, the Messiah, and the Golden Gate

Note: Here in the Driftless Area where I’m writing this, it’s still the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

In medieval art, the Immaculate Conception is depicted by Mary’s parents, Sts. Joachim and Anne, meeting and embracing at Jerusalem’s Golden Gate. According to an apocryphal work called the Protoevangelium of James, Joachim and Anne had been barren, but an angel visited Anne to announce the birth of a child. She then met Joachim at the Golden Gate as he left the Temple after offering a sacrifice. The Golden Gate is the eastern gate of the Temple Mount, and tradition said that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem through this gate. The legend and the image link the Blessed Virgin Mary with the Golden Gate; she is the true “Gate of Heaven” through which the Messiah enters the world. Here’s a painting of the scene by Giotto:

The Golden Gate, known in Jewish sources as the Gate of Mercy, is pretty interesting in its own right. Continue reading

“Our tainted nature’s solitary boast”

Note: Here in the Driftless Area where I’m writing this, it’s still the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

In honor of today’s feast, here is William Wordsworth’s poem “The Virgin”:

“Mother! whose virgin bosom was uncrost
With the least shade of thought to sin allied.
Woman! above all women glorified,
Our tainted nature’s solitary boast;
Purer than foam on central ocean tost;
Brighter than eastern skies at daybreak strewn
With fancied roses, than the unblemished moon
Before her wane begins on heaven’s blue coast;
Thy image falls to earth. Yet some, I ween,
Not unforgiven the suppliant knee might bend,
As to a visible Power, in which did blend
All that was mixed and reconciled in thee
Of mother’s love with maiden purity,
Of high with low, celestial with terrene!”

The line “Thy image falls to earth” refers to Protestant iconoclasts smashing images of the Blessed Virgin.

Terrible As an Army Set in Array

“Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array?” Canticles of Canticles 6:9

The United States declared war on the Empire of Japan on December 8, 1941. It was the feast day of the Immaculate Conception, the title under which the Blessed Virgin Mary is patroness of the United States. Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945 (August 14 in the United States, on the other side of the International Date Line). August 15 is the feast day of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven. I have read that the Catholics of Nagasaki were praying a novena in preparation for the Assumption, offering themselves as a sacrifice for the end of the war. And it seems that God accepted their sacrifice because the atomic bombing of Nagasaki (which I do not at all condone) led directly to the end of the war. Besides leading the free world during the Cold War, the Allied victory in World War II is probably America’s greatest contribution to world history. And America’s participation in the war was framed by two feast days of the Blessed Virgin Mary, patroness of the United States.