Tuesday 29 May 2012

The hundredfold

Reading this morning's gospel, there came to mind the explanation given it by a Salesian many years ago, when I think we were still aspirants. "There is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children or land for my sake who will not receive a hundredfold, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land - and persecutions too - in this world and in the world to come." The Salesian said that he had already received the hundredfold - the many houses of the Salesians, their property, their lands, and of course brothers, sisters, mothers. The only thing he did not include was persecutions, but of that, in one form or another, there is no lack, I suppose. The explanation had seemed to me, already at that time, tendentious, and an attempt to justify what we all tended to regard as the excessive belongings and goods of the Salesians. It was the time of the immediate post-Council, with its great sensitivity to sharing, solidarity, the poor, and liberation theology was in the air.

But what did Jesus mean by what he said? Surely he who had left house and brothers and sisters and mother did not have the houses and lands in every city that the Salesians have, though brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers certainly. So what did he mean?

I like to think that he was talking about interior freedom. For one who is free, the whole world and all it contains belongs to the Father, and so to him.

He does not have need to hate or fear anyone, even when they are possessive of their own goods and properties, because he understands them.

He feels at home everywhere and at all times.

He enjoys already in this life the happiness that he will enjoy in the House of his Father. Because eternity penetrates this life.

For a world that is built on profit, this is foolishness.

But, for one who experiences this kind of inner freedom, the meaning of the words of Jesus leaps forth: Many who are first will be last, and the last first.

"What else have I in heaven but you
Apart from you I want nothing on earth.
My body and my heart faint for joy
God is my possession forever." (Ps 72/73)

To be able to say these words truly, and to experience them "upon one's skin" - that would be already a taste of eternal life.

Little glimpses of which we all perhaps have.

That these might coalesce into the forever. 

Sunday 20 May 2012

Santa Cruzan and Flores de Mayo

The shamiana on the Basketball Court

Queen Helena with the little Emperor Constantine

The Salagalas

Phiri and the musicians
The SLRC (San Lorenzo del Ruiz Filipino Community) celebrated Santa Cruzan and Flores de Mayo today in our compound: rosary, mass, procession, a program and lunch. Santa Cruzan - the feast of the finding of the true cross by St Helena. There was a lady dressed as the Queen Mother, accompanied by a little boy representing her son the Emperor Constantine. Then a whole bevy of 'Salagalas' - I don't know what that is, but they were certainly very colourful. Lots of flowers - Flores de Mayo - so also the celebration of the Marian Month of May. All in all, lots of enthusiasm, noise, fun, and of course, Filipino food.... 

Saturday 19 May 2012

Reading in church

"...when the texts of the Bible are read in the liturgy by a reader or a minister of higher rank, they are regarded as words that the prophets, the Apostles, or the Lord himself is speaking today to the listening faithful... at the very least, the reading should be heard as new and unexpected in its content and should stir wonder and stimulate us to conversion." Aime Georges Martimort, "The dialogue between God and his people," Principles of the Liturgy, ed. Aime Georges Martimort, vol. 1 (Collegeville:  Liturgical, 1987) 136.

The betterment of humanity

Another gem from Yourcenar's Hadrian:
I see an objection to every effort toward ameliorating man's condition on earth, namely that mankind is perhaps not worthy of such exertion. But I meet the objection easily enough: so long as Caligula's dream remains impossible of fulfillment, and the entire human race is not reduced to a single head destined for the axe, we shall have to bear with humanity, keeping it within bounds but utilizing it to the utmost; our interest, in the best sense of the term, will be to serve it. My procedure was based on a long series of observations made upon myself over a long period any lucid explanation has always convinced me, all courtesy has won me over, every moment of felicity has almost always left me wise. I lent only half an ear to those well-meaning folk who say that happiness is enervating, liberty too relaxing, and that kindness is corrupting for those upon whom it is practiced. That may be; but, in the world as it is, such reasoning amounts to refusal to nourish a starving man decently for fear that in a few years he may suffer from overfeeding. (Memoirs of Hadrian 112)

Friday 18 May 2012


Matteo Balla preached on the Ascension yesterday. He spoke about Jesus going up to heaven, and asked why the disciples did not think of holding on to his feet, to keep him on the ground, or at least to go up with him. Then he talked about Mary of Magdala washing the feet of Jesus, and Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, and concluded: Jesus might have gone up, but his brothers and sisters are still with us. Today we hold on to their feet, we wash their feet, in memory of him.

The feet, from which, according to the Purusa-sukta, the Shudras were born. And yet, charana-sparsa, the respect that a son gives his father, or a disciple his guru. 

Thursday 17 May 2012

Freedom in submission

Hadrian's advice on equanimity: submit, learn to accept, choose what befalls you:
But it was still to the liberty of submission, the most difficult of all, that I applied myself most strenuously. I determined to make the best of whatever situation I was in; during my years of dependence my subjection lost its portion of bitterness, and even ignominy, if I learned to accept it as a useful exercise. Whatever I had I chose to have, obliging myself only to possess it totally, and to taste the experience to the full. Thus the most dreary tasks were accomplished with ease as long as I was willing to give myself to them. Whenever an object repelled me, I made it a subject of study, ingeniously compelling myself to extract from it a motive for enjoyment. If faced with something unforeseen or near cause for despair, like an ambush or a storm at sea, after all measures for the safety of others had been taken, I strove to welcome this hazard, to rejoice in whatever it brought me of the new and unexpected, and thus without shock the ambush or the tempest was incorporated into my plans, or my thoughts. Even in the throes of my worst disaster, I have seen a moment when sheer exhaustion reduced some part of the horror of the experience, and when I made the defeat a thing of my own in being willing to accept it. (Yourcenar, Memoirs of Hadrian 44-45)
Again, this is homologous even if not the same as the surrender to the Father's will that was the substance of the life and existence of Jesus. The liberty that comes from obedience and surrender. Interesting to find it in this most unexpected of places. But then these are key elements of great leadership: the ability to keep one's cool through thick and thin. Only, Hadrian here gives expression to the way he handled things.

But Youcenar's Hadrian is perhaps more explicitly in the line of the Nietzschean amor fati. Nietzsche despises the man or woman who whines. The strong man, the powerful man, the Obermensch, takes power into his hands, accepts the hand that fate has dealt him, and goes on to make the best of it. Not for him grumbling and whining. In choosing to accept what befalls him, he is already beyond fate.

Hadrian on handling interruptions

Once again from Hadrian, advice for a busy man:
At other moments I practiced a liberty acquired by methods of alternation: feelings, thoughts, or work had all to be subject to interruption at any moment, and then resumed; the certainty of being able to summon or dismiss such preoccupations, like slaves, robbed them of all chance for tyranny, and freed me of all sense of servitude. I did a better thing: I organized the day's activities round some chosen train of thought and did not let it go; whatever would have distracted or discouraged me from it, such as projects or work of another kind, words of no import, or the thousand incidents of the day, were made to take their place around it as a vine is trained round the shaft of a column. (Yourcenar, Memoirs of Hadrian 43-44)
I am reminded of Lonergan: “To move into the practical pattern of experience without contracting our horizon presupposes perfect charity." (Topics in Education, CWL 10:91) It is only with perfect charity that one can pass easily and without being overly disturbed from the intellectual to the practical pattern of experience. Hadrian is of course neither speaking of nor presupposing the gift of perfect charity, but still, the problem is the same: how to handle interruptions, or how a busy man can yet get something substantial done despite the many things that crowd his day and make demands upon his attention. 

Lessons on leadership from Hadrian

A very good lesson on leadership from Hadrian:
The most benighted of men are not without some glimmerings of the divine: that murderer plays passing well uon the flute; this overseer flaying the backs of his slaves is perhaps a dutiful son; this simpleton would share with me his last crust of bread. And there are few who cannot be made to learn at least something reasonably well. Our great mistake is to try to exact from each person virtues which he does not possess, and to neglect the cultivation of those which he has. (Marguerite Yourcenar, Memoirs of Hadrian, tr. Grace Frick, New York: The Noonday Press, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1993, 42)

Tmol Shilshom

Cafe Tmol Shilshom, in Nahalat Shiv'a, one of the oldest quarters of the 'new' part of Jerusalem. I first spotted the place when Vernet took us along one of his shortcuts - you duck into a dark passage through one of the low buildings, find yourself in a sort of interesting backyard, and then find your way through little gullies onto Jaffa Road.

We dropped in there this afternoon for a coffee. A secondhand bookstore cum cafe cum restaurant, with an extraordinarily promising menu. (We had cold coffee, but noticed a bit late that there were all sorts of other very exciting 'hot' and cold drinks.) The kind of place where you can sit and write your book or correct your papers. Two inside rooms, one of which we were told was 'closed,' and a little terrace. (Information from the net: there are probably 'closed' events held in one of the rooms now and then.) The kind of place you find in old Pune - first floor, accessed by an external staircase. Lots of atmosphere.

Used to be a tailor's workshop in the old days - old days meaning pre-1948 I guess.

Eric Wyckoff says Tmol Shilshom translates roughly as Those Were the Days, and is the title of a novel by Amos Oz. Perhaps S.Y. Agnon, if I go by what I find on the net.

"Tmol Shilshom... shares its name with a novel by Nobel Prize-winning Hebrew writer S.Y. Agnon (translated into English as “Only Yesterday”)." [see http://www.timesofisrael.com/jerusalem-literary-landmark-tmol-shilshom-looks-to-tomorrow/, as of 10.07.2016.] 

A small opening on to Jerusalem. Whatever we might think and be convinced of, we can't live here for 3 or 4 years and not meet people, listen to them, try to understand what is happening, and also learn one or two of the living languages.

Monday 14 May 2012

Thomas Stephens' 'Arte da lingoa Canarim'

Another small element in the revival of the work of Thomas Stephens. Leonard Fernandes of Margao, Goa, obtained the rights to reprint Stephens' Arte da Lingoa Canarim - though this probably means dealing with the owners of the original MS from which this is reprinted. Technically, once an author is dead for 50 years, his work passes into the public domain.

What is being reprinted is really the Arte da lingoa Canarim composta pelo Padre Thomaz Estevão da Companhia de IESUS & acrecentada pello Padre Diogo Ribeiro da mesma Cõpanhia e nouemente reuista & emendada por outros quarto Padres da mesma Companhia (1640). This is the first print edition of the Arte, and not the original MS of the Arte which is to be found in the Marsden Collection held by the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.

A second edition of the Arte was printed under a different name by J.H. da Cunha Rivara: Grammatica da Lingua Concani composta pelo Padre Thomaz Estevão e accrescentada por outros Padres da Companhia de Jesus. Segunda Impressão, correcta e annotada, a que precede como introducção A Memoria sobre a Distribução Geographica das Principaes Linguas da India por Sir Erskine Perry, e o Ensaio historico da lingua Concani pelo Editor. Ed. J.H. da Cunha Rivara. (Nova Goa: Imprensa Nacional. 1857).

Leonard came across my Indian Christian Writings blog and wrote me, asking me to contribute an introduction, which is what I did, after some hesitation because of the lack of bibliographical material and my own amateur status in this field.

At any rate, the book is being released on 19 May 2012 at the Dr Francisco Luis Gomes District Library, Navelim, Goa.

Pity about the name of the publisher, however: CinammonTeal probably intends evoking the spices which drew the Portuguese and others to India, but still sounds somewhat non-academic. Still. 

Perpetual oaths at St Anne's

Yesterday we took part in the Eucharist at St Anne's where two of our students, belonging to the Missionaries of Africa, took their perpetual oaths. Solemn oaths and Societies of Apostolic Life are new to me, and to several others present. Are perpetual oaths like our solemn professions, a Benedictine monk asked Bill Russell. Bill replied, Yes, more or less, except that they are neither professions nor solemn.

The Missionaries of Africa do not take vows. The oaths were addressed not to God, but to the Superior General of the Society. Obedience was promised to the General and to the Constitutions, which in effect includes therefore other authorities ('superiors'?) at other levels. A promise of celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom was also heard. But nothing about poverty. What about poverty, we asked Bill who was at our table. We don't take any promise of poverty, Bill said. What does that mean concretely? That each one has to find the money that he needs. Which certainly leads to some interesting situations. Not only now, but also in the past, said Bill. But then they had come up with a sort of Fund, to which better off members contributed quietly, and from which others drew who were in need, also very quietly.

But St Anne's is wonderful. Reputed to be the House of St Anne, mother of Mary, the Crusader basilica still exists, quite solid, most likely because the Muslims who took over found a use for it and converted it into a Madrassa. The front door has a stone with an Arabic inscription, but just above that, another stone with a Latin inscription: Sncta Anna or something of the sort. Was it put back when the building passed into the hands of the French government? I did not remember to ask. But I did hear the stories of how the Franciscans were allowed by the Sultan to enter once a year, on the Birthday of Mary, but not through the principal entrance. They had to put a rope down a little window, and shinny down to the crypt where it is said the house was. The Custos must have been quite athletic to be able to do that.

Next to St Anne's is the Piscina Probatica, painstakingly excavated by the Missionaries of Africa, who were not really professional archaeologists. 

Sunday 13 May 2012

A wish and a prayer

Verra' giorno in cui non ci saranna piu' frontiere
e il passaporto sara' il cuore
Misericordia e verita' s'incontreranno
giustizia e pace si baceranno.

There will come a day when there will be no more frontiers
and our hearts will be our passports.
Mercy and truth will meet
Justice and peace will embrace.

Saturday 12 May 2012


Yesterday, at the FMA Cremisan, Sr Generale showed me finocchio seeds. It was a revelation: badishep! The Wiki reveals it as fennel. The foeniculum vulgare is our badishep or saunf, according to the Wiki. The finocchio is Florence fennel, distinguished by its swollen, bulb-like stem base which is what we see so often in Italian and also Arab cooking. Never cared much for it, really. But badishep is fine.

The seeds look very much like anise or aniseed, which I thought was our jeera, but our jeera is known as cumin in English. 

Tuesday 8 May 2012

The Decapolis

"And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan." (Mt 4:25)

How familiar this all seems now. The Decapolis: Pella and Gerasa (Jerash); Philadelphia (Amman)... And Jerusalem and Judea. And Transjordania.

The cross feasts of Goa

Yesterday the Church of Jerusalem celebrated the Feast of the Finding of the Cross by St Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine. It appears that this is an important feast all over the Middle East. They also celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross with the rest of the Church on 14 September, but that seems to be celebrating the defeat of the Persians and the re-finding of the Cross.

Interestingly, in his Goodnight talk, Ric Fernando told us that this is also more or less the time when Filipinos celebrate Santa Cruzan, a tradition coming from the Spanish colonizers.

Which made me reflect: what then of the Portuguese? Did they not have any special celebration of this type? Did they not leave some such celebration in Goa, for example? And then it struck me: our 'cross feasts', precisely in early May! This must be something parallel to the Santa Cruzan of the Spaniards. And I remembered our zealous young parish priests trying to stamp out this popular festivity, because it did not seem quite liturgical, coming as it usually does in Eastertide.

We could learn from the Church of Jerusalem, which happily celebrates all these very interesting feasts. St King David and the holy ancestors of Jesus, and St Abraham, and so on. 

Monday 7 May 2012

Scotch Broom, Ginestra

Common Broom, Scotch Broom, Ginestra (Italian). Cytisus scoparius. This is at the FMA house, Cremisan. 

Friday 4 May 2012

Golden henbane

Very lively specimen of golden henbane. Roman ruins, Jerash, Jordan.


Pink and white hollyhock growing wild, Roman ruins, Jerash, Jordan.

Ainsworthia trachycarpa (cow parsnip)

Ainsworthia trachycarpa, Tordylium trachycarpum (Cow parsnip). Roman ruins, Jerash, Jordan.

Plantago lanceolata (ribwort)

Plantago lanceolata, English plantain, Ribwort. Jerash, Jordan.

Ballota undulata (horehound)

Ballota undulata, Common Ballota, Horehound. Jerash, Jordan.


Coming down Machaerus / Makawer, to see the remains of the aqueduct. 
in jerash

The Moghuls in Jerash

This is part of the restaurant where we had our meal in Jerash. I was intrigued: a Moghul piece from India. The writing in Arabic / Urdu seems to confirm it. The Emperors on the right side panels, and probably their wives on the left side panels. 



We had a truly wonderful course on the Eucharist in our years of theology. The course was given by a visiting professor, a monk from the nearby Sylvestrian Benedictines, whose name was Luke Chengalikavil. Luke used to teach in St Anselmo in Rome. The sad part is that I cannot find my notes from the course.

I remember him mentioning Marsili as one of the authors he was relying on. In the Ratisbonne Library we have Eucaristia: teologia e storia della celebrazione, ed. S. Marsili, A. Nocent, M. Auge and A.J. Chupungco.  The ToC, which is as follows, reveals Marsili as the first and probably principal author:

Parte I. Teologia della celebrazione dell'eucaristia. Ed. S. Marsili
Ch. 1. La 'cena del Signore' e' una eucaristia
Ch. 2. L'eucaristia nella fede della Chiesa primitiva
Ch. 3. La celebrazione dell'eucaristia nella teologia dei Padri
Ch. 4. L'eucaristia nel magistero del Concilio di Trento
Excursus I: La prassi celebrativa nell'epoca pretridentina
Excursus II: La teologia della celebrazione dell'eucaristia nell'epoca pretridentina
Ch. 5. L'insegnamento del Concilio di Trento sul sacrificio della messa visto in prospettiva teologica
Ch. 6. L'eucaristia celebrazione del sacrificio pasquale del NT
A. Pasqua ebraica
B. Cristo Pasqua del Nuovo Testamento
C.Due momenti pasquali per un unico e unitario sacramento pasquale
Ch. 7. L'eucaristica memoriale della morte di Cristo
Excursus III: Il memoriale del sacrificio di Cristo nella tradizione patristica

Parte II. Storia della celebrazione dell'eucaristia. Ed. A. Nocent
I. La liturgia dela parola
Ch. 1. La Parola di Dio, un'esperienza che passa dall'Antico al Nuovo Testamento
Ch. 2. La liturgia della parola nella celebrazione eucaristica
II. La liturgia dell'eucaristica
Ch. 1. La celebrazione dell'eucaristia secondo il 'Canone Romano'
Ch. 2. Le nuove preghiere eucaristiche
Ch. 3. La comunione nel Rito Romano

I. Aspetti particolari della celebrazione eucaristica. Ed. M. Auge
II. L'adattamento liturgico nell'Ordo Missae: Principi e possibilita'. Ed. A.J. Chupungco

Aizoon hispanicum (Aizoanthemum hispanicum)

Aizoon hispanicum, Aizoanthemum hispanicum, Aizoon, Spanish aizoon. Petra, Jordan.

Capparis aegyptia, Egyptian caper

Capparis aegyptia (Egyptian caper), unfortunately drooping with the heat. At Gan HaShosha National Park, Sakhne, Israel.

Better photos with a cellcam - the first two from near Ratisbonne, on King George, and the other three from the Walls of Jerusalem near Jaffa Gate.

Gianni Caputa told me a few days ago that the unopened caper buds are used as a seasoning or condiment, especially with tuna and mayonnaise. So I picked a handful of them this morning as I was walking back from the FMAs at Morasha, and handed them over to Yvonne. Let's see what she makes of them. They have to be sun dried and then pickled in brine, vinegar, wine or salt, to bring out their flavour. "Their use dates back to more than 1200 B.C.E. where they are mentioned as a food in the Sumerian cuneiformGilgamesh, an ancient retelling of a great flood and ark legend."  (see http://homecooking.about.com/od/cookingfaqs/f/faqcapers.htm)

Convolvulus dorycnium, Splendid Bindweed

Convolvulus dorycnium or Splendid Bindweed, at Gan HaShlosha National Park, Sakhne, Israel. 

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Rupnik, “E se l’evangelizzazione chiedesse una novità nella vita consacrata?” English summary