Can America Become a Christian Society Again? ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Bishop Chaput, who oversees a large Catholic school system, notes that most Catholic school children attend public schools and “only 3 percent of Hispanic Catholic children attend Catholic schools,” with the consequence that ”the freedom and ability of Catholic families “to raise their children according to Christian beliefs is also, in everyday practice, becoming more difficult.” But Bishop Chaput does not approach the subject with the passions of Dr. Esolen, and he takes a somewhat distant approach, letting various sources he cites make the more stinging comments. He makes no plea for Catholics to attend Catholic schools, no argument that his own Catholic schools offer an alternative, and gives no details about what a Catholic or Christian education would look like.
— Read on

Colosseum Books Poetry Series – Franciscan University Press | Franciscan University of Steubenville

Colosseum Books is an annual series of volumes of new poetry and poetry criticism that exhibit spiritual and intellectual depth and an understanding of verse as a craft guided by enduring tradition, metrical rigor, and a commitment to the well-made thing. Each Colosseum book will be published by the Franciscan University at Steubenville Press.

In the ancient world, the civilizational achievements of Rome were transformed and leavened by the spirit of Christianity. The Colosseum stood as a symbol of the struggle and suffering such a new birth entailed, but also of final victory and union, as Christendom emerged to take possession of the treasures of Athens and Jerusalem with Rome as its spiritual capital. In the modern age, the English writer Christopher Dawson edited the review Colosseum as a forum for the Catholic intellectual world to engage contemporary arts and culture. In its pages such great minds as Dawson, Jacques Maritain, and E.I. Watkin studied and discussed the literary achievement of T.S. Eliot, Sigrid Undset, and other writers of the Catholic literary revival and beyond.
— Read on

–James M. Wilson is an excellent poet, brilliant thinker, and good ally. Very happy to see him as editor of this new series.

A Tale of Holiday Pops

This week, as I’ve done every year since 1990 (with one notable exception*),  I’ll have my head, voice and heart immersed in the Grand Rapids Symphony’s annual Holiday Pops concerts, as part of the GR Symphony Chorus.  The Symphony, Chorus, Youth Chorus, Embellish Handbell Ensemble, baritone Justin Hopkins and conductor Bob Bernhardt come together for five shows (Thursday, & Friday nights, two shows on Saturday, a Sunday matinee) in DeVos Performance Hall.

This is always an enjoyable week for me — there’s nothing quite like knowing that the audience is already on your side!  Whether they’ve attended before or not, they’re looking forward to the familiar set pieces — a carol or two by British composer John Rutter, soundtrack excerpts from John Williams’ Home Alone, Santa coming onstage for some jokey byplay, Leroy Anderson’s swinging “Sleigh Ride”, and a big singalong.  It’s a time when our Chorus director, Dr. Pearl Shangkuan, reminds us that this is many folks’ only Symphony concert of the entire year — and our job is to blow them away, with the same precision and intensity we bring to Mozart, Bach or Mahler!

This isn’t to say the audience is only after a good time, with just the secular, sentimental side of the holidays.  Sacred carols are a major part of the mix every year (including the singalong), in solid arrangements by choral stars like Mack Wilberg, director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  And a few years back, the conductor decided to switch out Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” from the program’s closing spot (where it had been since at least 2003) in favor of  “White Christmas.”  This well-intentioned change lasted one show; instant feedback from that Thursday’s opening night crowd brought Handel back to the finale slot, where he’s remained ever since.

And Holiday Pops in Grand Rapids consistently means more than favorites and fluff; for example, this year the GR Symphony’s Youth Chorus premieres two new pieces by their accompanist and director.  Leah Ivory’s The Star brings tantalizing West African vocal and percussive traditions to the West Michigan concert stage; and Sean Ivory’s setting of a liturgical poem for Hanukkah, Ma’oz tsur, is dedicated to the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting victims, inspired further by the words of the nurse who treated the shooter:

I wanted him to feel compassion. I chose to show him empathy. I felt that the best way to honor his victims was for a Jew to prove him wrong. Besides, if he finds out I’m Jewish, does it really matter? The better question is, what does it mean to you?

Love. That’s why I did it. Love as an action is more powerful than words, and love in the face of evil gives others hope. It demonstrates humanity. It reaffirms why we’re all here. The meaning of life is to give meaning to life, and love is the ultimate force that connects all living beings. I could care less what [the shooter] thinks, but you, the person reading this, love is the only message I wish instill in you. If my actions mean anything, love means everything.

Love deeply. Love blindly. Love faithfully. Love selflessly. Love unexpectedly. Love without question. Love with every breath. Love so that even when the world seems as dark as it did in Pittsburgh, love casts light.

And Symphony Chorus gets in on the serious fun as well, performing the thrilling, highly syncopated setting of Gloria in Excelsis from Dan Forrest’s new multi-movement choral suite Lux – The Dawn from On High:

So, all in all, I’m thinking this should be another week to remember!  If you’re anywhere near Grand Rapids, Michigan, come on down to DeVos Performance Hall for a beautiful concert of holiday music that will furnish both high spirits and rich nourishment for your soul!  Details and tickets here.


— Rick Krueger

* I took a sabbatical from Symphony Chorus the year I got married.  My wife approved — but she also let me go back the next year!

“Savior of the Nations, Come!”

Among his numerous contributions to the Christian church, the hymns of St. Ambrose, bishop of Milan (340-397) have pride of place.  Veni redemptor gentium (Come, Redeemer of the Gentiles), indirectly attributed to Ambrose by St. Augustine, remains in the Roman Liturgy of the Hours to this day, as the hymn for the Octave before Christmas.

Veni, redemptor gentium,
ostende partum Virginis;
miretur omne saeculum:
talis decet partus Deum.

O come, Redeemer of the earth,
and manifest thy virgin-birth.
Let every age in wonder fall:
such birth befits the God of all.

Particularly popular in medieval Germany, Veni redemptor gentium was one of the initial hymns Martin Luther (1483-1546) adapted for congregational use in the wake of the Reformation.  Translated into German as Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland with a metricized melody, it first appeared in the Erfurt Enchiridion of 1524.   Swiftly, it became the Hymn of the Day for the First Sunday in Advent in Lutheran churches; over the centuries, it’s been set for organ and/or choir by numerous composers.  Of course, the cantata and chorale prelude settings by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) stand out:

But the legacy of this ancient hymn continues into the modern day, with organ settings by modern composers such as Paul Manz (1919-2009) …

… and its numerous English translations, including the composite version found in 2006’s Lutheran Service Book.  In the video below, the hymn begins at 1:57, following a Luther quote spoken over a chorale prelude by Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707).

Savior of the nations, come, Virgin’s Son, make here Your home!
Marvel now, O heav’n and earth, That the Lord chose such a birth.

Not by human flesh and blood, By the Spirit of our God,
Was the Word of God made flesh—Woman’s offspring, pure and fresh.

Here a maid was found with child, Yet remained a virgin mild.
In her womb this truth was shown: God was there upon His throne.

Then stepped forth the Lord of all / From His pure and kingly hall;
God of God, yet fully man, His heroic course began.

God the Father was His source, Back to God He ran His course.
Into hell His road went down, Back then to His throne and crown.

For You are the Father’s Son / Who in flesh the vict’ry won.
By Your mighty pow’r make whole / All our ills of flesh and soul.

From the manger newborn light / Shines in glory through the night.
Darkness there no more resides; In this light faith now abides.

Glory to the Father sing, Glory to the Son, our king,
Glory to the Spirit be / Now and through eternity.

— Rick Krueger



Manifest Destiny and the American Nimrods ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Whatever one wants to label it, American expansion has led to the habit of empire, expansion, and war. As Americans, we might very well cover our actions and deeds in fair, liberal, and republican language, but these adornments cannot change the essence of imperialism, by whatever name. The repeated government removal of American Indians is certainly one blatant example of this imperialism in the 19th century, which often failed even to discriminate against those Indian tribes hostile to American interests (such as the Sioux) and those in admiration and alliance (the Nez Perce).
— Read on

Why Are We Still in Afghanistan? –

Cultural interventionism v/s Guns

“There is ‘more power in blue jeans and rock and roll than the entire Red Army’ said French philosopher Régis Debray”

Soviet Denim Smuggling – The History of Jeans Behind the Iron Curtain

Spirit of Cecilia

Our options have fallen into two categories: bad and worse.
— Read on

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Ad Fontes #2

From Lutheran Service Book’s Daily Lectionary for November 30:

‘In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.’  (Isaiah 6:1-4)

Or, to put it another way (especially if you’re Martin Luther assembling his Deutsche Messe in the 1520s):

Isaiah, mighty seer, in days of old
The Lord of all in Spirit did behold
High on a lofty throne, in splendor bright,
With robes that filled the temple courts with light.
Above the throne were flaming seraphim,
Six wings had they, these messengers of Him.
With two they veiled their faces, as was right,
With two they humbly hid their feet from sight,
And with the other two aloft they soared,
One to the other called and praised the Lord:
“Holy is God, the Lord of Sabaoth!
Holy is God, the Lord of Sabaoth!
Holy is God, the Lord of Sabaoth!
His glory fills the heavens and the earth!”
The beams and lintels trembled at the cry,
And clouds of smoke enwrapped the throne on high.

(English translation from The Lutheran Hymnal, 1941, alt.)

— Rick Krueger

On Saint Andrew’s Day

Polish Lutheran pastor Valerius Herberger (1562-1627):

Reverent hearts, we hold the feast of the apostle Andrew in Christendom as the first in the [Church] Year not only because it falls near the season of Advent but also because Andrew was called first, before the other apostles, by the Lord Jesus. Even Durandus the bishop of Mende (13th century liturgist) , says, “The saints are to be honored by imitation, not adored, as honor them as gods. They are to be honored with love, not adored with servitude.”

Now history tells us how St. Andrew. together with his fellows conducted their new office. Right away they left their nets and followed the Lord Jesus. And again, right away they left the ship and their father and followed Him. To them, Jesus is now the most precious one on earth—according to His mind they learn, according to His words they teach, according to His will they live, according to His decree they suffer and die. When St. Andrew was threatened with the cross, he said joyfully, “If I feared the punishment of the cross, I would never have preached the mystery of the cross.” Then when he saw the cross, he spoke, “Hail, precious cross, you who were dedicated by the body of Christ; may He receive me through you, who redeemed me through you.” And when he was living after three days on the cross, his hearers wanted to take him down by force, but he said, “Ah, let God take care of it! Do not make the peace of the Gospel suspect by your unnecessary revolt against the government.” That was apostolic constancy and long-suffering! This is what it means to “leave everything and follow Christ,” all the way to the last catch of fish.

(Translated by Benjamin Mayes, from the Lutheran Treasury of Daily Prayer published by Concordia Publishing House in 2008.  Six parts of Herberger’s great Christ-centered devotional commentary, The Great Works of God, have been translated into English by Matthew Carver and published in three volumes; check them out here, here and here.)

— Rick Krueger

Music, Books, Poetry, Film

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