This is a good video.

We homeschool and participate in Classical Conversations, the organization behind this video. Latin is not easy to learn or to teach. I have tried to learn it. I once led a seminar for homeschoolers part of which meant I had to address the question of how one teaches Latin. Fortunately I recruited several people to help me. I still don’t know Latin. But I agree with everything in this video. It’s a good thing to learn Latin and to teach your kids Latin.

If you know someone who is thinking of learning Latin, or adding it to their homeschooling curriculum, or struggling with either learning or teaching Latin, share this video with them.

This is one of the most interesting and intense conversations I have ever witnessed. Jordan Peterson has received a significant amount of attention of late for his views, and in particular for an interview he did on television. Camille Paglia has been well known for years and is frequently outspoken on a number of topics. Both are absolutely brilliant and provocative. This video is easily worth its nearly two hours running time.

July 7, 2017 was the ten-year anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI’s motu proprio (Apostolic Letter) Summorum Pontificum. Those of you who love the traditional Latin Mass know the importance of this letter.

On that anniversary a traditional Latin Mass was celebrated as a commemoration and celebration at the Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral. Here it is. It’s worth watching full screen with the audio up.

Things I observe:

  • The Mass is not stuffy or old feeling. It is certainly traditional, but does not seem at all out of date. The word is “timeless.”
  • A traditional Latin Mass seems more appropriate in Notre-Dame de Paris than does a Novus Ordo Mass (which one can find on the Notre-Dame website linked above). I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. That is, the “fittingness” of the form of the Mass (NO or TLM) and the church setting.
  • The Mass is beautiful. I am not against the Novus Ordo Mass. I have experienced some beautiful ones. I also participated in the choir at a Latin Novus Ordo Mass recently celebrated in my parish. However, this Mass above is truly beautiful and feels appropriate when one thinks that the King is present in their midst.
  • They have someone to direct the singing of the congregation. We could use that in the TLM I go to once a month in a nearby parish. It can get confusing without someone directing for those of us who are still learning the TLM (which is most of us).
  • The church is full. Maybe this is always true for this famous and grand cathedral, but on a hot and humid July day in Paris (many of the congregation fan themselves) this church is packed. Apparently not a few folks in France like the old ways.
  • At times I wonder if they are used to celebrating the TLM at Notre-Dame. I see little moments that seem to indicate not everything is going 100% smooth, that they are trying hard to make it work — and they do. I could be reading into it as well.
  • There is a mix of old chant and more “recent” polyphony (18th century, etc.). At least one of the polyphonic songs (really a prayer) I sang in the choir at our Latin Novus Ordo Mass.
  • I have never been to France, but I love this church. I studied it in art history class. What beauty and grandeur. A church truly appropriate to celebrate Mass in. Someday I may get there.
  • I love the moments of silence. This is one more reason the TLM is an antidote to our modern world. Silence is necessary for our humanity and our worship of God.
  • Latin! I love that I can follow the Mass even though they are French and I am not. We have a shared faith, and shared language, and a shared worship. This is true in many ways with the Novus Ordo Mass, but Latin brings us all together.
  • There is no altar rail. I don’t know if there never was, or if it was removed at some point (French Revolution? Post Vatican II?). I see some people having trouble kneeling to receive communion — bad knees, age, etc. I can relate. But kneeling is appropriate.
  • I love the humanity. Parisians dress better than where I’m from, but I see all kinds — well dressed, casual, sloppy, women with veils, most without, some folks with praying hands, some with arms crossed, some confused, some seeming to know exactly what is going on, etc., etc. All very human.
  • Excellent video coverage. Beautiful.
  • I must be strange to enjoy watching a complete Mass, but I did.

This is one of the best (probably the best) series of lectures on Vatican II that I have come across. It is given by Fr Christopher Smith , S.T.D., who (according to OnePeterFive) “is the pastor of Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Taylors, SC. He is a member of the Church Music Association of America and contributes regularly to the Chant Café blog. He is also a member of the Catholic Theological Society of America and is a speaker on sacred music, liturgy, theology, and catechesis. In 2013 he was elected to the Society for Catholic Liturgy. In 2014 he was received into the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem as a Chaplain.”

I find his lectures to be extremely fair and even handed. Although he gives some opinions, he avoids taking a polemical stance. This is good, for the council, and all that has come after it, has been a complex mess involving many good and faithful people. We should base our opinions on clarity and fact whenever we can.

Interesting, and probably sad, how affected Catholics are by the Second Vatican Council and yet have little knowledge of it or little time for listening to such a lecture series. I feel this is worth more than one listen. It would be wonderful if most parishes had similar lecture series. Of course that would take time and education that many priests just don’t have.

I’m reposting this, because it is so good. But also because we live in a society that has become a slave to sentimentality. This is also true of Christianity — sentimentality affects so much and we are so blind. O’Connor hated sentimentality. Ralph Wood speaks to this in the midst of so much else he says. A rich talk indeed.

flannery_oconnor_painting

A truly great lecture…

flannery

corot cathedrale chartres
Cathédrale de Chartres, painting by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot (1830)

Medieval thought in stone and masonry. This is a wonderful documentary, not only because of its subject, but because it is also a kind of time capsule itself. The Second Vatican Council was in progress, but not completed, the Novus Ordo Mass had not yet been promulgated, and the ravages of modernity had not completed their destruction of society.

HERE it is on archive.org, if you want to see it larger.

“An in-depth study of this famous cathedral. ‘What is the special character of Chartres Cathedral that we should call it the greatest of the medieval churches?’ Narrated by New York Times art critic John Canaday, Chartres becomes a visible fusion of faith, engineering and architecture. The camera pictures the cathedral in its awesome entirety, with detailed closeups, and as an enduring triumph of man’s skills.”

I believe there is a “movement” afoot within the Church (and perhaps beyond) to return in some way to earlier church building designs. In other words, to return to churches that look like churches and architecturally “speak” the language of the the sacred (and more specifically of Catholic theology).

This talk above speaks to that. Erik Bootsma essentially encapsulates the same message, with many of the same examples, found in Michael Rose’s book Ugly as Sin: Why They Changed our Churches from Sacred Places to Meeting Spaces — and How We Can Change Them Back Again.

I have to say I am swayed by the arguments. I say this as someone who loves modern art and architecture. In fact, many of the modernist churches Bootsma shows in his presentation I love as architecture. Still, they are not appropriate as churches for the reasons he points out.

And yet, I don’t believe it’s appropriate for us to return to the past in some slavish way. The way forward is to understand what the purpose of Church architecture is all about and what it is (or should be) trying to accomplish. Then to use that knowledge to create appropriate works for our times. However, as Christians we are both of our time and of the age to come. In other words, there is a timeless aspect to Christian experience, and so it should be with its art. So looking to the past is critical in order to move forward.

Related link: Catholic Art Guild

The following video is of a traditional Latin, or Tridentine, Mass in Paris (so you will hear both Latin and French). What the video does not say is that this is a Mass of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), taking place at their only Paris church, Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet. However (I say “however” because SSPX is nearly, but not quite, a schismatic church), I love this video for how it captures the sense of ordinary humanity attending a Mass, and of the beauty of the 1962, pre-Vatican II Latin Mass — and the strong sense of a truly Catholic culture surrounding this Mass. (I imagine it’s more than just the Mass, though that’s the biggest part. I imagine there are numerous traditions this community keeps alive.) I wish dearly such masses occurred in my home town.* I love the Latin, I love the solemnity — I believe our world today is craving solemnity and true worship. I would like to see more videos of this, or better quality from parishes that have actual canonical status in the Catholic Church.

NOTE: I am no fan of the SSPX, but I think they have some valid concerns. This letter of caution sums up my feelings fairly well. I get the struggles some Catholics have with all the changes and turmoil in the Church since the roots of modernism and complacent sluggishness began rotting the core (heart? passions? justifications?) of the Church in the early parts of the last century, and then the winds of the radical 1960’s rushed through the Church, as they did through all of society. Some want to blame the Second Vatican Council, but I don’t believe it. The Church has suffered since the sixties, just as it has at many times in its history, and those times become the soil from which a better Church grows — it is the constant process of reformation that has gone on since St. Peter denied Christ, and the Corinthians were sowing disunity among themselves, and the Galatians were being foolish with their doctrine. We should welcome the past fifty+ years like we welcome suffering — not wishing it on anyone else, but willing to embrace it personally for its deeper value. (Keep in mind I say this being a Catholic less than three years.) I honestly think we might be on the verge of something like a new rebirth of the Church. We typically don’t know what we have lost until we have lost it. But it takes time, not as long as geologic time, but it can feel that way. Regardless, I am not a fan of the SSPX because I can smell Protestantism from a long ways away, having spent forty-seven years of my life in that world, and now am a Catholic happy to not be protesting anymore. Beware Catholics, don’t play with fire. I know that spirit of protest, and of pride, which is the real rot at the heart of the SSPX. Rebellion is not the same as true reformation. One is of pride, the other of humility. HOWEVER, I firmly believe there are many good Christians attending SPPX masses (for a variety of reasons), just as there are many good Christians in other Protestant churches. AND I pray for reconciliation. AND, given Pope Francis has granted SSPX priests the ability to licitly provide absolution during the Jubilee Year of Mercy one can probably hope even more confidently.

* Lately we have been attending a slightly more traditional Mass at the oldest (though not truly very old) parish in our town. Though in the Ordinary Form, and with the priest facing the people (with which I don’t have an issue), the Mass is very solemn, and we sing the Gloria in Latin, with a few other parts in Latin. There is also an organ for musical accompaniment, and at least one song is from the St. Michael Hymnal. I find myself nearly overcome with emotion at times.

This is a great video. We do not tend to think about architecture much, and certainly not philosophically or theologically. This video is a kind of primer on sacred architecture, and its subject and contents may be more important than we realize.

“It is perfectly legitimate to search for new forms, but these forms must express a symbolic content that remains the same thought the centuries because it has a heavenly origin. Modern builders must listen to and appreciate the suggestions of the chief architect, the Angel of the Temple.” ~ Paul Evdokimov, The Art of the Icon, p. 143

I wonder about this quote. Clearly the main thrust of modernity is the willful shutting of one’s ears to the voice of our Creator. But I also wonder about architecture, and that modern architects have not merely shut their ears when it comes only to church designs, but to all designs. I suppose one could say that modern architecture has become an expression of an incorrect anthropology. Also, can we not say that architecture itself should be seen as a kind of sacramental, that architecture, because it is about being human, must reflect the proper understanding of being human?

The Peace of the Lord...

When I came into the Catholic Church the Order of the Mass had just been updated with a few changes, mostly of the verbiage I believe. Because I had no prior experience, the changes meant little to me. One, however, caught my attention. As I understood it, previously the priest would say, “The Lord be with you,” or during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, “The peace of the Lord be with you always,” and the faithful responded with “And also with you.” This phrase, “And also with you,” was probably the only “liturgical phrase” I had heard prior to deciding to become Catholic and going to mass regularly.

The recent changes to the Roman Missal by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops altered the well known response to now be “And with your spirit.” This wording is closer to the older Latin:

P: Dominus vobiscum. (P: The Lord be with you.)
R: Et cum spiritu tuo. (R: And with thy spirit.)

It did not have to be changed, but it was. I am used to it. Anyway, a number of U.S. Catholics were confused a bit, and not a little non-plussed. It seemed a bit clunky, and somewhat strange to their ears. Also, long practiced habits are hard to break. But now it seems old hat.

And With Your Spirit

Then, not long ago, I re-watched one of my all time favorite films, My Night at Maud’s (Ma nuit chez Maud), a 1969 film from the late, great Éric Rohmer. (I wrote some time ago about this film.) The film begins with the protagonist, Jean-Louis, going to mass. The two screen shots above are from that scene. And what caught my attention, now that my ears were ready, was that in the French the phrase is “And with your spirit.” The subtitles captured in the screenshots show the English translation, but if you listen to the soundtrack, and also take a look at the order or the mass in French, or Plan de la messe, you will notice the wording is just that:

P : Que la paix du Seigneur soit toujours avec vous.
A : Et avec votre esprit

As I would expect, the French, who generally care much more about language than do us Americans, maintained the essence of the Latin back in the heady days of the post-Vatican II 1960’s. Still, Catholicism was already beginning to diminish in France, fidelity to the Latin or not – which makes the rest of the film, with its deep discussions of religion, politics, sexuality, and personal commitments in the face of social pressures, all the more interesting.

Interestingly, the film was being filmed and edited during the winter of 1968 and 1969, almost exactly three years after the end of the Second Vatican Council, and right about the time (I believe) the liturgical changes were going into effect. I don’t know much of the history of post-Vatican II France, but I think mass in the vernacular happened right around the time of the film. And notice the priest faces the faithful. My guess is that this mass, in the new manner, was still very new at that time. If this is true, then this was probably the first time the new liturgical form was put on film, perhaps anywhere.

The following is a great explanation on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist by Fr. Robert Barron:

Fr. Barron refers to the favorite scriptural passage that Catholics (and anyone who believes in the Real Presence) use to argue for the Real Presence in the Eucharist—The Gospel of St. John, chapter 6, verses 22 through 70 (NKJV):

On the following day, when the people who were standing on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other boat there, except that one which His disciples had entered, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with His disciples, but His disciples had gone away alone—however, other boats came from Tiberias, near the place where they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks—when the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they also got into boats and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You come here?”

Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”

Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”

Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

Therefore they said to Him, “What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.”

And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” And they said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

Jesus therefore answered and said to them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”

The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?”

Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”

These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.

Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?”

When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”

From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”

But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve.

This timeline only covers some Greek, Latin, and English translations. And there’s really only a handful of the available English translations. Still it’s fascinating.

[UPDATE: My friend Kim says this timeline is incorrect. Some of the connections are wrong and some critical pieces are missing. Even though there should be nothing wrong with the diagram since I found it on the Internet (and the Internet never lies) I trust Kim’s judgement.]

Click (or click twice) to enlarge:

I would love to read Latin well enough to read St. Jerome’s translation.

I found this timeline here.

V0007642EBR A man scatters seeds; representing the Biblical parable of t

Homo doctus in se semper divitias habet.

(A learned man always has wealth within himself.)

My life is littered with failed attempts to learn foreign languages. If there is such a thing as having a “knack” for learning languages I don’t have it. As my wife, kids, and I try to bring Latin more fully into the folds of our homeschooling adventure, I have discovered I am about as adept at learning Latin as a stump─though I think the stump may have me beat. But I am still hopeful, not so much because of what I see in me, but because other ordinary people like me have struggled with learning Latin and have succeeded. And though you should take everything I say with a grain of salt, I do believe three things about learning Latin:

  1. Learning Latin is a struggle, will always be a struggle, but it’s still possible to succeed. Plus it is worth the struggle for a host of reasons, not least of which are the value of doing hard things and the connection one derives with the past.
  2. Success is measured not so much in the mastery of Latin, but of Latin “mastering” you, that is, Latin entering one’s soul, setting down deep roots, and bringing about an ordering of the mind.
  3. The study of Latin is based on memorization, repetition, consistency, and hard work.

Remember that famous speech president John F. Kennedy gave in 1962 about going to the moon? In that speech he said: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard[.]” I love that. I love the idea of doing hard things. Not only do I dream about difficult adventures, I also dream about climbing mountains, reading thick books all the way through, and changing the world for the better. And of course I want to be like Christ. But in truth I am less inclined to actually do hard things. Hard things take great effort and are fraught with risk. It is so much easier to dream than to do.

Regardless, I have been diving into Latin and truly enjoying it. I am no expert in how to study Latin; I fumble, stumble, and get back up, but it’s really amazing how interesting Latin is. I feel more connected to history and old ideas. I see the roots of English and of all that French I struggled with during my school years. I am relearning valuable grammar lessons that have been buried too long in the recesses of my brain. And I sense the powerful order that Latin exudes. I want to be classically educated. I know I will never have the foundation and depth in Latin and the classics as C. S. Lewis or Dorothy Sayers did, but I have more affinity with Lewis now that I have been scratching the surface of Latin.

And yet, for how much I enjoy Latin, it is also difficult work. I know studying Latin has always been difficult work, but I plead a special case─I am a card carrying member of Generation X, in other words I have trouble with memorization, repetition, consistency, and hard work, particularly when it comes to something that is not obviously utilitarian or immediately pleasurable. But I have come to believe that Latin is good for me, and not merely good in the way eating vegetables or getting regular exercise are good. Studying Latin is a training of the mind, which is inseparably tied to character. True education is about formation not information. In other words, to be classically educated is to be molded into the kind of person, with the kind of mind and mental habits, that can appreciate truth, goodness, and beauty. The rigor inherent in studying Latin produces minds that can think well. It also inculcates minds with capacities to express good thoughts well. I do not say this from experience, rather I look to my betters, to those who have drunk deep from the classical well. In a nutshell it’s all there in Tracy Lee Simmons’ book Climbing Parnassus: A New Apologia for Greek and Latin. He writes:

We recognize classical culture now not only by alabaster images of stony ruins, but also through thick gauze of verbal brilliance. The men whose words and ideas we remember best were citizens of a republic of letters. They had learned to think and speak and write with precision and flair. They tried not to say something new; they tried to say something worthy, and to say it perfectly. (Simmons, p. 76)

How far I am from this ideal is so sad it’s almost humorous. Again Simmons:

While knowledge of truths may come first in the pecking order, one cannot get at those truths without the knowledge of words. Classical education sought to provide a training in words so as to grant an entrée to those truths. And the training began with Grammar, Usage, and Composition. Notice we say “training” here, not “education.” For education, rightly understood, is launched with training and drill. The educated mind must first know how to do, how to form and build, something. Education is the result; training is the method. Grammar, Usage, and Composition lend the starter sets for constructing that educated mind; they are the bricks and mortar, hammer and nails. But master architects draw the plans, not amateurs. (p. 162)

I now see clearly the poverty of my early education. Perhaps I am a bright guy, but most of the time I’m just hanging on. I know my education is built on a spindly foundation. My poor habits haunt me. My mind is narrow and feels truncated. My monolingual brain lacks the flexibility it should have. But it’s never too late to start, so I have begun.

Fortunately it is not too late for my children to start learning Latin either. As a father I have great responsibilities in fathering, and I have decided (actually my wife and I) to make Latin a central subject in our homeschooling curriculum. I want my children to grow up embracing the wonder of creation. I want them to love what God has made and given to us for our enjoyment. Words and things go together and are inseparable. I firmly believe that language is not merely a pointer to things, not merely a universe of sounds signifying objects, not merely a wrapper around creation. Rather, creation springs out of language. God spoke and the world came into being. It is only through the creative word of the author that a world is constituted. (I am borrowing this idea from Peter Kreeft who got it from J. R. R. Tolkien.) Language both creates and is the door into creation. Adam understood God’s creation and then himself by naming the animals─which required attentiveness and contemplation. Real things are found in words. Language goes to the very beginning, to the origin of things. Wonder of language and wonder of creation go hand in hand. Those who lack linguistic wonder will lack ontological wonder.

The philosopher Martin Heidegger said in his Introduction to Metaphysics: “Words and language are not wrappings in which things are packed for the commerce of those who write and speak. It is in words and language that things first come into being and are. For this reason the misuse of language, in idle talk, in slogans and phrases, destroys our authentic relation to things.” (Heidegger, p. 11) I think Heidegger is right. We ought to be careful with language. We ought also to be intentional.

This sounds highfalutin and perhaps it is. But here I am, mediocre student of Latin with big dreams, thinking I will teach my children a language which I do not yet know. As a father I must lead by example. Thus I must commit myself to memorization, repetition, consistency, and hard work. Given my natural (fallen) tendencies perhaps prayer should come first. And along with prayer should be humility. But even here I should back up a bit. First things are critical. As C.S. Lewis put it: “You can’t get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first.” (Lewis, p. 280) Latin is a second thing. In fact, the habits of mind that studying Latin produces are also second things. We do not teach Latin merely for the habits. We teach Latin because the habits of mind help our children to understand creation that much better. Grammar is a window unto the Creator, and through that window we see something of the glory of God and His goodness and His love for us and, of course, the story He is telling. (Remember Friedrich Nietzsche said, “[W]e are not rid of God because we still have faith in grammar.”) We do not teach Latin for its own sake, nor even for the various benefits that come in its wake. We teach Latin so that we can know God and make Him known that much better.

Works Cited

Heidegger, Martin. An Introduction to Metaphysics. New York: Doubleday Anchor, 1961.

Lewis, C. S. God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. Twilight of the Idols, or, How to Philosophize with a Hammer. 21 May 2012.

Simmons, Tracy Lee. Climbing Parnassus: A New Apologia for Greek and Latin. Wilmington, Delaware: ISI Books, 2002.

Introduction

“And God said. . .”

“Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.”

In the beginning there was language, and in the everlasting there shall be language. We do not ever get away from language, or from words. The fact of words never leaves us. We are run through with words and their meanings and their power. We do not understand ourselves or each other without words. We do not conceive of the future or understand the past without words. We cannot think or create without words. Words are in our souls because ideas are in our souls. We embody those ideas as we embrace and live through the words of our lives. We all have words. We never get away from words. But we can also choose which words to embrace and to live through. We have no choice that there are words, but we have significant choice of which words will make us who we are. We do well to embrace and to live through the best words we can choose. The list below is a good place to start.

The Words

“These are the words that precede logic.” -Andrew Kern

The following list of sixteen words I unabashedly stole from Andrew Kern (not that he necessarily owns them any more than you). In his lecture, A Celebration of Beauty, Pt 2., Kern listed these sixteen words as words “to think with.” I understand that to mean these are words that should form a foundation upon which our thoughts and, by implication, our teaching and our own education stand. We should take these words into our souls and then see the world “through” them. We should bring these words into our teaching and give them as rich gifts to our students. One could probably add more words, but this list is a great start. I have added definitions that seemed appropriate (mostly and unashamedly copied from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, and a couple from Wikipedia) plus some quotes I was able to rummage to help us think about the words’ meanings and uses (and to think about other things too). However, and this is far more important than memorizing a word list, these are words that need to be pondered over a lifetime and understood beyond their mere dictionary meanings. They should be contemplated in the fullness of their uses and origins, and taken into one’s soul and embodied in one’s life. Also, notice how many have their origins in the 13th or 14th centuries, and also notice how many have their roots in Latin. What does that tell us?

Dignity

Definition: 1) the quality or state of being worthy, honored, or esteemed; 2) formal reserve or seriousness of manner, appearance, or language.

Origin: Middle English dignete, from Anglo-French digneté, from Latin dignitat-, dignitas, from dignus. First Known Use: 13th century.

Quote: “What a soul that is which is ready, if at any moment it must be separated from the body, and ready either to be extinguished or dispersed or continue to exist; but so that this readiness comes from a man’s own judgement, not from mere obstinacy, as with the Christians, but considerately and with dignity and in a way to persuade another, without tragic show.” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 11.3

Final Cause

Definition: The purpose, end, aim, or goal of something.

Origin: Aristotle? Greek: telos.

Quote: “For the deliberative faculty is the spirit’s power of contemplating a kind of cause—for one sort of cause is the final cause, as although cause means anything because of which a thing comes about, it is the object of a thing’s existence or production that we specially designate as its cause: for instance, if a man walks in order to fetch things, fetching things is the cause of his walking. Consequently people who have no fixed aim are not given to deliberation.” Aristotle, Eudemian Ethics, Book 2

Form

Definition: 1) the shape and structure of something as distinguished from its material; 2) the essential nature of a thing as distinguished from its matter; 3) established method of expression or proceeding; 4) a prescribed and set order of words; 5) conduct regulated by extraneous controls (as of custom or etiquette); 6) manner or conduct as tested by a prescribed or accepted standard; 7) one of the different modes of existence, action, or manifestation of a particular thing or substance; 8) orderly method of arrangement (as in the presentation of ideas) : manner of coordinating elements (as of an artistic production or course of reasoning); 9) the structural element, plan, or design of a work of art.

Origin: Middle English forme, from Anglo-French furme, forme, from Latin forma form, beauty. First Known Use: 13th century.

Quote: “But that man with whom the Word dwells does not alter himself, does not get himself up: he has the form which is of the Word; he is made like to God; he is beautiful; he does not ornament himself: his is beauty, the true beauty, for it is God; and that man becomes God, since God so wills.” Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3

Formal Cause

Definition: The pattern or form which when present makes matter into a particular type of thing, which we recognize as being of that particular type.

Origin: Aristotle?

Quote: “[A]s a quality, grace is said to act on the soul not as an efficient cause, but as a formal cause, as whiteness makes things white, or as justice makes things just.” St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica: Nature and Grace, Article Two

Honor

Definition: 1) good name or public esteem; 2) a showing of usually merited respect; 3) one whose worth brings respect or fame; 4) a gesture of deference; 5) an award in a contest or field of competition; 6) a keen sense of ethical conduct.

Origin: Middle English, from Anglo-French onur, honur, from Latin honos, honor. First Known Use: 13th century.

Quote: “Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.” 1 Peter 2:17 (KJV)

Integrity

Definition: 1) firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values; 2) an unimpaired condition; 3) the quality or state of being complete or undivided.

Origin: Middle English integrite, from Middle French & Latin; Middle French integrité, from Latin integritat-, integritas, from integr-, integer entire. First Known Use: 14th century.

Quote: “Then I have pointed out the truth, and shown the preaching of the Church, which the prophets proclaimed (as I have already demonstrated), but which Christ brought to perfection, and the apostles have handed down, from whom the Church, receiving [these truths], and throughout all the world alone preserving them in their integrity, has transmitted them to her sons.” Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, Book V

Judgement

Definition: 1) a formal utterance of an authoritative opinion; 2) a formal decision given by a court; 3) the final judging of humankind by God; 4) the process of forming an opinion or evaluation by discerning and comparing; 5) a proposition stating something believed or asserted.

Origin: 13th century.

Quote: “In agents that determine their own movements, the outward action goes upon some judgement pronouncing a thing good or suitable according as it is apprehended. If the agent pronouncing the judgement is to determine himself to judge, he must be guided to that judgement by some higher form or idea in his apprehension.” St. Thomas Aquinas, That Subsistent Intelligences have Free Will

Justice

Definition: 1) the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments; 2) the quality of being just, impartial, or fair; 3) the principle or ideal of just dealing or right action━conformity to this principle or ideal; 4) conformity to truth, fact, or reason.

Origin: Middle English, from Anglo-French justise, from Latin justitia, from justus. First Known Use: 12th century.

Quote: “Accordingly, these things have happened to you in fairness and justice, for you have slain the Just One, and His prophets before Him; and now you reject those who hope in Him, and in Him who sent Him.” St. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter XVI

Just Sentiment

Definition: [Note: I am kludging together the definitions of “just” and “sentiment.”] 1) an attitude, thought, or judgment prompted by feeling while having a basis in or conforming to fact or reason; 2) refined feeling conforming to a standard of correctness; 3) an idea colored by emotion while acting or being in conformity with what is morally upright or good.

Origin of Just: Middle English, from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French juste, from Latin justus, from jus right, law. First Known Use: 14th century.

Origin of Sentiment: French or Medieval Latin; French, from Medieval Latin sentimentum, from Latin sentire. First Known Use: 1639.

Quote: “I confess, indeed, that that is a just sentiment, and worthy of being particularly noticed — that no one can be punished by the decision of the Church, but one whose sin has become matter of notoriety[.]” John Calvin, Commentary on Corinthians, Vol. 1

Loves

Definition: 1) strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties; 2) affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests; 3) warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion; 4) the object of attachment, devotion, or admiration; 5) unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another; 6) the fatherly concern of God for humankind; 7) a god or personification of love.

Origin: Middle English, from Old English lufu; akin to Old High German luba love, Old English lēof dear, Latin lubēre, libēreto please. First Known Use: before 12th century.

Quote: “And it was not without reason that that remarkable and holy man, when he departed this life, left to me an unbounded regret for him, especially since he himself also glowed with such a love for me at all times, that, whether in matters of amusement or of business, he agreed with me in similarity of will, in either liking or disliking the same things. You would think that one mind had been shared between us two. Thus he alone was my confidant in my loves, my companion in my mistakes; and when, after the gloom had been dispersed, I emerged from the abyss of darkness into the light of wisdom and truth, he did not cast off his associate, but━what is more glorious still━he outstripped him.” Minucius Felix, Octavius, Chapter 1

Nature

Definition: 1) the inherent character or basic constitution of a person or thing, an inner force or the sum of such forces in an individual; 2) a creative and controlling force in the universe; 3) the physical constitution or drives of an organism; 4) a spontaneous attitude (as of generosity); 5) the external world in its entirety; 6) humankind’s original or natural condition.

Origin: Middle English, from Middle French, from Latin natura, from natus, past participle of nasci to be born. First Known Use: 14th century.

Quote: “When men, then, give way to a dislike simply because they are entirely ignorant of the nature of the thing disliked, why may it not be precisely the very sort of thing they should not dislike? So we maintain that they are both ignorant while they hate us, and hate us unrighteously while they continue in ignorance, the one thing being the result of the other either way of it.” Tertullian, The Apology, Chapter 1

Nobility

Definition: 1) the quality or state of being noble in character, quality, or rank; 2) the body of persons forming the noble class in a country or state.

Origin: Middle English nobilite, from Anglo-French nobilité, from Latin nobilitat-, nobilitas, from nobilis. First Known Use: 14th century.

Quote: “He is distinguished not only for his high birth, but also for the nobility of his mind, for his knowledge, and his irreproachable life.” St. Benard, Abbot of Clairvaux, Letter LXII to Pope Innocent

Propriety

Definition: 1) the quality or state of being proper or suitable; 2) conformity to what is socially acceptable in conduct or speech; 3) obsolete : true nature; 4) obsolete : a special characteristic.

Origin: Middle English propriete, from Anglo-French proprieté, propreté property, quality of a person or thing. First Known Use: 14th century.

Quote: “The knowledge or confession of sins, sorrow on account of sin and a desire for deliverance, with a resolution to avoid sin, are pleasing to God as the very beginnings of conversion. In propriety of speech, these things are not the mortification itself of the flesh or of sin but necessarily precede it.” Jacobus Arminius, from On Penitence

Purity

Definition: 1) the quality or state of being pure.

Origin: Middle English purete, from Anglo-French purité, from Late Latin puritat-, puritas, from Latin purus pure. First Known Use: 13th century.

Quote: “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” 1 Timothy 4:12-13 (KJV)

Purpose

Definition: 1) something set up as an object or end to be attained; 2) a subject under discussion or an action in course of execution.

Origin: Middle English purpos, from Anglo-French, from purposer to intend, propose, from Latin proponere (perfect indicative proposui) to propose. First known use: 14th century.

Quote: “What is God’s purpose in creation and what is His purpose in redemption? It may be summed up in two phrases, one from each of our two sections of Romans. It is: ‘The glory of God’ (Romans 3:23), and ‘The glory of the children of God’ (Romans 8:21).” Watchman Nee, The Normal Christian Life, Chapter 7

Virtue

Definition: 1) conformity to a standard of right; 2) a particular moral excellence; 3) a beneficial quality or power of a thing; 4) manly strength or courage; 5) a commendable quality or trait; 6) a capacity to act.

Origin: Middle English vertu, virtu, from Anglo-French, from Latinvirtut-, virtus strength, manliness, virtue, from vir man. First Known Use: 13th century.

Quote: “Since the life to come is to be attained through virtue, chief attention must be paid to those passages in which virtue is praised; such may be found, for example, in Hesiod, Homer, Solon, Theognis, and Prodicus.” St. Basil, Address to Young Men on the Right Use of Greek Literature

>From Ounce, Dice Trice by Alistair Reid:

If you get tired of counting one, two, three, make up your own numbers, as shepherds used to do when they had to count sheep day in, day out. You can try using these sets of words instead of numbers, when you have to count to ten.

OUNCE
DICE
TRICE
QUARTZ
QUINCE
SAGO
SERPENT
OXYGEN
NITROGEN
DENIM
INSTANT
DISTANT
TRYST
CATALYST
QUEST
SYCAMORE
SOPHOMORE
OCULIST
NOVELIST
DENTIST
ARCHERY
BUTCHERY
TREACHERY
TAPROOM
TOMB
SERMON
CINNAMON
APRON
NUNNERY
DENSITY
ACREAGE
BROKERAGE
CRIBBAGE
CARTHAGE
CAGE
SINK
SENTIMENT
OINTMENT
NUTMEG
DOOM

>TYSON:
What is it now? What is it?

MARGARET:
The street’s gone mad. They’ve seen a shooting star!

TYSON:
They? Who? What of it?

MARGARET:
I’m sure I’m sorry,
But the number of people gone mad in the street
Is particularly excessive. They were shaking
Our gate, and knocking off each other’s hats,
And six fights simultaneously, and some
Were singing psalm a hundred and forty … I think
It’s a hundred and forty … and the rest of them shouting
“The Devil’s in there?” (pointing at this house.)
“Safety from Satan!” and “Where’s the woman? Where’s
The witch? Send her out!” and using words
That are only fit for the Bible. And I’m sure
There was blood in the gutter from somebody’s head
Or else it was the sunset in a puddle,
But Jobby Pinnock was prising up cobblestones,
Roaring like the north wind, and you know
What he is in church when he starts on the responses.
And that old Habakkuk Brown using our wall
As it was never meant to be used. And then
They saw a star fall over our roof somewhere
And followed its course with a downrush of whistling
And Ohs and Ahs and groans and screams; and Jobby
Pinnock dropped a stone on his own foot
And roared “Almighty God, it’s a sign!” and some
Went down on their knees and others fell over them
And they’ve started to fight again, and the hundred and fortieth
Psalm has begun again louder and faster than ever.
Hebble dear, isn’t it time they went home?

TYSON:
All right, all right. Now why
Can’t people mind their own business! This shooting star
Has got nothing to do with us, I am quite happy
In my mind about that. It probably when past,
Perfectly preoccupied with some astral anxiety or other
Without giving us a second thought. Eh, Tappercoom?
One of those quaint astrological holus-boluses,
Quite all right.

TAPPERCOOM:
Quite. An excess of phlegm
In the solar system. It’s on its way
To a heavenly spittoon. How is that,
How is that? On its way …

TYSON:
I consider it unwise
To tempt providence with humor, Tappercoom.

(From The Lady’s Not for Burning, 1948, by Christopher Fry)