Saturday, September 8, 2007

9/8/07 6:54:32.10

I'm having some fun with numbers here using the date and time. So let us look at one of the latest posts from the inimitable Oengus Moonbones.

[Warning: If like Mattel's Barbie® you think that "math is hard", you might want to skip this post.]

There are three mysterious triangular numbers in the New Testament. The first is 153 which occurs in John 21:11. The second is 276 which occurs in Acts 27:37. And the third is 666 which occurs in Revelations 13:18.

These three numbers have certain curious relationships with each other, which I will endeavor to illuminate.

First, there are some elementary properties we should notice. Using the formula for the nth triangular number, T(n)=n(n+1)/2, it's easy to see that 153 is the 17th triangular number, 276 is the 23rd triangular number, and 666 is the 36th triangular number. And 36 is the square of 6.

He then goes on to explore relationships between these numbers based on different ways to slice and dice them. He points out that the context of all three of the verses containing these "mysterious triangular" numbers have something to do with the element of water. The mysterious catch of fish (153 fish), a shipwreck on one of St. Paul's missionary journeys (276 people) and the beast coming out of the sea (666).

The number "153" I had known about. A nice traditional Catholic lady pointed out that a 15 decade Rosary contained 153 Hail Mary's -- of course the Rosary was developed long after the St. John's Gospel was written. But her mention of it made me think about the story and how the number just kind of pops up surprisingly. I mean, think about it: the Apostles are in the midst of an intense encounter with the resurrected Christ, a miracle occurs, St. John realizes it's Jesus, St. Peter jumps into the water, and somebody says "Wow! look at all these fish! We'd better count these pappies"? Well, I think St. Matthew was an accountant, maybe it was his idea. Either that or it's a pretty weird estimate. Imagine St. John thinking later as he pens his Gospel, "Oh, I don't know, I guess there were, maybe, one-hundred-fifty-three or so. Roughly." But in the verse it reads pretty much like a certainty, and the strangeness of the number speaks to precision also. St. John's Gospel also contains loads of symbolism, so the number might have been chosen. I'm one of those both/and types who would suggest that it's likely that is was accurate (i.e., for real) and symbolic, the kind of thing Jesus, the guy who invented the sacraments, was really into.

Some of the other interesting features of the number 153 are on it's very own wikipedia page. It mentions that it is the 9th Hexagonal Number. But more interestingly to me, it possesses features like the Kaprekar constant, 6174, which fascinated me since the 4th grade or so. For 153, however, you pick any number divisible by 3 and add the cubes of the digits. Keep doing this to the results and you eventually get to 153.

The 153 page links to a interesting connection between the number and fish. It's an instance of 153 being used as a denominator in a fraction by Pythogoreans as an close estimate to the Vesica Piscis shape, literally the "bladder of the fish". A fish's bladder would seem to be a water symbol squared! Hold on a second...

I'm back. Sorry, all this talk about water, you know. But you've seen this Vesica Piscis in Christian art countless times usually with a saint or Our Lord sitting in it. It is supposed to be related to the IXΘYC fish, possibly the earliest Christian symbols. It also pops up in pagan art, jewelry and Arthurian Legend. You can also see it popping up in those crop circles, proving that those UFO aliens know about fish bladders as well.

What I like about Oengus's musings on these numbers is that it is what I would call true Biblical exegesis even though it may seem a bit speculative and esoteric to non-mathmatical scripture readers. There are plenty of people out there who approach numbers in the Bible, especially the book of Revelation, trying to prove how a modern day figure (e.g., Ronald Reagan, Hillary Clinton, Geo. Bush, etc.) is the anti-Christ of prophecy. They can usually find a way to "force" numbers to "prove" this about their political enemies, the object of their crackpottery. For this reason, the study of numbers in Sacred Scripture is generally seen as fraudulent and goofy by many, but I don't think it has to be. If nothing else, this stuff has informed and enriched meaningful Christian symbolism and fosters an appreciation for numbers in the geometry of the created order Thirty-seven genes in the human mitochondrial DNA might be a stretch but WHOAAA! dude, I like it.

Chris Cuddy's Inspiring Conversion Story

I just finished reading the conversion story of Christopher Cuddy, a Catholic convert whose blog I recently linked to in the sidebar. His story bears a lot of resemblance to my own... well, it sort of does if you ignore the absence in his story of heavy drinking, late nights playing in a rock band, badly botched romances, a multitude of traffic violations and dropping out of college. What I mean is that we were both in the same geographical location when we converted, we were both Presbyterians and both were greatly influenced by Dr. Scott Hahn. Excerpt:

All of these feelings of anxiety and angst were quickly laid to rest. Scott Hahn was a tall man with warm eyes and a hearty laugh. He took the three of us out to eat at a local McDonalds, and we talked theology for about three hours.

I found Dr. Hahn to be very humble, non-threatening, and a real pleasure to talk with. And because our backgrounds were so similar, we had no problem finding common ground to build upon. The first half of our conversation was spent sharing stories about our experiences with authors and theologians who were influential in our theological formation. I was impressed with Dr. Hahn’s breadth of knowledge, and the sincere respect he had for many of his former (Protestant) mentors. Far from harboring feelings of animosity and contempt towards his Protestant professors, he regarded them with deep and sincere admiration. I was really touched by the gratitude and appreciation he had for them and their work.

I listened closely to everything that he said – carefully examining his every statement for traces of anything that could potentially be Biblically malignant and theologically dangerous. In the end, however, I was surprised to find that there was very little that I could make a legitimate fuss about. He patiently listened to my list of typical objections to the Catholic faith, and he systematically responded to my questions with clear arguments from both Scripture and Church history.

I was blown out of the water. Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined that it would be possible for someone to provide Biblical reasons for Catholicism – arguments from “man-made traditions,” perhaps, but never from the Scriptures.

It turns out that Mr. Cuddy and I have a lot of mutual friends so maybe I'll have the pleasure of meeting him someday. He also has a new book out of Catholic conversion stories which he co-edited.

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Happy Birthday, Blessed Mother!

The party started with 8:30 Mass followed by our regular weekly Novena to the Mother of Perpetual Help, then continued with breakfast. Bacon, eggs and pancakes with Nutella. And big coffees for the big folks.

Then the two older kids and I played what could be best described as an extended harmonica jam session. Around the same time, coincidentally I believe, mama left to go shopping. (Hey -- didn't she just go shopping a few days ago?)

Later on we'll make a cake with strawberries, the kids' favorite. Strawberries are a symbol for the Virgin Mother because they are simultaneously "in fruit and in flower". So there you go.

Paties rock, and my kids know how to party. If I were a poet like Wordsworth, I'd write something llike this:

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!

But I'm not a poet, and I know it, so let's party. But go easy with the Nutella -- it's supposedly a mild laxative.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Laughin' Me Bum Off

I don't know if it's meant to be, but this article about the TLM is truly funny. To me. Excerpt:

When I was growing up in the years after the Council, I was taught that the New Rite had completely superseded the Old. The only people who attended the Tridentine Mass were hatchet-faced old men wearing berets and gabardine raincoats, who muttered darkly about Satan’s capture of the papacy. I had never been to the Old Mass and knew only two things about it: that it was said by the priest ‘with his back to the people’ — how rude! — and that most priests who celebrated it were followers of the rebel French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. These people were unaccountably ‘attached’ to the Tridentine Rite and its ‘fussy’ accretions — the prayers at the foot of the altar; the intricately choreographed bows, crossings and genuflections of the celebrant; the ‘blessed mutter’ of the Canon in a voice inaudible to the congregation. The New Mass, in contrast, was said by the priest facing the people, nearly always in English. It was for everyone. Including people who didn’t like it.

He concludes on a very serious note:

‘In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek,’ said St Paul. ‘Nor traditionalist nor liberal,’ adds Benedict. The Pope knows that the vast majority of Catholics wish to worship God in their own language — but he also knows that the communities that use the Missal of John XXIII are among the most dynamic in the universal Church. Summorum Pontificum tore down the liturgical veil separating the old from the new; now the social barriers must be removed. For that to happen, former traditionalists will have to stop thinking of themselves as a spiritual elite; and former liberals must turn their eyes towards the astonishing treasures that this greatest of modern Popes has reclaimed from the rubbish heap. As I said, this is an exciting time to be a Catholic.

True that.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Ann Coulter on "Cruising while Republican"

LOL. For starters, nice blast at Chris Matthews:

Chris Matthews opened his "Hardball" program on Aug. 28 by saying Larry Craig had been "exposed as both a sexual deviant and a world-class hypocrite."

Normally, using the word "deviant" in reference to any form of sodomy would be a linguistic crime worse than calling someone a "nappy headed ho." Luckily, Craig is a Republican.

As a backup precaution, Matthews has worked to ensure that there is virtually no audience for "Hardball." I shudder to think of the damage such a remark might have done if uttered about a non-Republican on a TV show with actual viewers.

Her next move simultaneously pinions the hypocrisy accusation against Craig and the "gays-just-want-to-be-like-normal-people" canard.

Liberals don't even know what they mean by "hypocrite" anymore. It's just a word they throw out in a moment of womanly pique, like "extremist" -- or, come to think of it, "gay." How is Craig a "hypocrite," much less a "blatant hypocrite"?

Assuming the worst about Craig, the Senate has not held a vote on outlawing homosexual impulses. It voted on gay marriage. Craig not only opposes gay marriage, he's in a heterosexual marriage with kids. Talk about walking the walk! Did Craig propose marriage to the undercover cop? If not, I'm not seeing the "hypocrisy."

And why is it "homophobic" for Senate Republicans to look askance at sex in public bathrooms? Is the Times claiming that sodomy in public bathrooms is the essence of being gay? I thought gays just wanted to get married to one another and settle down in the suburbs so they could visit each other in the hospital.

This whole affair is a cartoonish illustration of the American political fact that nothing happens in August. Craig might be a big liar and the jerk-of-the-universe for all I know or care. But I love to watch Coulter run circles around the cross-eyed mediatards. And she is sooooo fun-ny!! Be honest; aren't you embarrassed when you read some folks' lame attempt at humor? (Wait -- don't answer that if I'm one of aforesaid folks!)

If any writer deserves to be called a 21st Century Chesterton, Ann Coulter does.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Ahhh... to be young and foolish

And we're talking REALLY foolish.

(Do we really want a nationalized health care program?)

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Invisible Builders

This link was sent to me by beautiful wife who finds lots of great stuff in the blogosphere. She hardly ever makes comments which means she'll be praying my ass out of purgatory. Excerpt:

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I'm thinking, "Can't you see I'm on the phone?"

Obviously not. No one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I'm invisible.

Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this? Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock to ask, "What time is it?" I'm a satellite guide to answer, "What number is the Disney Channel?" I'm a car to order, "Pick me up right around 5:30, please."

Read the rest, it's good.

Beatus vir, baby

I remember reading this the first time, Mike Aquilina, one of the best minds of my generation, threw this heavy thing down in '97. Excerpts:

Thus it was with the Beats from the beginning. Though ostensibly a literary movement, the Beats were about much more. Critic John Clellon Holmes noted in 1958: "The Beat generation is basically a religious generation."
Perhaps that should not be so surprising. The Beat movement’s other founder, novelist Jack Kerouac, was an intermittently practicing Catholic. It was Kerouac who named the movement (in 1948) and wrote its early aesthetic manifestos.
Ultimately, what the Beats were after was mystical experience. "I want God to show me His face" was Kerouac’s description of his goal.

To that end, the early Beats spent long hours poring over the saints’ works on prayer and the spiritual life. Ginsberg, a secular Jew, was an avid reader of St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Ávila. Kerouac was fond of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

Yet just as Beat writing had rejected traditional forms and disciplines, so eventually would it reject religion. The Beats wanted the mysticism, but without any ascetical preparation.

So being "beat" was an attempt to attain the beatific vision "on the cheap." In my experience most people who are into the Beats don't often acknowledge this relationship between the word beat and beatitude. That's probably because, as Mike writes, "most of his Beat-sympathetic biographers dismiss Kerouac’s fitful faith as the last infantile regression of a deeply troubled man." But Jack K. came up with the word, and it's how he defined it. Check it out:

He seemed to be grasping his way, again, to Christianity. In a 1959 essay on the origins of the Beats, he expresses outrage that Mademoiselle magazine, after a photo session, airbrushed out the crucifix that hung from a chain around his neck.

"I am a Beat," he wrote, "that is, I believe in beatitude and that God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son to it."

Whoa, John 3:16. Strange flowers for someone who learned about Kerouac from the revisionistae.

So by definition, the Beat philosophy was sort a Christian heresy which accentuated the teachings about the existence of a Benevolent Deity and the blessedness (beatitude) of the Saints and the Heavenly Kingdom, the goodness of existence and creation and the ability of man to transcend the material world while completely throwing out any relationship these realities might have to behavior along with most of the Judeo-Christian moral code, teachings about the fall, the real danger of losing one's soul, etc.

These thoughts form sort of an unplanned dovetail with this earlier post regarding "kernels of truth and wishful thinking". I've always been intrigued by the work of these cats, especially Kerouac, since I read On the Road circa 1988. Before reading Mike's piece, I always felt guilty liking the stuff since it's so decadent morally. It's good to know that there might be a kernel of goodness in this literature, that you can catch a passing glimpse of the Divine amid the wrong-headed ideas of flawed these flawed visionaries. It's probably also good to only allow yourself small doses and restrict reading to mature adults. And let's not revise their material in the opposite direction to make these guys into the saints and mystics they claimed themselves to be. In other words, a kernel of truth is not the "whole truth and nothing but the truth" and while useful, we should be careful not to substitute the kernel for the whole.

Speaking of Pro-life...

I saw this when it first came out, pre-YouTube, I think.

Wow. Chill bumps, anyone?

It's cool that he has to be a bad-ass rapper in the middle of the song and brag that he was on Oprah.

Can I Live? by Nick Cannon, feat. Anthony Hamilton
Ma, I know the situation is personal
But it something that has to be told
As I was making this beat
You was all I could think about you heard my voice

Yeah, Just think, Just Think
What if you could Just...
Just blink your self away...
Just wait, just pause for a second
Let me plead my case
It's the late 70's, huh
You Seventeen, huh
And having me that will ruin everything, huh
It's a lot of angels waiting on their wings
You see me in your sleep so you cant kill your dreams
300 Dollars, that's the price of living, what?
Mommy, I don't like this clinic!
Hopefully you'll make the right decision
And don't go through with the knife incision
But it's hard to make the right move
When you in high school
How you have to work all day and take night school
Hopping off da bus when the rain is pouring
What you want morning sickness or the sickness of mourning?

I'll always be a part of you
Trust your soul know it's always true
If I could talk I'd say to you
I'll always be a part of you
Trust your soul know it's always true
If I could talk I'd say to you

I am a child of the king
Ain't no need to go fear me
And I see the flowing tears so know that you hear me
When I move in your womb that's me being scary
Cause who knows what my future holds
Yo the truth be told you ain't told a soul
Yo you ain't even showing I'm just 2 months old
Through your clothes try to hide me deny me
Went up 3 sizes
Your pride got you lying saying ain't nothing but a migraine
It ain't surprising you not trying to be in Wic food lines
Your friends will look at you funny, but look at you mommy
That's a life inside you, look at your tummy!
What is becoming ma, I am Oprah bound
You can tell he's a star from the Ultrasound
Our sprits connected doors open now
Nothing but love and respect thanks for holding me down
She Let Me Live...

I'll always be a part of you
Trust your soul know it's always true
If I could talk I'd say to you
I'll always be a part of you
Trust your soul know it's always true
If I could talk I'd say to you

It's uplifting foreal y'all, I ain't passing no judgement
Ain't making no decisions...
I am just telling ya'll my story
I love life, I love my mother for giving me life
We all need to appreciate life
A strong woman that had to make a sacrifice
Thanks for listening, thanks for listening.
Mama thanks for listening.

I Vote Good News

I'm talking about this. Excerpt:

Several years ago a good friend sent me a copy of Traveling Mercies, by Anne LaMott. I’m not sure any other book has inspired in me such emotion as that one. I laughed. I cried. Indeed, somewhat embarrassedly while reading it on a plane. It remains one of the best spiritual books I have ever read—brutally honest, sad, funny and inspiring. I continue to recommend it, and am currently without a copy because I insisted that someone go ahead and take mine.

I enjoyed her follow-up to Traveling Mercies, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, though not as much. Her frequent digs at President Bush in essay after essay were distracting, despite the fact that I in large part agree with her opinion of the president. However, there was still many of those unexpected, disarming and deep spiritual insights that made Traveling Mercies so good. I admire her greatly as a writer as well, and count her Bird by Bird among the best books on writing that I know.

However, I must admit being taken aback when I heard about her outburst regarding abortion at an event last year featuring her, Richard Rohr and Jim Wallis. Her angry pro-choice rant didn’t sit well with her co-panelists or the largely Christian audience. Her later remarks, explaining that she didn’t realize that the audience was largely Catholic (or maybe she may not have come?), also struck me as somewhat anti-Catholic.

He's goes on to say that he's not sure Amy Welborn is correct in stating that it is "good news" that a Catholic University cancelled her scheduled appearance.

I do agree with Amy Welborn that the cancellation is good news. Here's the money quote from Creighton U: "After careful review of Ms. Lamott’s most recent writings (which postdated her contract agreement), we have concluded that key points are in opposition to Catholic teaching which, in our judgment, makes her an inappropriate choice for the Women and Health Lecture Series." (emphasis mine)

I know it's hard when someone you really enjoy or look up to says or does something which goes greatly against non-negotiable Catholic teaching. But as Catholics I really think we need to learn how to draw the line on these matters. This seminarian seems really hesitant to leave this writer behind because she has writing talent. But there are key points in opposition here, not just minor disagreements.

I might say to try to emphasize my point, "Hey, Michael Vick is a good Quarterback," but I think this would be lost on Mr. Mossa. That's because I think there is a kind of dispensation given to talented writers by other intellectuals which doesn't extend to non-intellectuals. If a dynamic author is flawed in their thinking, there's a reasonable explanation for it. They are said to be tortured by their intense struggles and such-like, and this is what explains their "different ideas and perspectives".

Since even Mr. Mossa as a big fan of LaMott's is uneasy with her frequent BDS outbursts in her new book and her public pro-choice rants, I think it may be a good time to ask how "spiritual" Anne LaMott really is rather than continue play intellectual twister with her beliefs which are incompatible with Christianity. If I could suggest some scripture verses for this they would be "put not your trust in princes" and "A time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.... A time to keep, and a time to cast away." Also, if Mr. Mossa ever does get his wish to sit down with Ms. LaMott for coffee to "talk to her about her love for Jesus", maybe he can introduce her to the "least of Jesus brethern."