Papist Orthodoxy

October 28, 2009

Historical Curiosity: The Sign of the Cross

Filed under: Uncategorized — Antiochian-Thomist @ 9:52 pm

I’m not intending to make a big deal out of this or ruffle anyone’s feathers. Pure and mere curiosity. I came across this and thought other history geeks like me might find it interesting.

Pope Innocent III (b. 1160/1161, d. 1216; reign: 1198-1216) said in his work, De sacro altaris mysterio, written and promulgated to regularize and unify liturgical practice in the West:

The sign of the cross is made with three fingers, because it is done together with the invocation of the Trinity….It is done from above to below, and from the right to the left, because Christ descended from heaven to the earth, and from the Jews He passed to the Gentiles (De sacro altaris mysterio 2, 45).

Innocent III goes on to say:

Others, however, make the sign of the cross from the left to the right….[Some priests] do it this way so that they and the people will be signing themselves in the same manner. For example, imagine the priest facing the people for the blessing — when we make the sign of the cross over the people, it is from left to right…(Ibid.)

So, when did the exception become the rule? I wonder how it changed? A curiosity, however minor.

I first read about this here.

The First Word: The Search for the Origins of Language — A Book Review by David Roemer

Filed under: Uncategorized — Antiochian-Thomist @ 9:17 pm

The following is an excerpt of a book review by David Roemer on the work, The First Word: The Search for the Origins of Language by Christine Kenneally. I haven’t read the book itself, but the subject is of some interest to me as I have been required to study related material in my studies of the liberal arts. The whole review can be found at the website,



The First Word: The Search for the Origins of Language
By Christine Kenneally
The Penguin Group, 357 pages, $26.95
ISBN 978-0-670-03490-1

Review by David Roemer

The study of the evolution of language began in earnest in the 1990s when Paul Bloom and Steven Pinker, linguists at MIT, took issue with Noam Chomsky’s views on the subject. In an interview, Bloom said:

And then, at the same time, Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini, a colleague and friend of mine in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, published an article in Cognition on the evolution of cognition and language. His article presented in this very sharp, cogent fashion the Chomskyan view on evolution—basically he said that there was very little interesting to make of the connection between natural selection and cognition and that language has features that simply cannot be explained in terms of adaption. I strongly disagreed with it. (p. 52)

Christine Kenneally provides us with the following Chomskyan quotes:

Chomsky’s signature claim is that all humans share a “universal grammar,” otherwise known as UG, a set of rules that can generate the syntax of every human language. This means that apart from the difference in a few mental settings, English and Mohawk, for example, are essentially the same language. Traditionally researchers committed to Chomskyan linguistics believed that universal grammar exists in some part of our brain in a language organ that all humans possess but no other animals have. (p. 25)

As he wrote in 1975: “A human language is a system of remarkable complexity. To come to know a human language would be an extraordinary achievement for a creature not specifically designed to accomplish this task. A normal child acquires this knowledge on relatively slight exposure and without specific training. He can then quite effortlessly make use of an intricate structure of specific rules and guiding principles to convey his thoughts and feelings to others, arousing in them novel ideas and subtle perceptions and judgments.” (p. 36 )

In his book Language and Mind he wrote, “It is perfectly safe to attribute this development [of innate mental structure] to ‘natural selection,’ so long as we realize that there is no substance to this assertion, that it amounts to nothing more than a belief that there is some naturalistic explanation for these phenomena.” (p. 38)

Humans have the observable and definable property of being able to converse with one another. This property is closely related to the unobservable and indefinable properties of free will and conscious knowledge. We can comprehend the unobservable properties because we have the ability to transcend ourselves and make ourselves the subject of our own knowledge. Existentialism is a philosophy that arises from this self-knowledge and addresses our need to decide what to do with our lives. Kenneally acknowledges that the uniqueness of human beings is based on both existential and observable properties:

But asking what makes humans unique is almost always qualitatively different from asking what makes the antelope unique, or the sloth, or the dung beetle. These questions don’t have to be, but have historically been so, the former is never purely scientific, but is inevitably shaded by our self-regard and is always, to some degree, existential. (p. 85)


On Leo Tolstoy — Literature and Condemnation

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Antiochian-Thomist @ 8:09 pm

From the official website of the Department of External Relations for the Russian Orthodox Church.

Archbishop Hilarion: It was not the Church who condemned Tolstoy but Tolstoy who condemned the Church

Speaking in the Church and World talk-show, Archbishop Hilarion, when asked about the excommunication of Tolstoy, replied, ‘It was not the Church who condemned Tolstoy but Tolstoy who condemned the Church. He condemned and discredited it, humiliated and insulted it in many of his works. For instance, in his Resurrection, he gave an utterly blasphemous description of the Divine Liturgy’. According to His Eminence, the writer’s works of this kind include the so-called ‘translation’ of the Gospel. ‘Having no knowledge of the Greek language, Tolstoy simply rendered the Gospel, distorting the text consciously by throwing out many importance passages and adding his own blasphemous comments’, he said.

Precisely for this reason, the Orthodox Church announced that this man, who had never belonged to it, placed himself outside of the church fold by his blasphemous and sacrilegious utterances. In response to that decision of the Holy Synod, Leo Tolstoy declared, ‘I have really repudiated the Church’.

‘Tolstoy excommunicated himself and announced it publicly. The Church only had to ascertain the accomplished fact. It is a different matter that before his death he must have felt agony and torments. He set off for the Optina Monastery possibly to make repentance but eventually he did not because his relatives did not let a priest to come to him. As Leo Tolstoy died without repentance, we can only commit his after-death fate to the hands of God and the Lord Himself will judge him’, the archbishop said.

SSPX Meetings with the Vatican

Filed under: Ecumenism — Tags: , , , — Antiochian-Thomist @ 8:00 pm

From the Holy See Press Office.

On Monday 26 October 2009 in the Palazzo del Sant’Uffizio, headquarters of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”, the study commission made up of experts from “Ecclesia Dei” and from the Society of St. Pius X held its first meeting, with the aim of examining the doctrinal differences still outstanding between the Society and the Apostolic See.

In a cordial, respectful and constructive climate, the main doctrinal questions were identified. These will be studied in the course of discussions to be held over coming months, probably twice a month. In particular, the questions due to be examined concern the concept of Tradition, the Missal of Paul VI, the interpretation of Vatican Council II in continuity with Catholic doctrinal Tradition, the themes of the unity of the Church and the Catholic principles of ecumenism, the relationship between Christianity and non-Christian religions, and religious freedom. The meeting also served to specify the method and organisation of the work.

[01551-02.01] [Original text: Italian, traduzione a cura della Sala Stampa]