Papist Orthodoxy

October 29, 2009

THE DOMESTIC CHURCH (PART 1)

Filed under: Doctrine, Sacred Scripture and Theology — Tags: , , , — Antiochian-Thomist @ 10:53 pm

A priest at the seminary for the Fraternity of St. Peter said to me, “Families are the future of the Church.” Fr. Berg, the Superior General of the Fraternity of St. Peter, said on the same day that all that the seminary does is to refine in a few years what the families have been doing for 18+ years — that the families did all the real or hard work. I say, “God bless them both for their kind acknowledgement.”

However, to rephrase what these priests said, all formation begins in the Domestic Church — the Christian hearth & home. It is in the Domestic Church where we are (or should be) principally formed. Let us look at the Catechism of the Catholic Church and see what it has to say about this [and I mean the current edition].

From the Vatican website.

VI. THE DOMESTIC CHURCH

1655 Christ chose to be born and grow up in the bosom of the holy family of Joseph and Mary. The Church is nothing other than “the family of God.” From the beginning, the core of the Church was often constituted by those who had become believers “together with all [their] household.”164 When they were converted, they desired that “their whole household” should also be saved.165 These families who became believers were islands of Christian life in an unbelieving world.

1656 In our own time, in a world often alien and even hostile to faith, believing families are of primary importance as centers of living, radiant faith. For this reason the Second Vatican Council, using an ancient expression, calls the family the Ecclesia domestica.166 It is in the bosom of the family that parents are “by word and example . . . the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children. They should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each child, fostering with special care any religious vocation.”167

1657 It is here that the father of the family, the mother, children, and all members of the family exercise the priesthood of the baptized in a privileged way “by the reception of the sacraments, prayer and thanksgiving, the witness of a holy life, and self-denial and active charity.”168 Thus the home is the first school of Christian life and “a school for human enrichment.”169 Here one learns endurance and the joy of work, fraternal love, generous – even repeated – forgiveness, and above all divine worship in prayer and the offering of one’s life.

1658 We must also remember the great number of single persons who, because of the particular circumstances in which they have to live – often not of their choosing – are especially close to Jesus’ heart and therefore deserve the special affection and active solicitude of the Church, especially of pastors. Many remain without a human family often due to conditions of poverty. Some live their situation in the spirit of the Beatitudes, serving God and neighbor in exemplary fashion. The doors of homes, the “domestic churches,” and of the great family which is the Church must be open to all of them. “No one is without a family in this world: the Church is a home and family for everyone, especially those who ‘labor and are heavy laden.'”170

IN BRIEF

1659 St. Paul said: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church. . . . This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the Church” (Eph 5:25, 32).

1660 The marriage covenant, by which a man and a woman form with each other an intimate communion of life and love, has been founded and endowed with its own special laws by the Creator. By its very nature it is ordered to the good of the couple, as well as to the generation and education of children. Christ the Lord raised marriage between the baptized to the dignity of a sacrament (cf. CIC, can. 1055 # 1; cf. GS 48 # 1).

1661 The sacrament of Matrimony signifies the union of Christ and the Church. It gives spouses the grace to love each other with the love with which Christ has loved his Church; the grace of the sacrament thus perfects the human love of the spouses, strengthens their indissoluble unity, and sanctifies them on the way to eternal life (cf. Council of Trent: DS 1799).

1662 Marriage is based on the consent of the contracting parties, that is, on their will to give themselves, each to the other, mutually and definitively, in order to live a covenant of faithful and fruitful love.

1663 Since marriage establishes the couple in a public state of life in the Church, it is fitting that its celebration be public, in the framework of a liturgical celebration, before the priest (or a witness authorized by the Church), the witnesses, and the assembly of the faithful.

1664 Unity, indissolubility, and openness to fertility are essential to marriage. Polygamy is incompatible with the unity of marriage; divorce separates what God has joined together; the refusal of fertility turns married life away from its “supreme gift,” the child (GS 50 # 1).

1665 The remarriage of persons divorced from a living, lawful spouse contravenes the plan and law of God as taught by Christ. They are not separated from the Church, but they cannot receive Eucharistic communion. They will lead Christian lives especially by educating their children in the faith.

1666 The Christian home is the place where children receive the first proclamation of the faith. For this reason the family home is rightly called “the domestic church,” a community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and of Christian charity.

YOUR CHILDREN ARE NOT EDUCATED (PART 1): WHY IT IS SO

Filed under: Education, Philosophy — Tags: — Antiochian-Thomist @ 9:48 pm

The following article, though not very scholarly itself,  is on the current model of education used as the standard in public and private school systems at the primary, grammar, and secondary levels. If you are parents of children that are enrolled in a school, unless that school explicitly states that it operates with some sort of alternative method (e.g. “classical liberal arts”, “trivium & quadrivium”, “montessori” [no, I am not necessarily endorsing montessori], etc.) then your child, more likely than not, is involved with the Horace Mann/John Dewey method of education which was modeled on the Prussian and Soviet systems for the purpose of producing compliant, dumbed-down, soldiers and “citizens”. Even private schools, Catholic or otherwise, employ this system, just with a Catholic or Christian varnish, albeit without malice. This is why even in private high schools, students might graduate with piety but also with an inability to think themselves out of a paper bag.

–Antiochian-Thomist

The Public School Nightmare:

Why fix a system designed to destroy individual thought?

by John Taylor Gatto  [Two time New York State “Teacher of the Year”]

I want you to consider the frightening possibility that we are spending far too much money on schooling, not too little. I want you to consider that we have too many people employed in interfering with the way children grow up — and that all this money and all these people, all the time we take out of children’s lives and away from their homes and families and neighborhoods and private explorations — gets in the way of education.

That seems radical, I know.  Surely in modern technological society it is the quantity of schooling and the amount of money you spend on it that buys value.

And yet last year in St. Louis, I heard a vice-president of IBM tell an audience of people assembled to redesign the process of teacher certification that in his opinion this country became computer-literate by self-teaching, not through any action of schools.  He said 45 million people were comfortable with computers who had learned through dozens of non-systematic strategies, none of them very formal; if schools had pre-empted the right to teach computer use we would be in a horrible mess right now instead of leading the world in this literacy.

Now think about Sweden, a beautiful, healthy, prosperous and up-to-date country with a spectacular reputation for quality in everything it produces.  It makes sense to think their schools must have something to do with that.

Then what do you make of the fact that you can’t go to school in Sweden until you are 7 years old?  The reason the unsentimental Swedes have wiped out what would be first and seconds grades here is that they don’t want to pay the large social bill that quickly comes due when boys and girls are ripped away from their best teachers at home too early.  It just isn’t worth the price, say the Swedes, to provide jobs for teachers and therapists if the result is sick, incomplete kids who can’t be put back together again very easily. [Sweden is considered to have the best educated populace in the developed world. –Antiochian-Thomist]

The entire Swedish school sequence isn’t 12 years, either — it’s nine.  Less schooling, not more.  The direct savings of such a step in the US would be $75-100 billion, a lot of unforeclosed home mortgages, a lot of time freed up with which to seek an education.

Who was it that decided to force your attention onto Japan instead of Sweden?  Japan with its long school year and state compulsion, instead of Sweden with its short school year, short school sequence, and free choice where your kid is schooled?   Who decided you should know about Japan and not Hong Kong, an Asian neighbor with a short school year that outperforms [emphasis added] Japan across the board in math and science?  Whose interests are served by hiding that from you? [not yours, let me tell you…]

One of the principal reasons we got into the mess we’re in is that we allowed schooling to become a very profitable monopoly, guaranteed its customers by the police power of the state.  Systematic schooling attracts increased investment only when it does poorly, and since there are no penalties at all for such performance, the temptation not to do well is overwhelming.  That’s because school staffs, both line and management, are involved in a guild system.  And in that ancient form of association no single member is allowed to outperform any other member, none are allowed to advertise or to introduce new technology or improvise without the advance consent of the guild.  Violation of these precepts is severely sanctioned–as Marva Collins, Jaime Escalante and a large number of once-brilliant teachers found out.

The guild reality cannot be broken without returning primary decision-making to parents, letting them buy what they want to buy in schooling, and encouraging the entrepreneurial reality that existed until 1852. That is why I urge any business to think twice before entering a cooperative relationship with the schools we currently have.  Cooperating with these places will only make them worse.

The structure of American schooling, 20th century style, began in 1806 when Napoleon’s amateur soldiers beat the professional soldiers of Prussia at the battle of Jena.  When your business is selling soldiers, losing a battle like that is serious. Almost immediately afterwards a German philosopher named Fichte delivered his famous “Address to the German Nation” which became one of the most influential documents in modern history.

In effect he told the Prussian people that the party was over, that the nation would have to shape up through a new Utopian institution of forced schooling in which everyone would learn to take orders. [emphases added]

So the world got compulsion schooling at the end of a state bayonet for the first time in human history; modern forced schooling started in Prussia in 1819 with a clear vision of what centralized schools could deliver: [yes, make the comparisons]

1. Obedient soldiers to the army;

2. Obedient workers to the mines;

3. Well subordinated civil servants to government;

4. Well subordinated clerks to industry

5. Citizens who thought alike about major issues.

Schools should create an artificial national consensus on matters that had been worked out in advance by leading German families and the head of institutions.  Schools should create unity among all the German states, eventually unifying them into Greater Prussia.

Prussian industry boomed from the beginning.  She was successful in warfare and her reputation in international affairs was very high.  Twenty-six years after this form of schooling began, the King of Prussia was invited to North America to determine the boundary between the United States and Canada.  Thirty-three years after that fateful invention of the central school institution, at the behest of Horace Mann and many other leading citizens, we borrowed the style of Prussian schooling as our own. [emphases added]

You need to know this because over the first 50 years, our school’s Prussian design — which was to create a form of state socialism — gradually forced out our traditional American design, which in most minds was to prepare the individual to be self-reliant.

In Prussia the purpose of the Volksshule [work school], which educated 92 percent of the children, was not intellectual development at all, but socialization in obedience and subordination [emphasis added]. Thinking was left to the Real Schulen, [Real School] in which 8 percent of the kids participated.  But for the great mass, intellectual development was regarded with managerial horror, as something that caused armies to lose battles.

Prussia concocted a method based on complex fragmentation to ensure that its school products would fit the grand social design.  Some of this method involved dividing whole ideas into school subjects, each further divisible, some of it involved short periods punctuated by a horn so that self-motivation in study would be muted by ceaseless interruptions. [I knew there was a reason I hated those darn school horns/buzzers.]

There were many more techniques of training, but all were built around the premise that isolation from first-hand information, and fragmentation of the abstract information presented by teachers, would result in obedient and subordinate graduates, properly respectful of arbitrary orders.

“Lesser” men would be unable to interfere with policy makers because, while they could still complain, they could not manage sustained or comprehensive thought.  Well-schooled children cannot think critically, cannot argue effectively. [Oh boy, is this ever true.]

One of the most interesting by-products of Prussian schooling turned out to be the two most devastating wars of modern history.

Erich Maria Ramarque, in his classic, All Quiet on the Western Front, tells us that the First World War was caused by the tricks of schoolmasters, and the famous Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that the Second World War was the inevitable product of good schooling.

It’s important to underline that Bonhoeffer meant that literally, not metaphorically — schooling after the Prussian fashion removes the ability of the mind to think for itself.   It teaches people to wait for a teacher to tell them what to do and if what they have done is good or bad.  Prussian teaching paralyses the moral will as well as the intellect.  It’s true that sometimes well-schooled students sound smart, because they memorize many opinions of great thinkers, but they actually are badly damaged because their own ability to think is left rudimentary and undeveloped.

We got from the United States to Prussia and back because a small number of very passionate ideological leaders visited Prussia in the first half of the 19th century, and fell in love with the order, obedience and efficiency of its system and relentlessly proselytized for a translation of Prussian vision onto these shores.

If Prussia’s ultimate goal was the unification of Germany, our major goal, so these men thought, was the unification of hordes of immigrant Catholics into a national consensus based on a northern European cultural model.  To do that children would have to be removed from their parents and from inappropriate cultural influence.

In this fashion, compulsion schooling, a bad idea that had been around at least since Plato’s Republic, a bad idea that New England had tried to enforce in 1650 without any success, was finally rammed through the Massachusetts legislature in 1852.

It was, of course, the famous “Know-Nothing” [which was one of the most anti-Catholic political parties in America] legislature that passed this law, a legislature that was the leading edge of a famous secret society which flourished at that time known as “The Order of the Star Spangled Banner,” whose password was the simple sentence, “I know nothing” — hence the popular label attached to the secret society’s political arm, “The American Party.”

Over the next 50 years state after state followed suit, ending schools of choice and ceding the field to a new government monopoly.  There was one powerful exception to this — the children who could afford to be privately educated. (Although it may be relevant that not ALL private schools are geared to a “real” education, but are simply more of the same as the public schools, but are promoted as being for the elite.)

It’s important to note that the underlying premise of Prussian schooling is that the government is the true parent of children — the State is sovereign over the family.  At the most extreme pole of this notion is the idea that biological parents are really the enemies of their own children, not to be trusted.

How did a Prussian system of dumbing children down take hold in American schools?

Thousands and thousands of young men from prominent American families journeyed to Prussia and other parts of Germany during the 19th century and brought home the Ph. D. degree to a nation in which such a credential was unknown.   These men pre-empted the top positions in the academic world, in corporate research, and in government, to the point where opportunity was almost closed to those who had not studied in Germany, or who were not the direct disciples of a German PhD, as John Dewey was the disciple of G. Stanley Hall at Johns Hopkins.  Virtually every single one of the founders of American schooling had made the pilgrimage to Germany, and many of these men wrote widely circulated reports praising the Teutonic methods.  Horace Mann‘s [the father of the American public school system] famous 7th Report of 1844, still available in large libraries, was perhaps the most important of these.

By 1889, a little more than 100 years ago, the crop was ready for harvest.  It that year the US Commissioner of Education, William Torrey Harris, assured a railroad magnate, Collis Huntington, that American schools were “scientifically designed” to prevent “over-education” from happening.   The average American would be content with his humble role in life, said the commissioner, because he would not be tempted to think about any other role. [emphases added]

My guess is that Harris meant he would not be able to think about any other role.

In 1896 the famous John Dewey, then at the University of Chicago, said that independent, self-reliant people were a counter-productive anachronism in the collective society of the future.   In modern society, said Dewey, people would be defined by their associations –not by their own individual accomplishments.  In such a world people who read too well or too early are dangerous because they become privately empowered, they know too much, and know how to find out what they don’t know by themselves, without consulting experts. [emphases added]

Dewey said the great mistake of traditional pedagogy was to make reading and writing constitute the bulk of early schoolwork.  He advocated the phonics method of teaching reading be abandoned and replaced by the whole word method, not because the latter was more efficient (he admitted that it was less efficient), but because independent thinkers were produced by hard books, thinkers who cannot be socialized very easily.

By socialization Dewey meant a program of social objectives administered by the best social thinkers in government.  This was a giant step on the road to state socialism, the form pioneered in Prussia, and it is a vision radically disconnected with the American past, its historic hopes and dreams.

Dewey’s former professor and close friend, G. Stanley Hall, said this at about the same time, “Reading should no longer be a fetish.  Little attention should be paid to reading.”

Hall was one of the three men most responsible for building a gigantic administrative infrastructure over the classroom.  How enormous that structure really became can only be understood by comparisons: New York State, for instance, employs more school administrators than all of the European Economic Community nations combined.

Once you think that the control of conduct is what schools are about, the word “reform” takes on a very particular meaning.  It means making adjustments to the machine so that young subjects will not twist and turn so, while their minds and bodies are being scientifically controlled.  Helping kids to use their minds better is beside the point. [emphases added]

Bertrand Russell once said that American schooling was among the most radical experiments in human history, that America was deliberately denying its children the tools of critical thinking.

When you want to teach children to think, you begin by treating them seriously when they are little, giving them responsibilities, talking to them candidly, providing privacy and solitude for them, and making them readers and thinkers of significant thoughts from the beginning.  That’s if you want to teach them to think.  There is no evidence that this has been a State purpose since the start of compulsion schooling.

When Frederich Froebel, the inventor of kindergarten in 19th century Germany, fashioned his idea he did not have a “garden for children” in mind, but a metaphor of teachers as gardeners and children as the vegetables.

Kindergarten was created to be a way to break the influence of mothers on their children [Take note of this]. I note with interest the growth of daycare in the US and the repeated urgings to extend school downward to include 4-year-olds.  The movement toward state socialism is not some historical curiosity, but a powerful dynamic force in the world around us.

The state socialism movement is fighting for its life against those forces which would, through vouchers or tax credits, deprive it of financial lifeblood, and it has countered this thrust with a demand for even more control over children’s lives, and even more money to pay for the extended school day and year that this control requires.  A movement as visibly destructive to individuality, family and community as government-system schooling has been, might be expected to collapse in the face of its dismal record, coupled with an increasingly aggressive shake down of the taxpayer, but this has not happened.

The explanation is largely found in the transformation of schooling from a simple service to families and towns to an enormous, centralized corporate enterprise.  While this development has had a markedly adverse effect on people and on our democratic traditions, it has made schooling the single largest employer in the United States, and the largest grantor of contracts next to the Defense Department.

Both of these low-visibility phenomena provide monopoly schooling with powerful political friends, publicists, advocates and other useful allies.  This is a large part of the explanation why no amount of failure ever changes things in schools, or changes them for very long.  School people are in a position to outlast any storm and to keep short-attention-span public scrutiny thoroughly confused.

An overview of the short history of this institution reveals a pattern marked by intervals of public outrage, followed by enlargement of the monopoly in every case.  After nearly 30 years spent inside a number of public schools, some considered good, some bad, I feel certain that management cannot clean its own house.  It relentlessly marginalizes all significant change.

There are no incentives for the “owners” of the structure to reform it, nor can there be without outside competition.  What is needed for several decades is the kind of wildly-swinging free market we had at the beginning of our national history.

It cannot be overemphasized that no body of theory exists to accurately define the way children learn, or which learning is of most worth.  By pretending the existence of such we have cut ourselves off from the information and innovation that only a real market can provide.  Fortunately our national situation has been so favorable, so dominant through most of our history, that the margin of error afforded has been vast.

But the future is not so clear. Violence, narcotic addictions, divorce, alcoholism, loneliness… all these are but tangible measures of a poverty in education.   Surely schools, as the institutions monopolizing the daytimes of childhood, can be called to account for this.  In a democracy the final judges cannot be experts, but only the people.

Trust the people, give them choices, and the school nightmare will vanish in a generation.

THE SEVEN LIBERAL ARTS

Filed under: Education, Philosophy — Tags: , , — Antiochian-Thomist @ 8:36 pm

From the Original Catholic Encyclopedia.

Arts, the SEVEN LIBERAL. —The expression artes liberales, chiefly used during the Middle Ages, does not mean arts as we understand the word at the present day, but those branches of knowledge which were taught in the schools of that time. They are called liberal (Lat. liter, free), because they serve the purpose of training the free man, in contrast with the artes illiberales, which are pursued for economic purposes; their aim is to prepare the student not for gaining a livelihood, but for the pursuit of science in the strict sense of the term, i.e. the combination of philosophy and theology known as scholasticism. They are seven in number and may be arranged in two groups, the first embracing grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic, in other words, the sciences of language, of oratory, and of logic, better known as the artes sermocinales, or language studies; the second group comprises arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music, i.e. the mathematico-physical disciplines, known as the artes reales, or physiccs. The first group is considered to be the elementary group, whence these branches are also called artes triviales, or trivium, i.e. a well-beaten ground like the junction of three roads, or a crossroads open to all. Contrasted with them we find the mathematical disciplines as artes quadriviales, or quadrivium, or a road with four branches. The seven liberal arts are thus the members of a system of studies which embraces language branches as the lower, the mathematical branches as the intermediate, and science properly so called as the uppermost and terminal grade. Though this system did not receive the distinct development connoted by its name until the Middle Ages, still it extends in the history of pedagogy both backwards and forwards; for while, on the one hand, we meet with it among the classical nations, the Greeks and Romans, and even discover analogous forms as forerunners in the educational system of the ancient Orientals, its influence, on the other hand, has lasted far beyond the Middle Ages, up to the present time.

It is desirable, for several reasons, to treat the system of the seven liberal arts from this point of view, and this we propose to do in the present article. The subject possesses a special interest for the historian, because an evolution, extending through more than two thousand years and still in active operation, here challenges our attention as surpassing both in its duration and its local ramifications all other phases of pedagogy. But it is equally instructive for the philosopher because thinkers like Pythagoras, Plato, and St. Augustine collaborated in the framing of the system, and because in general much thought and, we may say, much pedagogical wisdom have been embodied in it. Hence, also, it is of importance to the practical teacher, because among the comments of so many schoolmen on this subject may be found many suggestions which are of the greatest utility.

The Oriental system of study, which exhibits an instructive analogy with the one here treated, is that of the ancient Hindus still in vogue among the Brahmins. In this, the highest object is the study of the Veda, i.e. the science or doctrine of divine things, the summary of their speculative and religious writings for the understanding of which ten auxiliary sciences were pressed into service, four of which, viz. phonology, grammar, exegesis, and logic, are of a linguistico-logical nature, and can thus be compared with the Trivium; while two, viz. astronomy and metrics, belong to the domain of mathematics, and therefore to the Quadrivium. The remainder, viz. law, ceremonial lore, legendary lore, and dogma, belong to theology. Among the Greeks the place of the Veda is taken by philosophy, i.e. the study of wisdom, the science of ultimate causes which in one point of view is identical with theology. “Natural Theology”, i.e. the doctrine of the nature of the Godhead and of Divine things, was considered as the domain of the philosopher, just as “political theology” was that of the priest; and “mystical theology” of the poet. [See O. Willmann, Geschichte des Idealismus (Brunswick, 1894), I, -§ 10.] Pythagoras (who flourished between 540 B.C. and 510 B.C.) first called himself a philosopher, but was also esteemed as the greatest Greek theologian. The curriculum which he arranged for his pupils led up to the ieros logos, i.e. the sacred teaching, the preparation for which the students received as mathematikoi, i.e. learners, or persons occupied with the—mathemata, the “science of learning”—that, in fact, now known as mathematics. The preparation for this was that which the disciples underwent as akousmatikoi, “hearers”, after which preparation they were introduced to what was then current among the Greeks as mousike paideia, “musical education”, consisting of reading, writing, lessons from the poets, exercises in memorizing, and the technique of music. The intermediate position of mathematics is attested by the ancient expression of the Pythagoreans metaichmon, i, e. “spear-distance”; properly, the space between the combatants; in this case, between the elementary and the strictly scientific education. Pythagoras is more over renowned for having converted geometrical, i.e. mathematical, investigation into a form of education for freemen. (Proclus, Commentary on Euclid, I, p. 19, ten peri ten geometrian pholosophianeis schema paideias eleutherou metestesen.) “He discovered a mean or intermediate stage between the mathematics of the temple and the mathematics of practical life, such as that used by surveyors and business people; he preserves the high aims of the former, at the same time making it the palaestra of intellect; he presses a religious discipline into the’ service of secular life without, however, robbing it of its sacred character, just as he previously transformed physical theology into natural philosophy without alienating it from its hallowed origin” (Geschichte des Idealismus, I, 19 at the end). An extension of the elementary studies was brought about by the active, though somewhat unsettled, mental life which developed after the Persian wars in the fifth century B.C. From the plain study of reading and writing they advanced to the art of speaking and its theory (rhetoric), with which was combined dialectic, properly the art of alternate discourse, or the discussion of the pro and con. This change was brought about by the sophists, particularly by Gorgias of Leontium. They also attached much importance to manysidedness in their theoretical and practical knowledge. Of Hippias of Elis it is related that he boasted of having made his mantle, his tunic, and his footgear (Cicero, De Oratore, iii, 32, 127). In this way, current language gradually began to designate the whole body of educational knowledge as encyclical, i.e. as universal, or all-embracing (egkuklia paideumata, or mathemata; egkuklios paideia). The expression indicated originally the current knowledge common to all, but later assumed the above-mentioned meaning, which has also passed into our word encyclopedia.

Socrates having already strongly emphasized the moral aims of education, Plato (429-347 B.C.) protested against its degeneration from an effort to acquire culture into a heaping-up of multifarious information (polupragmosune). In the “Republic” he proposes a course of education which appears to be the Pythagorean course perfected. It begins with musico-gymnastic culture, by means of which he aims to impress upon the senses the fundamental forms of the beautiful and the good, i.e. rhythm and form (aisthesis). The intermediate course embraces the mathematical branches, viz. arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music, which are calculated to put into action the powers of reflection (dianoia), and to enable the student to progress by degrees from sensuous to intellectual perception, as he successively masters the theory of numbers, of forms, of the kinetic laws of bodies, and of the laws of (musical) sounds. This leads to the highest grade of the educational system, its pinnacle (thrigkos) so to speak, i.e. philosophy, which Plato calls dialectic, thereby elevating the word from its current meaning to signify the science of the Eternal as ground and prototype of the world of sense. This progress to dialectic (dialektike poreia) is the work of our highest cognitive faculty, the intuitive intellect (nous). In this manner Plato secures a psychological, or noetic, basis for the sequence in his studies, namely: sense-perception, reflection, and intellectual insight. During the Alexandrine period, which begins with the closing years of the fourth century before Christ, the encyclical studies assume scholastic forms. Grammar, as the science of language (technical grammar) and explanation of the classics (exegetical grammar), takes the lead; rhetoric becomes an elementary course in speaking and writing. By dialectic they understood, in accordance with the teaching of Aristotle, directions enabling the student to present acceptable and valid views on a given subect; thus dialectic became elementary practical logic. The mathematical studies retained their Platonic order; by means of astronomical poems, the science of the stars, and by means of works on geography, the science of the globe became parts of popular education (Strabo, Geographica, I, 1, 21-23). Philosophy remained the culmination of the encyclical studies, which bore to it the relation interfere with the search for the truth which they contain. The choicest gift of bright minds is the love of truth, not of the words expressing it. “For what avails a golden key if it cannot give access to the object which we wish to reach, and why find first to obtain a firm foothold; culture was by them identified with eloquence, as the art of speaking and the mastery of the spoken word based upon a manifold knowledge of things. In his “Institutiones Oratorise” Quintilian, the first professor eloquentue at Rome in Vespasian’s time, begins his instruction with grammar, or, to speak precisely, with Latin and Greek Grammar, proceeds to mathematics and music, and concludes with rhetoric, which comprises not only elocution and a knowledge of literature, but also logical—in other words dialectical—instruction. However, the encyclical system as the system of the liberal arts, or Artes Bonce, i.e. the learning of the vir bonus, or patriot, was also represented in special handbooks. The “Libri IX Disciplinarum” of the learned M. Terentius Varro of Reate, an earlier contemporary of Cicero, treats of the seven liberal arts adding to them medicine and architectonics. How the latter science came to be connected with the general studies is shown in the book “De Architecture.”, by M. Vitruvius Pollio, a writer of the time of Augustus, in which excellent remarks are made on the organic connection existing between all studies. “The inexperienced”, he says, “may wonder at the fact that so many various things can be retained in the memory; but as soon as they observe that all branches of learning have a real connection with, and a reciprocal action upon, each other, the matter will seem very simple; for universal science (egkuklios, disciplina) is composed of the special sciences as a body is composed of members, and those who from their earliest youth have been instructed in the different branches of knowledge (variis eruditionibus) recognize in all the same fundamental features (notas) and the mutual relations of all branches, and therefore grasp everything more easily” (Vitr., De Architecture, I, 1, 12). In these views the Platonic conception is still operative, and the Romans always retained the conviction that in philosophy alone was to be found the perfection of education. Cicero enumerates the following as the elements of a liberal education: geometry, literature, poetry, natural science, ethics, and politics. (Artes quibus liberales doctrins atque ingenuse continentur; geometria, litterarum cognitio et poetarum, atque ills quae de naturis rerum, quae de hominum moribus, quae de rebus publicis dicuntur.)

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ICON CORNER: A Beginning

Filed under: Sacred & Liturgical Arts — Tags: , , , , — Antiochian-Thomist @ 5:41 pm

Below are some images of the beginning of our new “icon corner” or “icon wall”. These icons were blessed and heard the Divine Liturgy at Our Lady of Solitude Cloister & Retreat, a Melkite monastic foundation in rural northeastern Pennsylvania. These new “portals to heaven” are replicas of classic Greek icons.

Most of those who read this blog (all 6 of you) are Latin Rite Catholics and might be unfamiliar with the whole notion of the “icon corner” or the “icon wall”. They might even be unfamiliar with the theology of the icon. As a preface I have excerpted some articles on icons, iconography, and the icon wall.

The New Icon Corner

With an Italian iconographic crucifix, Christ the Life-Giver, and the All-Holy Theotokos.

From Orthodox Wiki via Agios Icons.

Iconography (from Greek: εικωνογραφία) refers to the making and liturgical use of icons, pictorial representations of Biblical scenes from the life of Jesus Christ, historical events in the life of the Church, and portraits of the saints. Icons are usually two-dimensional images and may be made of paint, mosaic, embroidery, weaving, carving, engraving, or other methods. A person who practices the art of iconography is called an iconographer.

Images have always been a vital part of the Church, but their place was the subject of the Iconoclast Controversy in the 8th and 9th centuries, especially in the East. The Sunday of Orthodoxy, the first Sunday of the Great Fast (Lent) every year celebrates the reestablishment of the Orthodox veneration of icons. The use of iconography is considered one of the most distinctive elements of the Byzantine Rite.

History

From the first centuries of Christianity, icons have been used for prayer. Orthodox Tradition tells us, for example, of the existence of an icon of the Christ during his lifetime, the Icon-Not-Made-With-Hands, and of the icons of the Theotokos immediately after him written by the All-laudable Apostle and Evangelist Luke.

Egyptian death masks

Historically, the icon is thought to be a descendant of the Egyptian death masks that were painted on mummies wrapped in strips of glue and powered gypsum soaked linen. This led to the traditional icon painting technique of gluing linen on a board, gessoing it, and painting on it. The Christian icon also inherited the cultic task of the ritual mask and exalted this task. The task that revealed the deified spirit of the deceased resting in eternity. The spiritual essence of the old Cult was transfigured into a new cultural image manifesting itself more perfectly than the old.

Unlike the mask, the Christian icon is not part of a mummy or sarcophagus, it does not need to connect to a saint’s body. No matter where on earth the saint’s remains are, and no matter the physical condition, his resurrected and deified body lives in eternity, and the icon that shows him forth does not merely depict the holy witness but is the very witness. It is not the icon, as art, that tells us anything, it is the saint, through the icon that is teaching. This window, to the resurrected, breaks when the icon itself is separated by the observer, from the saint it depicts. At that moment the icon just becomes another thing of this world. The vital connection between haven and earth disintegrates.

“Written” or “painted”?

The most literal translation of the word Greek: εικονογραφία (eikonographia) is “image writing,” leading many English-speaking Orthodox Christians to insist that icons are not “painted” but rather “written.” From there, further explanations are given that icons are to be understood in a manner similar to Holy Scripture—that is, they are not simply artistic compositions but rather are witnesses to the truth the way Scripture is. Far from being imaginative creations of the iconographer, they are more like scribal copies of the Bible.

While the explanation of the purpose and nature of icons is certainly true and consistent with the Church’s Holy Tradition, there is a linguistic problem with the insistence on the word written rather than painted. In Greek, a painted portrait of anyone is also a γραφή (graphi), and the art of painting itself is called ζωγραφική (zographiki) while any drawing or painting can be referred to as ζωγραφιά (zographia). Ancient Greek literally uses the same root word to refer to the making of portraits and the making of icons, but distinguishes whether it is “painting from life” (ζωγραφιά) or “painting icons” (εικονογραφία). Thus, from a linguistic point of view, either all paintings—whether icons or simple portraits—are “written” or (more likely) “painted” is a perfectly usable English translation, simply making a distinction between the painting appropriate for icons and that appropriate for other kinds of painting, just as Greek does.

Some have suggested that icon writing be used because of the fact that for many centuries, (whether the early Church, the persecutions against the Christians by the pagan authorities, or more recently around the Orthodox World when the faithful have been subjected to non-Orthodox authority), icons were the books of the illiterate and through the depiction of an often simple image refer to and confirm the fundamental belief of the Church; the Incarnation. God’s becoming human, his undertaking and sanctifying of human nature and matter in general means that He can be depicted using matter.

The New Icon Corner

A close view of the icons with a traditional lantern.

And now an article on the “icon corner”. This also comes to us from Wikipedia via Agios Icons.

The Icon Corner (Greek: εικονοστάσι) is a small worship space prepared in the homes of Eastern Orthodox or Greek-Catholic Christians.

The Book of Acts and the Epistles of the Apostle Paul record that in the early Church, Christians used to meet in the homes of the faithful. (Acts 2:46, Acts 20:7-12, I_Corinthians 16:19, etc.) This tradition of the “House Church” continues to this day in Eastern Christianity. The home is considered to be a microcosm of the Church. The parents (both the husband and the wife) are the “clergy” of the house church, and the children are the “laity.” The wedding ceremony (“crowning”) is analogous to Ordination, and the house is blessed with a rite that is based upon the Consecration of a Church. Once a year, the priest will come to bless the house with Theophany Water.

An Orthodox Christian is expected to pray constantly. According to Bishop Kallistos Ware, “[I]n Orthodox spirituality, [there is] no separation between liturgy and private devotion.”[1] Thus the house, just like the Temple (church building), is considered to be a consecrated place, and the center of worship in the house is the Icon Corner.

An Icon Corner is normally oriented to face east. It is often located in a corner to eliminate worldly distractions and allow prayer to be more concentrated. Here is where the icons that the family owns should be located, normally including at least icons of Christ, the Theotokos, and the Patron Saint(s) of the family. An oil lamp normally hangs in front of the icons. The careful trimming of the lamp to keep it burning at all times is interpreted as symbolic of the attentive daily care faithful Christians should take over their souls. Relics of saints (if the family possesses any) and a Gospel Book and a blessing cross would be kept there, as well as incense, holy water, palms and pussywillow from Palm Sunday, candles from Pascha (Easter), and other sacred items, as well as a personal Commemoration Book (containing the names of family and loved ones, both living and departed, to be remembered in prayer).

Ideally, the Icon Corner is located so that it is visible when one first enters the house from the main entrance. Traditionally, when first entering the house, an Orthodox Christian would venerate the icons before greeting the members of the house.

A traditional Orthodox family will gather together every day for morning and evening prayers. Sometimes, at the end of the prayers, the head of the household will take the hand censer and cense the icons and all of the members of the household.

Often, in addition to the Icon Corner, a family will hang a small “Portal Icon” (usually of the Virgin and Christ Child) by the door, which is venerated by family and guests whenever going in or out of the house.

Notes

1.^ Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church (Penguin Books, London, 1964, ISBN 0-14-020592-6), p. 310.

With the lit lantern and the smoke of the incense rising with our prayers.

With lantern lit and the smoke of the incense rising with our prayers.

Art & Architecture: A New Blog

I have found a new blog dedicated to beauty and order in the architectural arts. He (the owner of the blog) is a talented architect of enthusiasm and passion. I am happy to be able to call him “friend”. His name is Mr. Erik Bootsma, and I encourage all to look at his blog (beatusest.blogspot.com) which shows some samples of his fine work.

You can find the link to his site in the “blogroll” in the sidebar of this blog, or click on the image below to go to his blog. Enjoy.