Richard Rolle on the Psalms

Richard Rolle

Richard Rolle

I know I’m on break, but I wanted to share this from my recent reading of the works by the great medieval English hermit Richard Rolle. Those who pray the Hours know how true it is:

A great fullness of spiritual comfort and joy in God comes into the hearts of those who recite or devoutly intone the psalms as an act of praise to Jesus Christ. they drop sweetness in men’s souls and pour delight into their thoughts and kindle their wills with the fire of love, making them hot and burning within, and beautiful and lovely in Christ’s eyes. And those who persevere in their devotion he raises up to the life of meditation and, on many occasions, he exalts them to the melody and celebrations of heaven. The song of the psalms chases away devils, stirs up angels to help us; it drives out and destroys discontent and resentment in the soul and makes a peace between body and soul; it brings desire of heaven and contempt for earthly things. Indeed, this radiant book is a choice song in God’s presence, like a lamp brightening our life, health for a sick hearts, honey to a bitter soul, a high mark of honor among spiritual people, a voicing of private virtues, which forces down the proud to humility and makes kings bow in reverence to poor men, nurturing children with gentleness. In the psalms there is such great beauty of meaning and of medicine from the words that this book is called “a garden enclosed,” a sealed fountain, a paradise full of apples.

Richard Rolle, The English Psalter and Commentary


Verbum Bible Software: Enter to Win an iPad Mini and Scholar Edition

Go here and scroll down.  The contest goes until January 6th. Since it’s Rafflecopter, you might be able to enter once a day.

Some good stuff is on sale as well, in case you have some Christmas money burning a hole in your pocket. I liked the Sacra Pagina series, Scott Hahn’s Letter & Spirit series, and, of course, the Ratzinger/Benedict collection. For the hardcore cases, The Fathers of The Church series is also on sale.

Gaudete, Christus est Natus

From my family to yours, may you all have a very blessed Christmas.

Gaudete, Gaudete!
Christus et natus
Ex maria virgine,
Rejoice, Rejoice!
Christ is born
Of the virgin Mary,
Tempus ad est gratiae,
Hoc quod optabamus;
Carmina laetitiae,
Devote redamus.
Now is the time of grace
That we have desired;
Sing songs of joy,
Give devotion.
Deus homo factus est,
Natura mirante;
Mundus renovatus est
A Christo regnante.
God is made man,
And nature marvels;
The world is renewed
By Christ who is King.
Ezechiellis porta
Clausa pertransitur;
Unde lux est orta
Salus invenitur.
The closed gate of Ezekiel
Is passed through;
From where the light rises
Salvation is found.
Ergo nostra cantio,
Psallat iam in lustro;
Benedicat Domino:
Salus Regi nostro.
Therefore let our assembly,
Sing shining Psalms;
Let it praise the Lord:
Greetings to our King.


Veni Veni

I’m getting ready to sign off for Christmas in order to focus less on blogging and squabbling and news, and more on Jesus. I’d like to leave you with a little bit of music and beauty as I go.

Latin is just a neat language. I don’t mean neat as in “cool,” like the kids say these days, although it can be that. I mean it’s just a neat, tidy language that expresses thought and emotion in a tight little package. Witness: my favorite Christmas hymn: Veni Veni Emmanuel.

Veni Veni blends the “O Antiphons” of the octave before Christmas (December 17th through 23rd), which themselves date back to maybe the 9th century. The hymn probably originated in the 12th century, although some dates place it as late as the 18th, which marked its first appearance in print.

Here are two notable performances, first in Latin, then English.

Note the compression of thought in “captivum solve Israel / qui gemit in exsilio / privatus Dei Filio” and how it’s lacking in “and ransom captive Israel / that mourns in lonely exile here / until the Son of God appear.” The Latin flows better, and takes fewer words, creating a greater impact. I love English. I study it, I work with it, I dig deep into it’s weird little dark alleys and disreputable haunts, and keep up my skills in Middle English. (I do a mean Chaucer: buy me a beer and I’ll recite “Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote” better than you’ve ever heard it.) It’s just a grand and amazing language.

But the simple reality is that the Church thinks in Latin, and therefore expresses itself more precisely and fully in Latin. I spent a lot of time studying St. Thomas Aquinas, and the ability to switch back and forth between the Latin and English in Verbum was essential. I don’t read Latin fluently: I kind of pick through it, and therefore it’s not practical to read hundreds and hundreds of pages of the Summa in a compressed time in Latin. It’s just not my primary language.

I found, however, that there were certain issues that are not rendered as precisely or clearly using English terminology alone, and there other places where the Latin just explained things better. (The phrase “terminus ad quem” is one.)

The same goes with hymnody. The most moving moment of the liturgical year in parish in the singing of the Pange Lingua on Holy Thursday. Is it a coincidence that it’s the only Latin hymn we’re expected to sing?

I don’t attend a Extraordinary Form as my regular mass, because I prefer a well-said Novus Ordo. (Note the qualifier.) There’s an openness to it that a prefer in regular worship, in contrast to the more interior, mystical approach of the Extraordinary Form. There’s a place for Latin and Greek in the NO, however, and we need to recapture it. We need to press our pastors and liturgists and music directors to include it more. It elevates us. It calls us to attention. It’s the voice of history ringing down through the years. It’s part of our heritage, and we deserve it.

* * *

For a compare and contrast: Veni Veni Emmanuel (alternating Latin/English)

And here are the words in alternating Latin and English.

VENI veni Emmanuel
captivum solve Israel,
qui gemit in exsilio,
privatus Dei Filio.
R: Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
nascetur pro te Israel!

O COME, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
R: Rejoice! Rejoice! O Israel,
to thee shall come Emmanuel!

Veni O Sapientia,
quae hic disponis omnia,
veni, viam prudentiae
ut doceas et gloriae.

O come Thou Wisdom, from on high,
and order all things far and nigh;
to us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go.

Veni veni Adonai,
qui populo in Sinai
legem dedisti vertice
in maiestate gloriae.

O come, o come, Thou Lord of might,
who to thy tribes on Sinai’s height
in ancient times did give the law,
in cloud, and majesty, and awe. R.

Veni O Iesse virgula,
ex hostis tuos ungula,
de spectu tuos tartari
educ et antro barathri.

O come Thou Rod of Jesse’s stem,
from ev’ry foe deliver them
that trust Thy mighty power to save,
and give them vict’ry o’er the grave.

Veni Clavis Davidica,
regna reclude caelica,
fac iter tutum superum,
et claude vias inferum.

O come Thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heav’nly home,
make safe the way that leads on high,
that we no more have cause to sigh.

Veni veni O Oriens,
solare nos adveniens,
noctis depelle nebulas,
dirasque mortis tenebras.

O come Thou Dayspring from on high,
and cheer us by thy drawing nigh;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night
and death’s dark shadow put to flight.

Veni veni Rex Gentium,
veni, Redemptor omnium,
ut salvas tuos famulos
peccati sibi conscios.

O come, Desire of the nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid every strife and quarrel cease
and fill the world with heaven’s peace.


And here’s just something weird for you.

Remember When Artists Had Courage?

Now we’re taking orders on what we’re allowed to watch from North Korea? That’s how brave Hollywood stands by their principles? (As if they have any principles other than devotion to the almighty dollar and contempt for their audiences.)

I’m not saying a Seth Rogen movie is worth risking lives. Heck, just the idea that “Seth Rogen” and “international incident” are in the same news stories is proof of our deeply odd times.

But if any nation on earth is demonstrably evil, it is the prison-nation of North Korea, run by a murderous and delusional dynasty that gets crazier in each successive generation. If creative people can’t stand up to crummy little tyrants like this and poke them in the eye, then what possible use are they? Even the lowest court jester of the nobility would mock the king.

Is it worth risking a single life for the possibility of a terrorist incident?

That’s entirely the wrong question. The studios and theaters are making a decision based on the potential for lost revenue if people get scared by the threats of terrorist action against theaters and stay away. And, given that we live in a climate of fear generated by one manufactured crisis after another, some people may indeed stay away. The film industry might even have to face a 10% reduction in box office returns during the lucrative Christmas season, and that’s how executives lose jobs.

Remember when Walt Disney and Warner and Charlie Chaplin mocked evil men like Hitler with vigor and courage? Now studios cringe in fear. It’s easy to do what Hollywood usually does: mock conservatives and Christians. Given the fallout from The Interview, we’re almost certain to see more of the villain that dominates headlines with his relentless cruelty and terrorism: the white male Methodist.

It’s almost a metaphysical certainty the The Interview is a terrible film, but if Seth Rogen and James Franco are the bravest member of the entertainment class, then they’re in good company.

Language Warning for these, obviously:


How To Send an Email With Style

Use a typewriter to type it on your letterhead (can’t you just feel that nice 24lb bonded paper?), sign it, and have your assistant scan and email it.

That’s what writer-director Terrance Malick does, as revealed in the Sony leak. Malick–who takes this reclusive artist thing seriously–doesn’t use email. Here’s the letter:


Mmmm, Courier.

Mmmm, Courier.

The letter is notable for its courtesy, professionalism, good grammar, and style. People used to know how to communicate this way, and it’s becoming harder to find. I can’t help thinking the entire form here–letterhead, font, signature, proper spacing, alignment, word placement, and all–helps imbue even routine communication with a dignity that email and texts can never offer.

Looking at this letter, I realized that kids won’t know how to do this unless parents teach them, and that maybe it’s something worth preserving.