Monday, November 28, 2016

Winners Announced!

Ten fortunate people have won an O Emmanuel CD!

This post explains how to send me your address so that I may notify the publisher, who will send your CD

I've had several giveaways in the past where the winners do not go back to check to see whether they'd won. I'm making every effort to contact you, but you have to do your part as well.

If I do not receive your mailing address in one weeks' time I'll have to choose a name to replace yours. Please don't make me do that. Send it to me:  thesockeys@gmail "dot" com


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Happy New Year!

image from Catholic Memes-Like them on Facebook
Yes, it's anachronistic, but still funny. And Year A starts tonight. 
Don't you love getting out your volume I breviary and opening to Evening Prayer I for the first Sunday in Advent?

And having a true hymn for vespers that goes back maybe a thousand years?(I refer here to Creator of the Stars of Night, aka Conditor Alme Siderum)

And reading all those lovely antiphons that leave you thinking how wonderful it would be if Our Lord really would come back this year?

I just love Advent.

And it's a great time to do a little something to improve your practice of the Liturgy of the Hours. Here's a few ideas.

  • Read through either the Apostolic Constitution Promulgating the Revision of the Divine Office or the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours. 
  • Or read both of them. They are found in front of volume I of the 4-volume breviary or else you can read them online. 
  • Read Liturgy and Personality
  • If you don't already do the complete cycle of liturgical hours each day, resolve to add one of them to your routine. 
  • If you can bang out a few notes on the piano, teach yourself a simple chant and use it for at least one psalm or Gospel canticle each day. 

Got any other good ideas?

Or do you have some questions about the Liturgy of the Hours?  

If so, leave a comment.

Friday, November 25, 2016

A Little More on O Antiphons

After reading my post earlier this week about the O Emmanuel music CD/mp3, one reader asked that I write another post explaining more about the O Antiphons.

I plead lack of time for a whole special post this week. Besides, there is not need to reinvent the wheel. This essay by Fr. Zulhsdorf explains them pretty well. Furthermore, if you look at the left column of Fr. Z.'s essay, you will see a  special link to each of the antiphons. Each one is given in Latin, English, again in Latin with a musical chant setting, scriptural references on which each antiphon is based, and finally, a lengthy and lovely meditation on the antiphon.

So far there are about 20 entries in my previous post for a giveaway of ten copies of the O Emmanuel CD.   If you haven't entered yet, then go there and post a comment. State which of the O Antiphons is your favorite. Winners will be picked at random. You chances of winning are pretty good.

Which O Antiphon is my favorite? I think it's O Oriens (O Rising Sun or O Dayspring in English). Although the darkness and shadow of death refer mostly to sin and its consequences, I think this antiphon also makes a great prayer for anyone suffering from seasonal depression.

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer,
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight.

Monday, November 21, 2016

New Original Advent Music! And it's Actually Good! UPDATE!

Here are the winners for the O Emmanual Giveaway, by username: Alexis Maudlin, Encourager, Droll Mom, Sasha, Vivian Varela, Imperial reaction, Amie, John Burzynski, Matthew Tucker, and artepromusica.  

Congratulation! But you aren't done yet! You must send your real name, address, and zip code to my personal email, which is thesockeys"at"gmail "dot" com    Please do this within a week. If you do not, then I will pick a different name to replace yours.

I will send your names to the publisher, and they will send you the CDs.

As we all know, the Advent season is sorely neglected and pre-empted by a commercialized Christmas season.

I've mellowed somewhat over the years in my annoyance about this, recognizing that lit-up homes and Christmas trees and most of all, Christmas music really do cheer hearts during this rather dreary time of year. (Dreary for us who live in the cold, light-deprived north, that is.) And trying to be an optimist, I can see this as remote preparation for the fullness of seasonal beauty found in the liturgical calendar. If people love carrying out yearly, seasonal rituals, then they are in the frame of mind to eventually  see the sense of doing more and better rituals for the purpose of celebrating and honoring our God.

But I digress. One barrier to observing Advent in our homes is the lack of recorded advent music. In previous years I've promoted Advent at Ephesus, an album of traditional Gregorian chants and a few vernacular hymns for the season.   This year, there's something new.

Really new.

O Emmanuel  is a Cantata (for lack of a better word) of sorts, a collection of  instrumentally accompanied choral pieces with texts based on Sacred Scripture.  Each band on the album is a choral setting for one of the O Antiphons. Most readers of this blog know  exactly what that means. For any newcomers who do  not, the O Antiphons are prayed each night at vespers from December 17th thru 23rd, as an opening to the Magnificat of Our Lady. Each O Antiphon describes a scriptural title of the longed-for Messiah. (Every Catholic has some familiarity with them, since a paraphrase of these  antiphons also make up the verses of the hymn O Come, O Come Emmanuel.)

Anyhow, these setting combine old and new musical themes and styles. Each one is given its ancient Latin title (O Sapienta, O  Adonai, O Radix, O Clavis, etc.) and sometimes the Latin text is used. But so many styles of music are used (and even combined within a piece) that the listener will be continually surprised. There's Gregorian chant, classical, jazz, a dash of modern dissonance, African American spiritual, and more.  Although there are occasional adult solos, the album features the Notre Dame Children's choir, a national touring choir of 200 very talented kids. I don't know about you, but there's something about kids singing (even when they're not all that talented) that always moves me. When they're this good, the effect is amazing.   I wish I could give this CD to every parish music director who thinks the only music children can enjoy is schmaltz  from that old "Glory and Praise" hymnal. Children have the intelligence to appreciate and perform good music. They should not be insulted with junk. (Sorry for the rant.)

Right now, O Emmanuel is #1 on the Billboard Classical chart and it's high on the Christmas music chart as well. Go here to listen to some samples.And watch the video where the composer talks about Sacred Music.

If you like what you hear, then come back here and enter a giveaway!  The nice people at Dynamic Catholic would like ten lucky Coffee&Canticles readers to have a free copy of this CD. Just write the name of your favorite O Antiphon (in Latin or in English).  At the end of the week ten names will be selected at random.   Now, make sure you come back to the blog to see whether you won, OR make sure that the name on your comment is something I can click on and actually take me to you.

If contests are not your thing and you just want to get the mp3 version, click here.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Liturgy and Personality by Dietrich von Hildebrand

I am delighted and honored  to be part of the virtual blog tour for a new edition of a  classic work on liturgical spirituality.

You might be aware of Dietrich von Hildebrand (1889-1977) as the Catholic scholar who was one of the first to challenge the philosophy of Nazism, necessitating his flight to the United Sates to escape the wrath of Adolf Hitler.  You might know that his contributions to the philosophy  and the theology of marriage influenced the thought of Pope Paul VI and Pope St. John Paul II. 

I must admit, that my earlier attempts to read von Hildebrand years ago didn't go well. As a busy mother, I only had the time and mental energy for short books written in a popular style, whether fiction or non-fiction. Philosophy defeated me, especially von Hildebrand's, which I found dense and even impenetrable.  The closest I came to appreciating the ideas of this man came when I heard them filtered through his beloved wife and widow, Alice, whose articles in Catholic publications and talks at conferences helped make his ideas a bit more accessible to us non-philosophers.

So when I received a review copy of Liturgy and Personality, I hesitated and considered adding it to the large pile of books in my office which may or may not get read--someday. Two things made me crack it open. First, the topic. Maybe, I thought, something in here will help me to further plumb the depths of the Liturgy of the Hours. Second, I saw that that book's foreword was written by Bishop Robert Barron. Now there is someone who has made  dense theological and philosophical concepts comprehensible to millions!

Sure enough, Bishop Barron's foreword was reassuring. He explained a couple of von Hildebrand's terms, such as "value" and "personality", which have very different meanings from the way they are used in everyday English.* As I read Barron's words, the lightbulbs starting popping in my mind, and I was encouraged to start reading the actual text. (read Bishop Barron's Foreword here.)

This modern foreword was followed by the author's original introduction (1933) and his preface to a second edition (1960). I was delighted to learn that von Hildebrand was a proponent of the Liturgical Movement of the 1930s thru 50s. This movement promoted greater lay understanding of, and participation in the liturgy. (As such, von Hildebrand favored the "dialogue mass" where the congregation--rather than just the altar servers--made the responses. I'll never understand why this is is virtually  unseen/unheard at Extraordinary form masses these days.)

The author made clear in the introduction that by "liturgy" he meant Holy Mass and the Divine Office (a.k.a. Liturgy of the Hours). And for the rest of the introduction, as he set forth his basic premises, he drew examples equally from these two types of liturgy. With that, I knew that reading Liturgy and Personality was going to be a huge help to my daily prayer life.

Now, here is the main point this book delivers, in great detail, with great beauty and profundity: Liturgy will transform you and the way you look at EVERYTHING.

(And this is a very important and startling BUT.)

If you attend mass and pray the Liturgy of the Hours with transformation (or consolation, or personal growth, or answers to your problems in life) as your primary aim you will not receive it! In other words, if you are earnestly reading those psalms mainly because you "want to get something out of it", then you are going about it all wrong. You are even a little short of the mark if your main purpose is to pray for the needs of the Church Universal.

The aim and purpose of liturgical prayer, the thing that makes it better than any other kind of prayer is this:

The Divine Office is recited primarily because all praise and glorification is due to God, the fullness of all holiness and majesty, and not because it will bring about a transformation of ourselves. The Liturgy is not primarily intended as a means of sanctification or an ascetic exercise. Its primary intention is to praise and glorify God, to respond fittingly to Him. (Liturgy and Personality, p.2)

The praise and glorifying of God is the greatest thing we can do. It is the "truly right and just" response of the human soul to its Creator and Redeemer. Now, once we divest ourselves of these motives, we open a door for the actual transformation to occur. The author makes a great analogy between this and the process of  falling in love. True love is a response to the goodness and beauty of the other, a response where the self is pretty much forgotten.  This kind of love will, in fact, transform the lover into a better person, helping him or her to be less selfish, more thoughtful, patients, self-sacrificing, etc.   But this won't happen were a man to say to himself, "I've heard that falling in love and marrying will make me a better person. I'm all for self-improvement, so I'll give it a shot and see if I get those results."

The book goes on to explain how and why liturgy, even though its prayers are objective (pre-composed, set forth in a specific way for specific days, allowing for little or no outward "spontanaeity" on the part of the pray-er, and communal in character) is yet the most intensely affective and heart-opening of all prayer. It's perfectly personal because it is the prayer of the Perfect Person, Jesus Christ.

But the summaries I give here are weak. Just get the book and read it. As I said earlier, it's not an easy read. What I'm doing is reading one chapter, or even half a chapter each Sunday afternoon (when I've made it a goal to cut down on internet and unnecessary housekeeping). Then I try to keep a point or two of what I've read in mind whenever I open my breviary that following week.

Okay. Enough from me. Buy the book. Think: spiritual reading for Advent.

 *The term "personality" here is philosophical. It has nothing to do with our use of the term  (as in a winning, or nice, or assertive personality.) In von Hildebrand's usage, personality  is a quality  acquired (in greater and lesser degrees) in accordance with how well you learn to respond to all that is good, true and beautiful. (Von Hildebrand's umbrella term for good, true and beautiful is "value" so watch out for that one, too.)


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Liturgy and Personality - Teaser

I've been asked to host one day of a virtual book tour by the publishers of a new edition of the classic work Liturgy and Personality by Dietrich Von Hildebrand. My detailed post about it will appear on Saturday, so be sure to check back.  Here's my teaser:

In my own book, writings on this blog, and when I speak about the Liturgy of the  Hours, a favorite theme of mine is It's not about you!   In other words, it's all wrong to reject praying the Office because the mood of these prayers, fixed for each day of the year  and time of day, do not always reflect your particular mood, or address your particular needs the way your personal conversation with God undoubtedly will.

I mostly argue that  our purpose in liturgical prayer is to pray for, and on behalf of, the entire Church, and in the very voice of Christ Himself. All of that must "increase" while I and my personal concerns must "decrease."

 Now I'm delighted to find that a brilliant philosopher and theologian has expounded on this theme with far greater brilliance and beauty than I ever could. In addition, although Von Hildebrand clearly agrees with the first part of my argument (It's not about you), he gently teaches me that the second part of my argument (it's about praying for the whole Church) is actually NOT the main point of the Liturgy of the Hours.

Stay tuned! 

Order an Amazon

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Lateran Basilica and the House He's Building

Today we celebrate the feast of a building, and from there we think about other buildings of the more metaphorical sort.

To recap from previous years, we devote a feast to the Lateran Basilica because it is the cathedral church of the Pope. It is called the Mother Church of Christendom. The original structure was erected by the emperor Constantine. So yes,it's worth commemorating. If you haven't tried this Virtual Tour before then set aside some time and prepare yourself for a treat.

What I love about today's Liturgy of the Hours is the way it runs with the idea of God's house, God's temple, God's dwelling place. And how the antiphons and pslams don't just remain at the level of the Temple--look at the antiphon for the Benedictus: Zacchaeus...this day salvation has come to his house!

Every house can become His holy temple! And then...

Every heart. Check out the Office of Readings, where St. Caesarius of Arles tells us:

Do you with this basilica to be immaculately clean?Then do not soil your soul with the filth of sins. Do you wish this basilica to be full of light? God, too, wishes that your soul not be in darkness, but that the light of good works shine in us, so that he who dwells in the heavens will be glorified. Just as you enter this church building, so God wishes to enter into your soul, for he promised: I shall live in them, and I shall walk the corridors of their hearts. 

All this brought to mind a favorite passage from C.S. Lewis where he makes great use of the house analogy: "Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself." C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

There's also another metaphor in today's Liturgy, the one where St. Paul calls each of us a "Living Stone" in an edifice God is building. That brought to mind this lovely song by Audrey Assad, with which I'll leave you today. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Mindful of What?

I'm sure you've all heard about "Mindfulness". Read about it in magazines and blogs.

In it's short form, it just means slowing down, taking a few deep breaths, paying attention to the breaths, and paying attention to your immediate surroundings, hopefully with some appreciation.

In it's long, obsessive, faddish form it's almost a religion, with a whole set of books and accessories and courses that supposedly help you to be Mindful. This form is a kind of secular substitute for prayer.

This article by Heather King at the Mind&Spirit blog examines and explodes the Mindfulness industry.  If you are not already familiar with Heather's writing, then prepare yourself for a treat. She does it really, really well.

And you will love her final sentence!