Saturday, April 14, 2007

Animated Bayeux Tapestry

The Bayeux Tapestry is a long and intricate piece of medieval embroidery that recounts the Norman Invasion and Conquest of England in the year 1066AD. By itself, it tells an amazing tale. The image fraction shown above depicts the sighting of what was actually Halley's Comet, interpreted then as a sign of impending doom. However, when the tapestry is enhanced with animation and subtitles (and interesting sound effects), it truly comes alive. Check it out (~4 mins on

Tri-cornered hat tip to Prof. Richard Nokes of Unlocked Wordhoard and to Anachronista for this.
Wicked, the Musical

Tonight we went downtown to see Wicked, the Broadway Musical, at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts in Houston. Christina had read the book, and I wanted to see what all of the hub-bub was about. It was very good; we enjoyed it! Check it out!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Elvis and the Mass

You've seen that old 1969 movie with Elvis and the nuns, right? It's called Change of Habit, where Elvis falls for Mary Tyler Moore, who plays a nun who goes undercover in order to minister in an urban minority community? The movie was a sort of statement on the social and ecclesiastical changes of the 1960's. It's classic.

I think the final scene summarizes what was in store for the Church quite nicely. Fortunately, has it (~2.25 mins):

Elvis is singing his groovy piece, Let Us Pray, during the offertory in this scene, complete with groovy backup singers and dancers. No, that's not distracting in the least bit! My favorite part is when the old woman says, Gimme the old days when you could go to mass and not think about a blessed thing! I wonder what my pastor would say. ;)

The scene also attempts to illustrate the internal conflict felt by Mary Tyler Moore's character: should she remain a nun, or pursue a life of love with Elvis? You understand because of the various images that flash on the screen: Elvis? or Jesus? Elvis? or Jesus?
The Holy Fire

I don't want to enrage any of my Eastern Orthodox readers, but I speak out of genuine ignorance here. What's the deal with the Holy Fire?

From what I have read, it's an alleged miracle flame, documented for the last 1000 years, that apparently appears out of nowhere every year at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Holy Saturday. An Eastern Orthodox bishop (typically the Patriarch of Jerusalem) enters the tomb within the church, says the right prayers, and emerges with a lit torch. The flame is then spread to candles held by thousands of believers outside of the church who claim the flame will not burn them for 33 minutes after ignition. I read one story that said that the flame is even flown back to Greece. Here is a video of the flame being bought out of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Holy Saturday, last year (2006):
Seems like a lot of chaos to me. Of course, Christians all over the world report miracles, and some may very well be true. What makes the Holy Fire particularly unique, however, is that it is often used by Eastern Orthodox to confirm Orthodoxy. Allegedly, the flame will not appear to a non-Orthodox who enters the tomb.

Why do they say the fire won't burn the flesh during the first 33 minutes? The videos I have seen don't appear to prove much. They show folks passing their hands quickly through the fire, but not for any appreciable length of time. Of course, the Orthodox who participate in this event claim that nothing underhanded is being done, and they say that this is confirmed by Israeli authorities. I have no reason to doubt their honestly, but I wonder if the claims concerning the inadvertent use of substances such as white phosphorus might have some truth to them. But I fear that the craze surrounding this miracle on Holy Saturday might be doing more to obscure rather than illuminate the message of the gospel and the true value of what we celebrate on Easter sunday: The Resurrection of Christ. It seems that I am not alone.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Christus surrexit! Alleluia!

Surrexit vere! Alleluia!

Happy Easter to all. We wrapped up our first Triduum experience at our new parish here in Sugar Land, climaxing in a fantastic Easter Vigil liturgy last night and equally dignified Easter morning mass. Our parish's new pipe organ is installed and is now being used for the glory of God! There should be some photos of the newly renovated sanctuary with the new and recently dedicated altar soon.

That aside, the mystery of the Resurrection of Christ is absolutely essential to our testimony of the Christian faith. Remember what St. Paul said to the Corinthians (1 Cor 15:14,17,20):
If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain... If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins... But, in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead.
The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (126) refers to the Resurrection of Christ as the crowning truth of our faith in Christ, for, as our pastor was sure to point out, this resurrection was not a mere bodily resuscitation. The Compendium goes on to discuss (129, 131):
The Resurrection of Christ was not a return to earthly life. His risen body is that which was crucified and bears the marks of his passion. However it also participates in the divine life, with the characteristics of a glorified body. Because of this the risen Jesus was utterly free to appear to his disciples how and where he wished and under various aspects.

The Resurrection is the climax of the Incarnation. It confirms the divinity of Christ and all the things which he did and taught. It fulfills all the divine promises made for us. Furthermore the risen Christ, the conqueror of sin and death, is the principle of our justification and our Resurrection. It procures for us now the grace of filial adoption which is a real share in the life of the only begotten Son. At the end of time, he will raise up our bodies.
Resurrexit sicut dixit, Alleluia!


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