A Meditation on Memory

Brother Francis, in his profound little volume, The Challenge of Faith, offers the following meditations on the subject of “Memory.” These thoughts of a truly contemplative mind are worthy of being savored.

LII—Memory

  1. Memory is the greater part of personality, the index of love, the depository of wisdom, the determinant of virtuous action, the effective and abiding part of education.
  2. All the original and creative works of mind and imagination, presuppose the cooperation of memory, and are enriched by its available treasures.
  3. For a sound educational policy, the discriminate employ of the memory is of paramount importance. There ought to be an objective, common, ordered body of knowledge to be universally conveyed; but it ought to be kept to the essential minimum, to be completed by personal choice. Excessive and burdensome use of the memory may eventually crush personality, discourage the weak, eliminate the functions of all the other faculties, and make learning loathsome.
  4. It is of the essence of memory to be selective: it would be monstrous to remember everything.
  5. It is the great mystery why we remember some very small matters.
  6. Memory is the heart’s treasure house.
  7. There is a law of the divine economy (amply confirmed in my personal experience): We do not quickly forget matters bearing on our own salvation.
  8. The abundance of a man’s heart—that is memory.

Brother Francis Maluf was born in Lebanon in 1913 and held a PhD in philosophy. Along with Father Leonard Feeney, he was a founding, in 1949, of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a religious Order. Brother Francis went to his heavenly reward in 2009. This article appears courtesy of Catholicism.org.


Featured: “Cosmos, Body and Soul,” from the Liber divinorum operum, I.4, by St. Hildegard of Bingen, ca. 1163—1173.

A Bird in the Snow

This story by Armando Palacio Valdés (1853—1938) was published in 1925.


He was born blind, and had been taught the one thing which the blind generally learn,—music; for this art he was specially gifted. His mother died when he was little more than a child, and his father, who was the first cornetist of a military band, followed her to the grave a few years later. He had a brother in America from whom he had never heard; still, through indirect sources he knew him to be well off, married, and the father of two fine children. To the day of his death the old musician, indignant at his son’s ingratitude, would not allow his name to be mentioned in his presence; but the blind boy’s affection for his brother remained unchanged. He could not forget that this elder brother had been the support of his childhood, the defence of his weakness against the other boys, and that he had always spoken to him with kindness. The recollection of Santiago’s voice as he entered his room in the morning, shouting, “Hey there, Juanito! get up, man; don’t sleep so!” rang in the blind boy’s ears with a more pleasing harmony than could ever be drawn from the keys of a piano or the strings of a violin. Was it probable that such a kind heart had grown cold? Juan could not believe it, and was always striving to justify him. At times the fault was with the mail, or it might be that his brother did not wish to write until he could send them a good deal of money; then again, he fancied that he meant to surprise them by presenting himself some fine day, laden with gold, in the modest entresol in which they lived. But he never dared communicate any of these fancies to his father; only when the old man, wrought to an unusual pitch of exasperation, bitterly apostrophized the absent one, he found the courage to say: “You must not despair, father. Santiago is good, and my heart tells me that we shall hear from him one of these days.”

The father died, however, without hearing from his son, between a priest, who exhorted him, and the blind boy, who clung convulsively to his hand, as if he meant to detain him in this world by main force. When the old man’s body was removed from the house, the boy seemed to have lost his reason, and in a frenzy of grief he struggled with the undertaker’s men. Then he was left alone. And what loneliness was his! No father, no mother, no relatives, no friends; he was even deprived of the sunlight, which is the friend of all created things. He was two whole days in his room pacing the floor like a caged wolf, without tasting food. The chamber-maid, assisted by a compassionate neighbor, succeeded in saving him from this slow process of suicide. He was prevailed upon to eat. He spent the rest of his life praying, and working at his music.

His father, shortly before his death, had obtained for him a position as organist in one of the churches of Madrid, with a salary of seventy cents a day. This was scarcely sufficient to meet the running expenses of a house, however modest; so within a fortnight Juan sold all that had constituted the furniture of his humble home, dismissed his servant, and took a room at a boarding-house, for which he paid forty cents a day; the remaining thirty cents covered all his other expenses. He lived thus for several months without leaving his room except to fulfil his obligations. His only walks were from the house to the church, and from the church back again. His grief weighed upon him so heavily that he never opened his lips. He spent the long hours of the day composing a grand requiem Mass for the repose of his father’s soul, depending upon the charity of the parish for its execution; and although it would be incorrect to say that he strained his five senses,—on account of his having but four,—it can at least be said that he threw all the energies of his body and soul into his work.

The ministerial crisis overtook him before his task was half finished. I do not remember who came into power, whether the Radicals, Conservatives, or Constitutionals; at any rate, there was some great change. The news reached Juan late, and to his sorrow. The new cabinet soon judged him, in his capacity as an organist, to be a dangerous citizen, and felt that from the heights of the choir, at vespers or in the solemnity of the Mass, with the swell and the roar from all the stops of the organ, he was evincing sentiments of opposition which were truly scandalous. The new ministers were ill disposed, as they declared in Congress through the lips of one of their authorized members, “to tolerate any form of imposition,” so they proceeded with praiseworthy energy to place Juan on the retired list, and to find him a substitute whose musical manœuvres might offer a better guarantee,—a man, in a word, who would prove more loyal to the institutions. On being officially informed of this, the blind one experienced no emotion beyond surprise. In the deep recesses of his heart he was pleased, as he was thus left more time in which to work at his Mass. The situation appeared to him in its real light only when his landlady, at the end of the month, came to him for money. He had none to give her, naturally, as his salary had been withdrawn; and he was compelled to pawn his father’s watch, after which he resumed his work with perfect serenity and without a thought of the future. But the landlady came again for money at the end of another month, and he once more pawned a jewel of the scant paternal legacy; this was a small diamond ring. In a few months there was nothing left to pawn. So the landlady, in consideration of his helplessness, kept him two or three days beyond the time and then turned him out, with the self-congratulatory feeling of having acted generously in not claiming his trunk and clothes, from which she might have realized the few cents that he still owed her.

He looked for another lodging, but was unable to rent a piano, which was a sore trial to him; evidently he could not finish his Mass. He knew a shopkeeper who owned a piano and who permitted him to make use of it. But Juan soon noticed that his visits grew more and more inopportune, so he left off going. Shortly, too, he was turned out of his new lodgings, only this time they kept his trunk. Then came a period of misery and anguish,—of that misery of which it is hard to conceive. We know that life has few joys for the homeless and the poor, but if in addition they be blind and alone, surely they have found the limit of human suffering. Juan was tossed about from lodging to lodging, lying in bed while his only shirt was being washed, wandering through the streets of Madrid with torn shoes, his trousers worn to a fringe about his feet, his hair long, and his beard unshaven. Some compassionate fellow-lodger obtained a position for him in a café, from which, however, he was soon turned out, for its frequenters did not relish his music. He never played popular dances or peteneras, no fandangos, not even an occasional polka. His fingers glided over the keys in dreamy ecstasies of Beethoven and Chopin, and the audience found some difficulty in keeping time with their spoons. So out he went again through the byways of the capital. Every now and then some charitable soul, accidentally brought in contact with his misery, assisted him indirectly, for Juan shuddered at the thought of begging. He took his meals in some tavern or other in the lowest quarter of Madrid, ate just enough to keep from starving, and for two cents he was allowed to sleep in a hovel between beggars and evil-doers. Once they stole his trousers while he was asleep, and left him a pair of cotton ones in their stead. This was in November.

Poor Juan, who had always cherished the thought of his brother’s return, now in the depths of his misery nursed his chimera with redoubled faith. He had a letter written and sent to Havana. As he had no idea how his brother could be reached, the letter bore no direction. He made all manner of inquiries, but to no effect, and he spent long hours on his knees, hoping that Heaven might send Santiago to his rescue. His only happy moments were those spent in prayer, as he knelt behind a pillar in the far-off corner of some solitary church, breathing the acrid odors of dampness and melting wax, listening to the flickering sputter of the tapers and the faint murmur rising from the lips of the faithful in the nave of the temple. His innocent soul then soared above the cruelties of life and communed with God and the Holy Mother. From his early childhood devotion to the Virgin had been deeply rooted in his heart. As he had never known his mother, he instinctively turned to the mother of God for that tender and loving protection which only a woman can give a child. He had composed a number of hymns and canticles in her honor, and he never fell asleep without pressing his lips to the image of the Carmen, which he wore on his neck.

There came a day, however, when heaven and earth forsook him. Driven from his last shelter, without a crust to save him from starvation, or a cloak to protect him from the cold, he realized with terror that the time had come when he would have to beg. A great struggle took place in his soul. Shame and suffering made a desperate stand against necessity. The profound darkness which surrounded him increased the anguish of the strife; but hunger conquered in the end. He prayed for strength with sobs, and resigned himself to his fate. Still, wishing to disguise his humiliation, he determined to sing in the streets, at night only. His voice was good, and he had a rare knowledge of the art of singing. It occurred to him that he had no means of accompaniment. But he soon found another unfortunate, perhaps a trifle less wretched than himself, who lent him an old and broken guitar. He mended it as best he could, and with a voice hoarse with tears he went out into the street on a frosty December night. His heart beat violently; his knees trembled under him. When he tried to sing in one of the central thoroughfares, he found he could not utter a sound. Suffering and shame seemed to have tied a knot in his throat. He groped about until he had found a wall to lean against. There he stood for awhile, and when he felt a little calmer he began the tenor’s aria from the first act of “Favorita.” A blind singer who sang neither couplets nor popular songs soon excited some curiosity among the passers-by, and in a few minutes a crowd had gathered around him. There was a murmur of surprise and admiration at the art with which he overcame the difficulties of the composition, and many a copper was dropped in the hat that dangled from his arm. After this he sang the aria of the fourth act of “Africana.” But too many had stopped to listen, and the authorities began to fear that this might be a cause of disturbance; for it is a well-established fact with officials of the police force that people who congregate in the streets to hear a blind man sing are always prompted by motives of rebellion,—it means a peculiar hostility to the institutions; in a word, an attitude thoroughly incompatible with the peace of society and the security of the State. Accordingly, a policeman caught Juan energetically by the arm and said, “Here, here! go straight home now, and don’t let me catch you stopping at any more street corners.”

“I’m doing no harm!”

“You are blocking the thoroughfare. Come, move on, move on, if you don’t want to go to the lock-up.”

It is really encouraging to see how careful our authorities are in clearing the streets of blind singers; and I really believe, in spite of all that has been said to the contrary, that if they could keep them equally free from thieves and murderers, they would do so with pleasure. Juan went back to his hovel with a heavy heart, for he was by nature shrinking and timid, and was grieved at having disturbed the peace and given rise to the interference of the executive power. He had made twenty-seven cents. With this he bought something to eat on the following day, and paid rent for the little pile of straw on which he slept. The next night he went out again and sang a few more operatic arias; but the people again crowded around him, and once more a policeman felt himself called upon to interfere, shouting at him to move on. But how could he? If he kept moving on, he would not make a cent. He could not expect the people to follow him. Juan moved on, however, on and on, because he was timid, and the mere thought of infringing the laws, of disturbing even momentarily the peace of his native land, was worse than death to him. So his earnings rapidly decreased. The necessity of moving on, on the one hand, and the fact that his performances had lost the charm of novelty, which in Spain always commands its price, daily deprived him of a few coppers. With what he brought home at night he could scarcely buy enough food to keep him alive. The situation was desperate. The poor boy saw but one luminous point in the clouded horizon of his life, and that was his brother’s return to Madrid. Every night as he left his hovel with his guitar swinging from his shoulder he thought, “If Santiago should be in Madrid and hear me sing, he would know me by my voice.” And this hope, or rather this chimera, alone gave him the strength to endure life. However, there came again a day in which his anguish knew no limit. On the preceding night he had earned only six coppers. It had been so cold! This was Christmas Eve. When the morning dawned upon the world, it found Madrid wrapped in a sheet of snow six inches thick. It snowed steadily all day long, which was a matter of little consequence to the majority of people, and was even a cause of much rejoicing among æsthetes generally. Those poets in particular who enjoy what is called easy circumstances spent the greater part of the day watching the flakes through the plate-glass of their study windows, meditating upon and elaborating those graceful and ingenious similes that cause the audiences at the theatre to shout, “Bravo, bravo!” or those who read their verses to exclaim, “What a genius that young fellow is!”

Juan’s breakfast had been a crust of stale bread and a cup of watery coffee. He could not divert his hunger by contemplating the beauty of the snow,—in the first place, because he was blind, and in the second, because, even had he not been blind, he would have had some difficulty in seeing it through the patched and filthy panes of his hovel. He spent the day huddled in a corner on his straw mattress, evoking scenes of his childhood and caressing the sweet dream of his brother’s return. At nightfall he grew very faint, but necessity drove him into the streets to beg. His guitar was gone. He had sold it for sixty cents on a day of similar hardship. The snow fell with the same persistence. His legs trembled as they had when he sang for the first time, but now it was from hunger rather than shame. He groped about as best he could, with great lumps of mud above his ankles. The silence told him that there was scarcely a soul on the street. The carriages rolled noiselessly along, and he once came near being run over. In one of the central thoroughfares he began to sing the first thing that came to his lips. His voice was weak and hoarse. Nobody stopped to listen. “Let us try another street,” thought he; and he went down the Avenue of San Jerónimo, walking awkwardly in the snow, with a white coating on his shoulders and water squirting from his shoes. The cold had begun to penetrate into his very bones, and hunger gave him a violent pain. For a moment with the cold and the pain came a feeling of faintness which made him think that he was about to die, and lifting his spirit to the Virgin of the Carmen, his protectress, he exclaimed in his anguish, “Mother, have pity!” And after pronouncing these words he felt relieved and walked, or rather dragged himself, to the Plaza de las Cortes. There he grasped a lamp-post, and under the impression of the Virgin’s protection sang Gounod’s “Ave Maria.” Still nobody stopped to hear him. The people of Madrid were at the theatres, at the cafés, or at home, dancing their little ones on their knees in the glow of the hearth,—in the warmth of their love. The snow continued to fall steadily, copiously, with the evident purpose of furnishing a topic for the local column of the morning paper, where it would be described in a thousand delicate phrases. The occasional passers-by hurried along muffled up to their ears under their umbrellas. The lamp-posts had put on their white night-caps, from under which escaped thin rays of dismal light. The silence was broken only by the vague and distant rumble of carriages and by the light fall of the snowflakes, that sounded like the faint and continuous rustle of silk. The voice of Juan alone vibrated in the stillness of the night, imploring the mother of the unprotected; and his chant seemed a cry of anguish rather than a hymn of praise, a moan of sadness and resignation falling dreary and chill, like snow upon the heart.

And his cry for pity was in vain. In vain he repeated the sweet name of Mary, adjusting it to the modulations of every melody. Heaven and the Virgin were far away, it seemed, and could not hear him. The neighbors of the plaza were near at hand, but they did not choose to hear. Nobody came down to take him in from the cold; no window was thrown open to drop him a copper. The passers-by, pursued, as it were, by the fleet steps of pneumonia, scarcely dared stop. Juan’s voice at last died in his throat; he could sing no more. His legs trembled under him; his hands lost their sense of touch. He took a few steps, then sank on the sidewalk at the foot of the grating that surrounds the square. He sat with his elbows on his knees and buried his head in his hands. He felt vaguely that it was the last moment of his life, and he again prayed, imploring the divine pity.

At the end of a few minutes he was conscious of being shaken by the arm, and knew that a man was standing before him. He raised his head, and taking for granted it was the old story about moving on, inquired timidly,—

“Are you an officer?”

“No; I am no officer. What is the matter with you? Get up.”

“I don’t believe I can, sir.”

“Are you very cold?”

“Yes, sir; but it isn’t exactly that,—I haven’t had anything to eat to-day.”

“I will help you, then. Come; up with you.”

The man took Juan by both arms and stood him on his feet. He seemed very strong.

“Now lean on me, and let us see if we can find a cab.”

“But where are you going to take me?”

“Nowhere where you wouldn’t want to go. Are you afraid?”

“No; I feel in my heart that you will help me.”

“Come along, then. Let’s see how soon I can get you something hot to drink.”

“God will reward you for this, sir; the Virgin will reward you. I thought I was going to die there, against that grating.”

“Don’t talk about dying, man. The question now is to find a cab; if we can only move along fast enough—What is the matter? Are you stumbling?”

“Yes, sir. I think I struck a lamp-post. You see—as I am blind—”

“Are you blind?” asked the stranger, anxiously.

“Yes, sir.”

“Since when?”

“I was born blind.”

Juan felt his companion’s arm tremble in his, and they walked along in silence. Suddenly the man stopped and asked in a voice husky with emotion,—

“What is your name?”

“Juan.”

“Juan what?”

“Juan Martínez.”

“And your father was Manuel Martínez, wasn’t he,—musician of the third artillery band?”

“Yes, sir.”

The blind one felt the tight clasp of two powerful arms that almost smothered him, and heard a trembling voice exclaim,—

“My God, how horrible, and how happy! I am a criminal, Juan! I am your brother Santiago!”

And the two brothers stood sobbing together in the middle of the street. The snow fell on them lightly. Suddenly Santiago tore himself from his brother’s embrace, and began to shout, intermingling his words with interjections,—

“A cab! A cab! Isn’t there a cab anywhere around? Curse my luck! Come, Juanillo, try; make an effort, my boy; we are not so very far. But where in the name of sense are all the cabs? Not one has passed us. Ah, I see one coming, thank God! No; the brute is going in the other direction. Here is another. This one is mine. Hello there, driver! Five dollars if you take us flying to Number 13 Castellana.”

And taking his brother in his arms as though he had been a mere child, he put him in the cab and jumped in after him. The driver whipped his horse, and off they went, gliding swiftly and noiselessly over the snow. In the mean time Santiago, with his arms still around Juan, told him something of his life. He had been in Costa Rica, not Cuba, and had accumulated a respectable fortune. He had spent many years in the country, beyond mail service and far from any point of communication with Europe. He had written several letters to his father, and had managed to get these on some steamer trading with England, but had never received any answer. In the hope of returning shortly to Spain, he had made no inquiries. He had been in Madrid for four months. He learned from the parish record that his father was dead; but all he could discover concerning Juan was vague and contradictory. Some believed that he had died, while others said that, reduced to the last stages of misery, he went through the streets singing and playing on the guitar. All his efforts to find him had been fruitless; but fortunately Providence had thrown him into his arms. Santiago laughed and cried alternately, showing himself to be the same frank, open-hearted, jovial soul that Juan had loved so in his childhood. The cab finally came to a stop. A man-servant opened the door, and Juan was fairly lifted into the house. When the door closed behind him, he breathed a warm atmosphere full of that peculiar aroma of comfort which wealth seems to exhale. His feet sank in the soft carpet. Two servants relieved him of his dripping clothes and brought him clean linen and a warm dressing-gown. In the same room, before a crackling wood fire, he was served a comforting bowl of hot broth, followed by something more substantial, which he was made to take very slowly and with all the precautions which his critical condition required. Then a bottle of old wine was brought up from the cellar. Santiago was too restless to sit still. He came and went, giving orders, interrupting himself every minute to say,—

“How do you feel now, Juan? Are you warm enough? Perhaps you don’t care for this wine.”

When the meal was over, the two brothers sat silently side by side before the fire. Santiago then inquired of one of the servants if the Señora and the children had already retired. On learning that they had, he said to Juan, beaming with delight,—

“Can you play on the piano?”

“Yes.”

“Come into the parlor, then. Let us give them a surprise.”

He accordingly led him into an adjoining room and seated him at the piano. He raised the top so as to obtain the greatest possible vibration, threw open the doors, and went through all the manœuvres peculiar to a surprise,—tiptoeing, whispering, speaking in a falsetto, and so much absurd pantomime that Juan could not help laughing as he realized how little his brother had changed.

“Now, Juanillo, play something startling, and play it loud, with all your might.”

The blind boy struck up a military march. A quiver ran through the silent house like that which stirs a music-box while it is being wound up. The notes poured from the piano, hurrying, jostling one another, but never losing their triumphant rhythm. Every now and then Santiago exclaimed,—

“Louder, Juanillo! Louder!”

And the blind boy struck the notes with all his spirit and might.

“I see my wife peeping in from behind the curtains. Go on, Juanillo. She is in her night-gown,—he, he! I am pretending not to see her. I have no doubt she thinks I am crazy,—he, he! Go on, Juanillo.”

Juan obeyed, although he thought the jest had been carried far enough. He wanted to know his sister-in-law and kiss his nephews.

“Now I can just see Manolita. Hello! Paquito is up too. Didn’t I tell you we should surprise them? But I am afraid they will take cold. Stop a minute, Juanito!”

And the infernal clamor was silenced.

“Come, Adela, Manolita, and Paquito, get on your things and come in to see your uncle Juan. This is Juanillo, of whom you have heard me speak so often. I have just found him in the street almost frozen to death. Come, hurry and dress, all of you.”

The whole family was soon ready, and rushed in to embrace the blind boy. The wife’s voice was soft and harmonious. To Juan it sounded like the voice of the Virgin. He discovered, too, that she was weeping silently at the thought of all his sufferings. She ordered a foot-warmer to be brought in. She wrapped his legs in a cloak and put a soft cushion behind his head. The children stood around his chair, caressing him, and all listened with tears to the accounts of his past misery. Santiago struck his forehead; the children stroked his hands, saying,—

“You will never be hungry again, will you, uncle? Or go out without a cloak and an umbrella? I don’t want you to, neither does Manolita, nor mamma, nor papa.”

“I wager you will not give him your bed, Paquito,” said Santiago, trying to conceal his tears under his affected merriment.

“My bed won’t fit him, papa! But he can have the bed in the guests’ chamber. It is a great bed, uncle, a big, big bed!”

“I don’t believe I care to go to bed,” said Juan. “Not just now at any rate, I am so comfortable here.”

“That pain has gone, hasn’t it, uncle?” whispered Manolita, kissing and stroking his hand.

“Yes, dear, yes,—God bless you! Nothing pains me now. I am happy, very happy! Only I feel sleepy, so sleepy that I can hardly raise my eyelids.”

“Never mind us; sleep if you feel like it,” said Santiago.

“Yes, uncle, sleep,” repeated the children.

And Juan fell asleep,—but he wakened in another world.

The next morning, at dawn, two policemen stumbled against a corpse in the snow. The doctor of the charity hospital pronounced it a case of congealing of the blood.

As one of the officers turned him over, face upward,—

“Look, Jiménez,” said he; “he seems to be laughing.”


Featured: “A Recess on a London Bridge,” by Augustus Edwin Mulready; painted 1879.

Flavigny the Sweet

Flavigny can pass for one of the most beautiful villages of Burgundy. Its houses of ashlar, noble, old places gnawed by lichen and moss, with the windows fashioned in the old way, surround the church at the center of the village, mounted like a crown upon a tooth. The narrow nave of the church of Saint-Genest shows vaulting of a delicate gothic style; a lace tribune connects the two lateral parts of the building. A whole battery of statues attracts the eye: the wooden monks of the stalls, the Angel of the Annunciation and the Virgin breastfeeding, with a little Jesus suckling greedily in her arms.

Downstairs, at the village gate, the seminary of the Society of St. Pius X sends out a number of young abbots who pass through the narrow streets in black cassocks, without buttons or buckles on their belts. The park where these good seminarians stroll opens onto the Alesia valley. A huge Crucifix at the end of the park dominates the view like a victory on a ship that triumphs over the horizon—the sentinel before the barbarians. We then learn that Louis de Funès participated in the renovation of part of the church and that one of the first bishops of Mosul rests in the cemetery among the sisters. At the entrance of the village, not far from the large gate of Saint Joseph, the old abbey of Saint Peter houses the confectionery, remarkable for its aniseed with exquisite perfumes: mandarin, violet, rose. The loving shepherd and the greedy shepherdess, he dowdy, she the pretty pearl, illustrate these very good sweets and never fail to charm.

There are abbeys which look like citadels in the scrubland; others are havens and border a river; the abbey of Flavigny is a castle in the countryside. These Benedictines lived happily first in Clairval, Switzerland, in the early 1970s, stemming from the Olivetan order. Then, following Dom Joly, they made their way through the peasant lands of Burgundy. No, they have not been there for a thousand years. Recently arrived, on the scale of Christianity, as if no accident of history had jostled them, they seem peaceful in their home. The abbey is housed in a former 18th century pleasure castle.

In the main street, in front of a Swiss household, owners of a black tractor, the facade of the abbey. Straight, severe, sober. A statue of Saint Joseph, another of the Holy Queen. The church is a kind of upturned ship’s hold, carved in one piece. On the polished and shiny marble floor is engraved the cross of Saint Benedict. At Compline, one can only see the cuckoo clock, as you let yourself be carried off by the wave of the Psalms in the darkness, borne by the determined voices of the monks. Then the statue of the Virgin lights up for the Salve Regina. Mary dazzled replaces the moon’s luminescence.

After crossing the courtyard of the Ursulines, where a crucifix is planted, bearing the words: “Stat crux dum volvitur orbis,” the sun turning around the cross like a dial, the main building, in the heart of the abbey, shows a classical and neat façade. The stone is round and polished, the forms majestic and masterful. From the main staircase, where a magnificent Piéta is enthroned, you arrive at the refectory of the 1950s, tiled as in a hospital. Through a door, you pass from a wooded and classical sacristy to the chapter house, a former ballroom with deep mirrors and precious moldings. From the outside, the courtyard of honor has cachet, the façade has allure; a kind of grace that a classical play of the walls and high windows, as was savored during the Regency period, gives this abbey, set on this Burgundian acropolis, the appearance of a hermitage and a hunting lodge; a place of retreat from the world without austerity or pain.

A statue of the merciful Christ rises above the building. The effigy, dipped in gold, shines. In front of this main courtyard is a terrace; from the terrace, an exquisite walk leads down to the gardens. From the fruit trees, the Mirabelle plums, one passes through an alley of narrow trees to a vegetable garden, where a brood of hens lives among fields of leeks and potatoes. Further down is a bush artfully trimmed according to the laws of topiary at the level of a remarkable belvedere. And further down still, sloping paths descend into the forests. You should see the monks dressed in white, on their monastic 31, processioning on August 15 with Mary crowned. The walls are then covered with a blue sheet printed with fleur-de-lis. Long live Mary, Protector of France, Mother of priests, Guardian of our homes!

October mornings are filled with joy: a sheet of light wool spins over the valley. Out of nowhere a polished amber stone rises, rolls into the sky and spreads its golden rays from west to east. The whole village ends up embellished in yellow gold. The trees rain their leaves in the park. The leaves die with their colors more varied, more sonorous than those of life. The splendor of autumn here results from a degradation of organs from which life has withdrawn. The singing services, the bellowing of the cows below, resounds in the cells and accompanies the awake monk in falsetto.

It was not only the delicate and powdered nobility that sought to flee the city and enjoy the relaxation of the countryside, nor even the great families of the cities to escape boredom, Schifanoia, or the monarchs of Prussia to covet without care. The Benedictines too are happy here; hermits of the pastures, dead to the world and alive in the woods. They themselves in this countryside seem carefree. They are quiet, quiescent, neither hurrying nor running. We see them getting busy and then disappearing, suddenly, going underground, we don’t know; or sitting in a tractor, unloading a lot of manure and a mound of vegetables. Sometimes they wander in nature. On Thursday, day of relaxation, they go around the lakes of the region and rest. Festina lente. Saint Joseph de Clairval is about joy.

Life turns with the flavor of the seasons, without hardness nor fatigue. Matins, rings the hour, when Paris wakes up. The monks in cool, white robes, shine for God, who rejoices their sparkling youth. And the wise bent monk carries his thirty years in white. The church, immersed in a skillful ballet of light and shadow, draws frozen figures of monks for Lauds, one in white on his knees, the other in black prostrate among the massive stalls. They take time for the short offices, and shorten the long ones; they never dine or lunch without abundance, with little wine, little fantasy, and a proportion to contemplative reverie.

The Abbot says a Pater noster in the measure of a military chant, at a walk. You might have known Father Thomas leaning on his cane, explaining masterpieces of Christianity, lucid and gifted with an unimaginable energy under the plenitude and the quietude that his blue eyes illustrate. And Father Alphonse, charismatic like those actors of the 70’s who have disappeared, serious and gentle, deep and slow like the rare old car engines; or Father Vianney, the pivotal tower of this chess game, prior, director of the printing house, father-hotelier, Catholic sphinx, with a face as thin as a mask, mobile gait of changeless time, measured transport of humility. These monks and others have practiced the retreats of St. Ignatius in Flavigny and everywhere in the kingdom of France.

These methodical exercises for the soul, comparable to a gymnastics of the body, are for the spirit the means of washing the soul with bleach. Alternating teachings and meditations, over five days, you passes from the underworld to the glory of the Lord, under the standard of Christ and against the standard of the devil. These exercises, which have made the merit of the saints, known and recognized in history, effervescent in consciences like a pill against stomach aches of passions and troubles, have the hardness about them, the memory of a Catholicism of combat. Everywhere one celebrates, and hell exists. While we had perhaps forgotten it, here are the meditations reminding us of it. We are not laughing. We are faced with our creaturely misery, as if we were fat, grey, bloated, in the mirror, in front of the portrait of our condition. It is with a fear mingled with love for the good God that you make your way to the end of the retreat, falling moved, after the general confession, reassured by the preacher monk as to his own discouragement. And after five days of silence, the world comes back to us, and we come back to ourselves reassured, strengthened, galvanized in the perspective of our salvation and our duty.


Nicolas Kinosky is at the Centres des Analyses des Rhétoriques Religieuses de l’Antiquité and teaches Latin. This articles appears through the very kind courtesy La Nef.

In Memoriam: Darya Dugin

On August 20, 2022, Darya Dugin, scholar, journalist, pattriot and daughter of Alexander Dugin, was assassinated by a car-bomb. There was a worldwide outpouring of grief and consternation at the untimely death of one so gifted. Below, we dedicate some of these expressions.

Christ is Risen!

Darya Dugin: An Obituary

by Alexander Markowitz

On the evening of August 20, 2022, 29-year-old Darya Dugin was killed in a terrorist attack in Moscow. Who was she? First and foremost, a philosopher who defended her native Russia in word and deed and advocated for a better world. As an advocate of the Fourth Political Theory, she fought for a more just, multipolar world and an end to the domination of the globalist West.

For this, Darya worked tirelessly for the Eurasian Movement, founded by her father Alexander Dugin. Her numerous speeches and interviews, as well as the organization of all kinds of events, were aimed not only at freeing Russia and Eurasia from the globalist yoke, but also for the good of Europe, whose peoples and cultures she sought to free from the influence of modern decadent elites. This was a matter of her heart, for she was a connoisseur of French culture, spoke fluent French, and interviewed Alain de Benoit in Paris, among others.

Darya devoted her dissertation to Neoplatonism in the Roman Empire. As an academic, she researched the roots of the Indo-European tradition and spoke not only on geopolitics, but also on representatives of the Conservative Revolution, such as Julius Evola, Ernst Jünger and Martin Heidegger. As a journalist, she spoke out against Russian globalists on television and covered hot topics, such as Syria and Donbass. For example, she recently released a report from Mariupol, which had been liberated from Ukrainian fascists. Her stories from the NATO-inspired hell in Syria are also impressive, where on the one hand she spoke with great feeling about the grief of the locals, and on the other, she found the strength to speak with complete confidence about the coming victory over globalism.

Recently, I have met Darya on several occasions in person. Whether in Vienna, Moscow, Sochi or Kishenev, I was invariably greeted by a young and intelligent, and at the same time brave and full of humor, woman who was the epitome of an Indo-European and Turanian warrior. Today it is rare to meet such people. To the common man it might seem that she stood in her father’s shadow. To those who knew her, however, she was always an individual in her own right. Darya’s time on this earth may be over—God rest her soul—but in our memory she will live forever.

Her murderers want to scare all of us who stand for a free Europe and a free Russia in a multipolar world. But a bomb can only kill a person—but not an idea! Evil may try to defeat us, but it will never prevail! Darya’s murderers made her a martyr of the multipolar world, the Fourth Political Theory and the war against the forces of darkness. We will remain faithful to Darya’s ideas and continue the fight. May the memory of the heroine of Eurasia live on! Her sacrifice is a call to battle!

Eternal memory!

[Courtesy of Geopolitka].

The Murder of Innocents and the Geopolitics of Anti-Russian Terrorism

by Yuri Roschka

Our good friend and fellow ideological fighter Darya Dugina-Platonova was the victim of a terrorist attack in Russia that left her dead. Her car exploded shortly after the famous journalist and conservative activist drove off.

Apparently, the target of this terrorist attack was the famous Russian traditionalist thinker Alexander Dugin. Alexander Dugin miraculously survived. He was about to get into the same car, but at the last minute he got into a friend’s car.

I was friends with the Dugin family for many years; translated four books and a series of articles by this outstanding philosopher into Romanian and edited his books in Romania and Moldova. I was very attached to his daughter Darya, a brilliant student of her father, who had received a very solid philosophical education in France, and was a formidable journalist and an excellent organizer. Darya was a very unusual young woman. Unlike her colleagues of her generation, who lived carelessly and outside any ideals and great aspirations, Darya was a person completely devoted to her father’s cause, which she shared with devotion and loyalty.

Several years ago, together with Alexander Dugin and his tireless and charming daughter Darya, I organized the Kishinev Forum, an international conference that brought together leading intellectuals from the new European anti-Atlantic dissidence and from former communist countries. In 2019, with the direct participation of Alexander and Darya, we organized an international team of anti-system intellectuals from different countries that toured Syria, where we held a series of public meetings to express solidarity with the Syrian people in their struggle against Israeli-American aggression. In our delegation, Darya was the only woman who was exposed to all the risks with us as we traveled through war-torn Syria.

The assassination of Darya Dugin and the attempted assassination of her father, Alexander, are extremely significant. Russia’s enemies today aim to physically eliminate the centers of strategic thought in this country, the most important thinkers capable of conceptualizing the current historical scene and presenting an ideological alternative to neoliberal totalitarian globalism.

The assassination of Darya Dugin represents a radical turning point not only for Russia, but also for international politics. Her death may accelerate some processes that have been in a state of latency or stagnation.

Russia’s enemies have defiantly thrown down the gauntlet. And this comes at a very critical time, not only for this country, which is in the midst of a war with the collective West on Ukrainian territory, but also for the entire international community. Moscow cannot remain impassive in the face of such a serious act of terrorism. We still do not know how the Kremlin will react. However, there is no doubt that after the murder of Darya, the world will no longer be the same. We are entering a much more dangerous phase.

Alexander made the supreme sacrifice on the altar of his own ideals. Darya also learned her father’s lesson well, that the ideal must be served to the end, even at the cost of her own life. The people of this spiritual family voluntarily put on the garb of martyrs. They serve God and the people; and faithfulness to Christ and the Fatherland sometimes obliges us to accept death as the ultimate gesture of love and purpose in the struggle.

A Dieu, dear Darya!

[Courtesy of Geopolitika]

To the Great Sea: In Memoriam Darya Aleksandrovna Dugina

by Alexander Wolfheze

Since precisely six months ago today, since 24 February 2022, a sea of blood has been spilled and is still being spilled, across the fields of Little Russia and, as the violence escalates and spirals outwards, now also on the highways of Great Russia—and no one knows how far beyond the Russias it may reach yet. No one is spared, neither soldier nor civilian, neither adult nor child, neither man nor woman, neither guilty nor innocent. No words suffice to express the revulsion and outrage of millions as they are forced to stand by and witness this bloodshed, continuing beyond all reasons and all boundaries – as the Empire of Lies is feeding off the blood and pain of those whom it seeks to force into compliance, silence and oblivion—or “cancel” out of existence. No words should be wasted on those who now rule that Evil Empire, arrogantly seated on the ruins the ex-free West and now hell-bent on enslaving the whole world in webs of usury, deceit and terror – it rulers only understand deeds. Sufficient words of wisdom were spoken in the West before it fell into evil – these few will suffice to express the determination of all good men, and women, to resist that evil:

Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s years of unrequited toil shall be sunk and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago so still it must be said: “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether” (Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address, 4 March 1865).

The memory of all who have sacrificed—some, much, all—in the ongoing Last War of the World Island – their number increasing daily – requires more than mere words: it requires giving meaning to their suffering and death. Russian journalist, writer and philosopher Darya Aleksandrovna Dugina, daughter of the leading light of the Eurasian movement, did so with the fiery heart of a true patriot and the unclouded mind of a true believer. Her early death, on 20 August 2022, the work of terrorist mercenaries plotted by the overreaching evil that now rules the West, is mourned by all those who shared this Geopolitica space with her. Unwittingly, however, the cowardly assassins who brought her Earth-life to an end also gave her immortality. Her memory will outlast theirs. Her name, which means “Great” as well as “Sea” is now part of the Greatest Sea of all. Unwittingly, her assassins carved her name into the stone of history forever. By her sacrifice she has already entered the Home of Heroes:

Smart girl, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose
But round this early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland that is now this girl’s.

(theme by Alfred Edward Housman: : “To an Athlete Dying Young”)

Maiden-philosopher Darya Platonova now takes her place among those she admired most in her short Earth-life. Those she left behind should now confidently take up her cause where she fell, trusting the justice of the One to Whom she has now returned: her Creator, her heavenly Father. Because most surely, she will be avenged:

To Me belongeth vengeance and recompence
their foot shall slide in due time
for the day of their calamity is at hand
and the things that shall come upon them make haste

(Deuteronomy 32:35).

[Courtesy of Geopolitica].

Deconstructing Western Conspiracy Theories about Darya Dugina’s Assassination

by Andrew Korybko

The common thread tying these kooky explanations of last weekend’s terrorist attack together is that they all go to great lengths to deflect from Kiev’s complicity, yet that fascist regime’s mask just slipped after its Ambassador to Kazakhstan told local media about his government’s genocidal plans.

The FSB confirmed that Darya Dugina was assassinated by a Ukrainian special agent who infiltrated Russia under the cover of being a single-mother refugee from Donbass. She reportedly entered the country with falsified documents, spied on her for nearly a month after renting an apartment in the same building, and might even have used her teenage daughter to plant the bomb. The terrorist is considered to be a member of the banned Neo-Nazi Azov Battalion and is thought to have escaped to neighboring Estonia, which Russia asked to extradite her even though that’s unlikely to happen.

These are the facts as they objectively exist as revealed from the official investigation thus far, yet some in the West have taken to concocting several conspiracy theories about her assassination in order to mislead their targeted audience about Kiev’s complicity. In fact, these false narratives were preemptively introduced prior to the earlier mentioned findings being shared with the public for the purpose of sowing the seeds of confusion. Examples abound on social media and are mostly shared by NAFO trolls, but some influential forces have also jumped on the propaganda bandwagon.

US-funded Russia expert Kamil Galeev, who became infamous after sharing a treasonous and pro-terrorist thread on Twitter, speculated that the Kremlin, the European far-right, and/or interest groups in Russia might have been behind Darya’s assassination. US Helsinki Commission advisor Arthur Paul Massaro III, who was recently banned from Russia because of his hostile lobbying, threw a bone to his many NAFO followers by blaming the FSB. Amidst all of this, Newsweek amplified a Ukrainian-based marginal former Russian politician’s conspiracy theory about an imaginary “resistance group”.

The most influential fake news propagator, however, is indisputably the BBC. This British outlet gave a platform to Ekaterina Shulman, who’s a designated foreign agent that previously left Russia. They deceptively declined to inform their audience of her official designation in their article about her conspiracy theory very strongly implying that Darya’s own government killed her in order to ramp up support for an internal crackdown despite having previously reported about it on their site. Shulman also ridiculously hinted that many media figures were earlier tipped off about this supposed inside job.

The common thread tying these kooky explanations of last weekend’s terrorist attack together is that they all go to great lengths to deflect from Kiev’s complicity, yet that fascist regime’s mask just slipped after its Ambassador to Kazakhstan told local media about his government’s genocidal plans. In his own words, “We are trying to kill as many [Russians] as possible. The more Russians we kill now, the fewer our children will have to. That’s it.” Although not directly admitting it, the timing of his statement can easily be interpreted as innuendo that Kiev carried out Darya’s assassination despite officially denying it.

That crumbling former Soviet Republic’s foreign patrons are panicking because they correctly predict that the evidence that’s emerging from the FSB’s investigation will unquestionably confirm that it’s Kiev and not Russia that’s the real state sponsor of terrorism. In fact, Moscow appears to be preparing to share its findings more widely with the world as strongly suggested by the condolences that President Putin just sent to Darya’s father, the philosopher and political scientist Alexander Dugin, which preceded Russian Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya vowing to discuss her killing at the UNSC on Tuesday.

There’s no such thing as the so-called “perfect crime” so it was inevitable that the evidence that’s now emerging would confirm Kiev’s complicity in Darya’s assassination, which in turn completely discredits the US-led West’s proxies in that Eastern European country, thus further contributing to the erosion of the “official narrative” about the Ukrainian Conflict. Presciently foreseeing this scenario, Western influencers sought to preemptively shape popular perceptions through the propagation of false narratives ridiculously blaming everyone but their fascist allies for this terrorist attack.

It’s unlikely, however, that any of their target audience even believes the nonsense that those voices are spewing. Their conspiracy theories so kooky and aggressively propagated that they come off as insincere even among those observers who might not have any previous knowledge of the situation and/or those individuals’ blind bias in support of Kiev. At all costs to their already sordid reputations, they’re obsessed with obfuscating the facts surrounding this case in order to push the crackpot theory that Russia itself was behind Darya’s assassination and that it’s “deep state” is thus irredeemably divided.

The truth is altogether different, as is always the case, since “The Russian Deep State Is United Like Never Before” without any cracks within or between the members of its permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies. Nevertheless, the increasingly desperate panic that these Western influencers are experiencing as Russia continues sharing evidence implicating Kiev in Darya’s assassination – and thus shattering their target audience’s false perceptions about their governments’ proxies – provides the chance for them to make one last-ditch shot at pushing this larger conspiracy.

Having exposed the true motivations behind these folks’ perception management operations after deconstructing their conspiracy theories about Darya’s assassination, it’s much easier to understand what they’re up to. It wasn’t even that they were tipped off ahead of time about this terrorist attack, but simply that they immediately knew how to react upon it being reported with respect to preemptively propagating false narratives in order to obfuscate the facts from the investigation that would inevitably prove Kiev’s complicity, which is obvious to all objective observers at this point.

To that end, they’re heavily relying on the larger conspiracy theory that was earlier discredited by subsequent developments alleging that Russia’s “deep state” is irredeemably divided and that rogue forces within it might even be plotting to overthrow President Putin. The only reason why they’d incorporate that unconvincing speculation into their latest narrative is because they literally have no other recourse absent simply telling the truth by admitting Kiev’s complicity. All that they’re doing is further discrediting themselves and their side, though, which inadvertently advances Russia’s interests.

[Courtesy, Oneworld]

Fly like an Eagle, Darya Dugina

by Pepe Escobar

Darya Dugina will be flying like an eagle in an otherworldly sky.

Darya Dugina, 30, daughter of Alexander Dugin, a smart, strong, ebullient, enterprising young woman, whom I met in Moscow and had the honor to cherish as a friend, has been brutally murdered.

As a young journalist and analyst, one could see she would carve for herself a glowing path towards wide recognition and respect (here she is on feminism).

Not so long ago, the FSB was directly engaged in smashing assassination attempts, organized by the SBU, against Russian journalists, as in the case of Olga Skabaeyeva and Vladimir Soloviev. It’s mind-boggling that Dugin and his family were not protected by the Russian intelligence/security apparatus.

The key facts of the tragedy have already been established. A Land Cruiser Prado SUV, owned by Dugin and with Darya at the wheel, exploded in a highway near the village of Bolchie Vyazemy, a little over 20km away from Moscow.

They were both coming from a family festival, where Dugin had delivered a talk. At the last minute, Darya took the SUV and Dugin followed her in another car. According to eyewitnesses, there was an explosion under the SUV, which was immediately engulfed in flames and hit a roadside building. Darya’s body was burned beyond recognition.

The Russian Investigative Committee soon established that the IED—approximately 400g of TNT, unencapsulated—was planted under the bottom of the SUV, on the driver’s side.

The investigators consider that it was a premeditated car bombing.

What is not already known is whether the IED was on a timer or if some goon nearby pressed the button.

What is already known is that Alexander Dugin was a target on the Myrotvorets list. Myrotvorets stands for a Center for Research of Signs of Crimes against the National Security of Ukraine. It works side by side with NATO collecting info on “pro-Russian terrorists and separatists”.

Denis Pushilin, the head of the DPR, took no time to accuse “the terrorists of the Ukrainian regime” for Darya’s assassination. The inestimable Maria Zakharova was more, well, diplomatic: she said that if the Ukrainian lead is confirmed, that will configure a policy of state terrorism deployed by Kiev.

An Existential War

In several essays—this one being arguably the most essential—Dugin had made extensively clear the enormity of the stakes. This is a war of ideas. And an existential war: Russia against the collective West led by the United States.

The SBU, NATO, or quite probably the combo—considering the SBU is ordered by the CIA and MI6—did not choose to attack Putin, Lavrov, Patrushev or Shoigu. They targeted a philosopher and ended up murdering his daughter—making it even more painful. They attacked an intellectual who formulates ideas. Proving once again that Western Cancel Culture seamlessly metastasizes into Cancel Person.

It’s fine and dandy that the Russian Ministry of Defense is about to start the production of the hypersonic Mr. Zircon as it continues to churn out plenty of Mr. Khinzals. Or that three Mig-31 supersonic interceptors have been deployed to Kaliningrad equipped with Khinzals and placed on combat duty 24/7.

The problem is the rules have changed—and the SBU/NATO combo, facing an indescribable debacle in Donbass, is upping the sabotage, counter-intel and counter-diversionary dial.

They started by shelling Russian territory; spread out around Donbass—as in the attempt to kill the mayor of Mariupol, Konstantin Ivachtchenko; even launched drones against the HQ of the Black Sea Fleet in Sebastopol; and now—with the Darya Dugina tragedy—are on the gates of Moscow.

The point is not that all of the above is irrelevant in terms of changing the facts on the ground imposed by the Special Military Operation. The point is that an upcoming series of bloody psyops designed for pure PR effect can become extremely painful for Russian public opinion – which will demand devastating punishment.

It’s clear that Moscow and St. Petersburg are now prime targets. The Ukrainian ISIS is a go. Of course, their handlers have vast experience on the matter, across the Global North/South. All red lines are gone.

The Coming of the Ukrainian ISIS

The cokehead comedian has duly pre-empted any Russian reaction, according to the NATO script he’s fed on a daily basis: Russia may try to do something “particularly disgusting” this coming week.

That’s irrelevant. The real—burning—question is to what extent the Kremlin and Russian intel will react when it’s fully established SBU/NATO concocted the Dugin plot. That’s Kiev terrorism at the gates of Moscow. That screams “red line” in bloody red, and a response tied to the reiterated promise, by Putin himself, of hitting “decision centers”.

It will be a fateful decision. Moscow is not at war with the Kiev puppets, essentially—but with NATO. And vice-versa. All bets are off on how the tragedy of Darya Dugina may eventually accelerate the Russian timetable, in terms of a radical revision of their so far long-term strategy.

Moscow can decapitate the Kiev racket with a few hypersonic business cards. Yet that’s too easy; afterwards, who to negotiate the future of rump Ukraine with?

In contrast, doing essentially nothing means accepting an imminent, de facto terrorist invasion of the Russian Federation: the Darya Dugina tragedy on steroids.

In his next before last post on Telegram, Dugin once again framed the stakes. These are the key takeaways.

He calls for “structural, ideological, personnel, institutional, strategic” transformations by the Russian leadership.

Drawing from the evidence—from the increased attacks on Crimea to the attempts to provoke a nuclear catastrophe in Zaporozhye—he correctly concludes that the NATO sphere has “decided to stand on the other end to the end. They can be understood: Russia actually (and this is not propaganda) challenged the West as a civilization.”

The conclusion is stark: “So we have to go all the way”. That ties in with what Putin himself asserted: “We haven’t really started anything yet.” Dugin: “Now we have to start.”

Dugin proposes that the current status quo around Operation Z cannot last for more than six months. There’s no question “the tectonic plates have shifted”. Darya Dugina will be flying like an eagle in an otherworldly sky. The question is whether her tragedy will become the catalyst to propel Putin’s strategic ambiguity to a whole new level.

[Courtesy, Strategic Culture]

Come, True Light!

Today (August 6th/August 19th) is the Transfiguration of the Lord, in the Twelve Great Feasts. The Feast of the Transfiguration, popularly called “the Apple Feast Day,” has great significance for the very structure of Orthodox time. It is not just the end of summer; it is the ultimate spiritual dimension of what can be called the harvest.

Just as the pure and sacred work of the peasantry—the sunny, regal labor of tilling the land and caring for domestic animals—gives its concrete visible fruit each year in the form of grain, milk, wine, eggs, meat, and apples, so too must the spiritual life of the Christian be crowned with the highest possible contemplation—the contemplation of the Transfiguration of Christ on the Holy Mount, Tabor. Visions of the immaterial Light of Tabor, in which the Lord transfigured Himself before His chosen disciples, is the pinnacle of the spiritual journey of the Christian, the highest of gifts, the end of the journey—strictly upwards, to the Son of God, the Light.

The theological meaning of the feast is connected with the moment of the meeting of the two Covenants, the Old and the New. Christ and His three apostolic disciples, Peter, James, and John, ascended the mountain. While the disciples slept, Christ addressed a prayer to God the Father and this chosen place was flooded with Eternal Light. When the disciples awoke, they were startled and awe-struck to see their teacher, Jesus, conversing in the Divine Light with the two elders, Moses and Elijah the prophet. If Jesus Christ had been a prophet, He would have proved His prophetic dignity by this encounter. And this is exactly what the terrified disciples thought: let us, they said, set up three sanctuaries here, a sanctuary for each of the prophets.

They were apparently right in the logic of the Old Testament: the higher righteous ones met on the other side of life and death in the Light of Truth. But this was not the case. Jesus Christ is not a prophet nor a continuator of the Jewish tradition. He is much, much more than that. He is God and the Son of God. And the Light in which He spoke to the righteous of the Old Testament was not ordinary—but Divine—the one that shone then, when there was nothing at all—neither light nor darkness. And He, the Light of Tabor, was already there. And when the world is gone, it will still shine. And that the apostles, who will build the Church of the New Testament, the Church of the Son of God, the Church of the Holy Trinity and the Uncreated Light of Tabor, would have no doubt, a Voice was heard from heaven: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Thus, on Mount Tabor the highest Christian truth was unveiled—the truth about the Son, about God the Word.

One of the participants in this universal mystery, the Apostle John, will write in his Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word.” He learned what the Word was and what the beloved Son of God was at this very moment on the Holy Mount, Tabor. The New Testament recognizes and honors the righteous and the prophets of the Old Testament. But Jesus Christ is not one of them. He is our True God—and this is what distinguishes our Christian age of Grace from the former Jewish era of the Law.

On Mount Tabor, at the moment of Transfiguration, this was revealed to the three Apostles, and through them to the rest of mankind. The Athonite monks and Russian elders believed that to see the Light of Tabor was the goal of the entirety of Christian life. The vision of the Light of Tabor begins the monastic life of the Russian saint Sophronius Sakharov, who, after this gift, went straight from modern, comfortable Paris directly to the wild cave of Athos. After all, there is nothing more precious and higher than contemplating eternity. But in order to see this Light, the Hesychast starets taught, one must put his mind into his heart and cleanse his heart from the darkness of matter, of sins and of all the ugliness with which our heart is most often filled. For as the Elder Sophronius said, “The true way to see the Divine Light is through the inner man.” Until we discover and cultivate the inner man, until we examine and purify our essence, we will remain in darkness. After all, everything that is not the Light of Tabor is, by and large, one continuous, impenetrable darkness.

Today the words of Simeon the New Theologian, quoted by the elder Sophronius Sakharov, are most appropriate: “Come, Light of Truth. Come, eternal life. Come, the rising of the fallen. Come, the rising of the deposed. Come, the resurrection of the dead… Come, O holy King, Come and dwell in us, and abide in us without ceasing, And reign undivided in us—The One for ever and ever. Amen.”


Alexander Dugin is a widely-known and influential Russian philosopher. His most famous work is The Fourth Political Theory (a book banned by major book retailers), in which he proposes a new polity, one that transcends liberal democracy, Marxism and fascism. He has also introduced and developed the idea of Eurasianism, rooted in traditionalism. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Geoolitica.


Featured: “Transfiguration of Jesus,” by Carl Bloch; painted in 1872.

Come, Light

Something extraordinary happened one morning in December 2020.

When he got up the night was still lingering in the sky. London plane trees, so doleful in the rain, were still dripping. The ground below was piled thick with soggy leaves, and a dull foreboding hung in the air.

Shards of streetlights shone on the wet asphalt. It looked as though the rain was about to end.

The day before Christmas in London in the year of the pandemic, Shifa thought to himself. The year of sorrow and dejection. The preceding few days things had gotten even gloomier. Every now and then an ambulance would dart through the deserted streets with sirens wailing. Hospitals were over-stretched, the news said, and the city cemeteries were just about full.

He had been reading Daniel Defoe’s account of the bubonic plague that scourged the city in 1665. About cartloads of dead being dumped into mass graves and about some, still alive, screaming and clawing out of the shallow pits. A brutal record of the fright, the deaths, the stench, the greed, and of the evil lurking in men as the pestilence ravaged the city.

A gnawing awareness of a similar agony—of having seen the horror and of a solemnity of being still alive—rippled through’s Shifa’s mind. The old plague lay mingled with the spectre of the present.

The weather too had been miserable. For weeks torrents of rain whipped up by gusty winds had been blighting the country, causing severe flooding in places. The lockdown had made everyone forget that a year consisted of four seasons. That there were nights and days of varying lengths and temperatures. That the once familiar outdoor still displayed facets of beauty and changing vistas.

Sickness, convalescence, separation across continents. Misery had struck his family too as it had so many others. There would be no Christmas celebration this year.

It was Thursday, the day of luminous mysteries. Shifa took out his rosary and sat down facing the charcoal sky. Slowly his eyelids closed.

By the time he finished the third decade Shifa had sunk into a rhythm of repetition. Praying the rosary for him sometimes turned into an unconscious and vague ritual. This morning, however, he was curiously alert as he came to the fourth decade. The mystery of the transfiguration. With blinkered eyes he tried to imagine how the illumined face of the teacher might have looked like to the apostles assembled on the bald mountain that night.

It was then that he was shaken by the irony. To meditate on a body made up of blood, flesh, and bones transforming itself into light—on a day like this? How could one contemplate light when the earth was awash in blinding darkness?

With eyes shut he whispered all this to himself. Drowned earth. Denuded trees, barren gardens, empty streets. Overhead a pouring sky. Wake up. Shed off your stupor.

Fingers still clasping the beads Shifa opened his eyes, and an unearthly beauty greeted him. The sun had pierced through the clouds, and a pale golden hue lay diffuse in the glistening air. Bewitched, he watched a curtain of liquid, diaphanous gold silently settling on grey, red, and beige buildings.

The leafless skeleton of the majestic tree of paradise across the window stood sheathed in a preternatural luster.

This was transfiguration, it occurred to him. Light had entered the darkness, gently spreading its silken luminosity. As it increased in brightness, the glow turned the earth itself into its glory. It appeared as though the world was being consecrated by an act of benediction promising the return of hope to a saddened world.

Ezekiel had once encountered the glory of God. “As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day,” said the prophet, “so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance.” And he continued, “Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face.” (Ezekiel 1:28).

What a mystery light is!

“It is a universal, firmly-held opinion, the very voice of nature,” wrote Marsilio Ficino in 1493, “that nothing is more beautiful to behold, nothing more lovable, nothing more astonishing than light.”

Scientists say about 80% of our experiences are visual. The eye’s response to light constitutes our external reality and thus determines our interactions with the world. Yet “What is light?” never elicits a simple answer, writes Glenn Stark in the Encyclopedia Britannica, because light is “experienced, explored, and exploited” in so many contexts that its literal meaning is inextricable from the metaphorical.

The English language is especially rich with its nuances. The sun lets us see the world and helps us know it. The mind enlightens us with understanding. Visions and inspiration help us gain insight.

Even a scientist, while observing light’s nature (its impacts and interactions with objects), must walk a tightrope between the opposite properties of light: particles and waves. Others – theologians, poets, philosophers – often imagine light in paradoxes.

In art, two painters rarely approach it from similar angles, even though what they paint mostly is light. Renaissance master Vincenzo Catena (“Saint Jerome in his study”) painted it coming directly from its source, the sun, illuminating the world as it did the saint in his study. For both the saint and the painter, the direct trajectory of light, increasing in brightness until it attained the perfect brilliance and clarity, emanated from God, its true origin. For George Seurat, on the other hand, the interplay of tiny contrasting strokes of colours (or particles) nearly invisible to the naked eye, made up the lustrous domain of light that enwrapped objects and things. The source of light for him was in the environs.

So, what is light?

The illumination we encounter as visible light is the effect on our environment of the sun’s radiation, or electromagnetic spectrum, as science calls it. This spectrum is made up of waves of energy the star dissipates over the universe continuously. On one end of the spectrum pulsate immensely destructive gamma rays with less than an atom of space between waves; on the other undulate radio waves that have thousands of miles of distance between crests.

All this radiation is hostile to life. Yet somewhere near the middle of its length is a tiny portion (less than 1%) of the spectrum that becomes supremely benign.

It is bizarre why this minuscule segment of deadly radiation should soften itself, but it does. As it enters the earth’s atmosphere the electromagnetic spectrum attains the wavelength of the extremely narrow range of 0.3 to 14 microns (a micron is a millionth of a meter). This range, writes author and scientist James Le Fanu in “Here comes the all-powerful sun,” is so narrow within the entire spectrum that, by analogy, it takes up just “a few seconds” in a timespan 100 million times longer than the 4.6 billion years since the Big Bang, or the beginning of our solar system.

As our planet wakes up to greet the sun in the morning, an incredibly small amount of radiation is extracted, as if by some invisible hands, from the massive body of deadly destruction and turned gently into life-generating munificence.

Michelangelo’s “Separation of Light from Darkness” in the Sistine Chapel celebrates this drama as narrated in Genesis 1:2-3. We see a colossal God separating swirling white gases from surrounding darkness with his enormous, sinewy hands, thus initiating creation. It brings to memory Isaiah’s words: it is God who “forms the light and creates darkness” (45:7).

From this moment on, a new story more breathtaking than an Arabian tale begins to take shape.

During those few seconds that it touches the sleepy earth, the radiation turns itself into visible light and its companion heat, setting off the cycle of life. Working in tandem with the earth’s orbit, its daily turning on the axis, and the planet’s tilt towards the sun, light creates a unique orchestra by arranging time’s endless permutations of varying lengths of night and day.

Fecundity follows. Light translates time into seasons of tilling, growing, and harvesting. Into seasons of courtship, nesting, and raising fledglings. Light makes life possible and ensures that the mystery continues. For the sake of the princess Scheherazade and the king inside the palace as well as for the ladybug in the garden.

The farmer casts the seed in the ground, the gospel tells us, but “knows not how the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.” (Mark 4:28). It is the benevolent hand of light that waves the magic wand.

The spectacle carries on. The beam that descends on treetops, mountain peaks, oceans and rivers also lights up fireworks in our brains. Electrical nerve impulses generated by the reflected light tell our brains how to detect objects, colours, shapes, dimensions, and textures. We acknowledge, differentiate, classify, and interpret images by comparing them with old images stored in our memories.

As the light creates sparkles and ripples on a stream or paints the wings of a butterfly it is only the human eye that can capture this panorama. Through the lenses of our eyes, only we can witness the rainbow of the seven hues.

There is more.

Light keeps time and measures distance in the universe. Whether fathoming the vastness of space or reading the faces of our digital devices, we return to light to get our bearing. Scientists measure the distance of galaxies, from us and among themselves, by the speed of light. And when an object acquires the speed of light, they say, it becomes infinite.

There is an instructive episode in the Venerable Bede’s history of English kings and churches.

A courtier in the Anglo-Saxon king Edwin’s castle compares the life of a man to the swift flight of a sparrow through the king’s banquet hall on a winter night. The king sits at supper with friends and family while the fire blazes and the storms rage abroad. The sparrow flies in at one door and immediately out at another. While the bird is within the warm hall, he is safe from the wintry tempest, but then he vanishes out of everybody’s sight, passing from winter to winter again.

“Such is the life of man,” says the courtier to the king, “appearing for a little while in the well-lit and warm banquet hall, but what follows or what went before we know nothing at all.”

Like Bede’s sparrow flitting through the warm hall on a wintry night, light, traveling at a speed of 300,000 km a second takes a little over eight minutes to traverse ninety-two million miles before reaching the earth, the banquet hall of life.

Unlike the sparrow, however, this radiant visitor quickens life, clothes nature, replenishes granaries and then leaves everything behind. Back into the vast endlessness. Whence it comes we know but where it goes in the end, we do not.

The first act of God narrated in the Bible was the creation of light. “Let there be light’ said God, ‘and there was light” (Genesis 1:3).

This light, created “when the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while the Spirit of God swept over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2), became the icon of divinity in human imagination. This surreal picture of the beginning has been the enduring anchor for our physical and moral understanding of the world as well as of our relationships with it.

Following the gospels, apostolic narratives and patristic traditions, Christian theology has from its inception understood the transfiguration of Jesus to be the revelation of the glory of God. The accounts appearing in Matthew, Mark and Luke are remarkable: “There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.” “There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them,” and “As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.” Later, Peter spoke of having been an eyewitness of Christ’s “magnificence” (2 Peter 1: 16-18). In his gospel as well as in the first epistle, John described God as light.

The significance of these accounts lies primarily in the transcendental impact of light. The apostles do not merely refer to their visual susceptibility; they allude to the event’s transformative impact. St Paul articulates this transformation most eloquently in his letter to the Ephesians: “But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light” (5:13).

One of the earliest Church fathers, Saint Irenaeus, also described the transfiguration by establishing a correspondence between the glory of God, the vision of God and the life of man. “[T]he glory of God is a live human being, and a truly human life is the vision of God.”

Light perceived in this way can lead to a sea-change in the heart of a man. It may rekindle a novel awareness of God; it may even lead to an experience comparable to Saul’s on the road to Damascus. After all, he was blinded by intense light.

Life transcendent. Is that not what transfiguration is? What else can turn an inert possibility into a living luminescence, if not light?


Pius Manutius is a husband, father, and traveler.


Featured image , “The Penitent Magdalen,” by Georges de La Tour, painted ca. 1640.

The Triumph Of Christmas

Today’s skeptics, who seem to reject something traditional just because it’s traditional, cannot sit still during the holy season of Christmas without mocking the notion that Christ would have been born on December 25th. If it were just the unbelievers who engaged in this mockery, it would be expected, since unbelievers, by their very nature, are not expected to believe.

More troubling is the fact that, like evolution and all other modern atheistic fantasies, this one has seeped through the all-too narrow wall separating Catholics from the rest of the world. The anti-Christmas myth, which makes a myth out of Christmas, is being foisted on Catholic children as fact. To benefit these, and any Christian who respects piety, history, Scripture, and Tradition, we present our defense of Christmas.

Since there is no date for the Nativity recorded in Holy Scripture, we rely on the testimony of the Church Fathers and of history to get an answer to the question, “When did Christmas take place?”

First, let us see the essential significance of the Savior’s birth at the time usually attributed to it. The winter solstice, the astronomical event which recurs every year, is traditionally said to be the birthday of the Messias. To elucidate the meaning of this fact, we will turn to Saint Gregory of Nyssa (+ 385 or 386):

“On this day, which the Lord hath made, darkness decreases, light increases, and night is driven back again. No, brethren, it is not by chance, nor by any created will, that this natural change begins on the day when He shows Himself in the brightness of His coming, which is the spiritual Life of the world. It is Nature revealing, under this symbol, a secret to them whose eye is quick enough to see it; to them, I mean, who are able to appreciate this circumstance, of our Savior’s coming. Nature seems to me to say: “Know, oh man! that under the things which I show thee, mysteries lie concealed. Hast thou not seen the night, that had grown so long, suddenly checked? Learn hence, that the black night of Sin, which had reached its height, by the accumulation of every guilty device, is this day, stopped in its course. Yes, from this day forward, its duration shall be shortened until at length there shall be naught but Light. Look, I pray thee, on the Sun; and see how his rays are stronger and his position higher in the heavens: Learn from that how the other Light, the Light of the Gospel, is now shedding itself over the whole earth.” (Homily On the Nativity)

Saint Augustine, a Western Father, concurs with Gregory, the Easterner:

“Let us, my brethren, rejoice, this day is sacred, not because of the visible sun, but because of the Birth of Him Who is the invisible Creator of the sun. He chose this day whereon to be born, as He chose the Mother of whom to be born, and He made both the day and the Mother. The day He chose was that on which the light begins to increase, and it typifies the work of Christ, who renews our interior man day by day. For the eternal Creator, having willed to be born in time, His birthday would necessarily be in harmony with the rest of creation” (On the Nativity of Our Lord, iii).

Similar sentiments are echoed by St. Ambrose, St. Leo, St. Maximus of Turin, and St. Cyprian.

To further the beauty of this mysterious agreement between grace and nature, Catholic commentators have shown this to be a marvellous fulfilment of the utterance of St. John the Baptist, the Voice who heralded the Word: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Literally fulfilled by the ending of the Precursor’s mission and the beginning of the Savior’s, this passage had its spiritual fulfillment in the celebration of John’s feast on the 24th of June, three days after the summer solstice. As St. Augustine put it: “John came into this world at the season of the year when the length of the day decreases; Jesus was born in the season when the length of the day increases.” (In Natali Domini, xi).

Lest anyone find all this Astronomy to reek of paganism, we remind him that in Genesis, it is recorded: “And God said: Let there be lights made in the firmament of heaven, to divide the day and the night, and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years: To shine in the firmament of heaven, and to give light upon the earth. ” Further, the Magi, those holy men from the East, who came to greet the Expectation of the Nations, were led thence by a star.

“But,” you may say, “the winter solstice is on the 21st of December, not the 25th.” Correct. But if, from the time of the Council of Nicea (325) to that of Gregory XIII’s reform of the calendar (1582), there was a 10 day discrepancy between the calendar and the actual astronomical pattern governing it, then it is entirely possible that a four-day discrepancy had occurred between our Lord’s birth and the Council. We illustrate this possibility as follows: The calendar that many of the Greek schismatics still follow (the Julian calendar), is presently fourteen days off from the Gregorian. This additional four day discrepancy from Gregory’s time has happened over about 400 years.

But now for the meat of the issue: when did it happen? According to St. John Chrysostom, the foundation for the Nativity occurring on the 25th of December is a strong one. In a Christmas Sermon, he shows that the Western Chruches had, from the very commencement of Christianity, kept the Feast on that day. This fact bears great weight to the Doctor, who adds that the Romans, having full access to the census taken by Augustus Caesar (Luke 2, 1) — which was in the public archives of the city of Rome — were well versed in their history on this point. A second argument he adduces thusly: The priest Zachary offered incense in the month of Tisri, the seventh of the Hebrew calendar, corresponding with the end of our September or the beginning of our October. (This he most likely knew from details of the temple rites which were transmitted to him by a living tradition, supported by Holy Scripture.) At that same time, St. Luke tells us that Elizabeth conceived John the Baptist. Since, according to the Bible, Our Blessed Lady conceived in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy (the end of March: when we celebrate the Feast of the Incarnation), then she gave birth nine months later: the end of December.

Having no reason to doubt the great Chrysostom, or any of the other Fathers mentioned; in fact, seeing objections issued only by heretics and cynics, we agree with the learned Doctor and conclude that, by God’s Providence, His Church has correctly commemorated the Feast of His Nativity.

Further, as the continuity of the Old Testament with the New Testament was preserved in two of the principal feasts of the New: Easter corresponding to the Pasch and Pentecost to Pentecost (same name in both dispensations), it would have been unlikely for the Birth of the Eternal God into our world not to have had a corresponding feast in the Old Testament.

Until the time of the Machabees, when the temple was re-dedicated after its desecration by the Greek Antiochus IV, Antiochus Epiphanes (see 1 Machabees 4). One hundred and sixty-seven years before Jesus, the commemoration was instituted according to what was written: “And Judas, and his brethren, and all the church of Israel decreed, that the day of the dedication of the altar should be kept in its season from year to year for eight days, from the five and twentieth day of the month of Casleu, with joy and gladness” (I Macc. 4, 59). To this day, Jews celebrate the twenty-fifth of Casleu (or Kislev, as they say) as the first night of Hannukah. This year (5757 in the Jewish calendar), 25 Casleu was on December 12. Even though the two calendars are not in sync, Christmas and Hannukah are always in close vicinity. With the Festival of Lights instituted less than two centuries before Our Lord’s advent, the Old Testament calendar joined nature in welcoming the Light of the world on his birthday.

As for the objection, “Jesus couldn’t have been born in the winter, since the shepherds were watching their flocks, which they couldn’t have done in winter”: This is really no objection. Palestine has a very mild climate, and December 25 is early enough in winter for the flocks and the shepherds to be out. The superior of our monastery, Brother Francis Maluf, grew up 30 miles from Beirut, which has the same climate as Bethlehem, both being near the Mediterranean coast, and he has personally testified to this fact.

****

For almost 2,000 years, the Church has been defending Christmas against a concerted, diabolical attack.

No, it’s not another wacko conspiracy theory; it’s a fact. Since the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us, the truth that God was born a Baby at Christmas has been assaulted with relentless demonic fury. Saint John, the very Apostle of Love, tells us: “For many seducers are gone out into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh: this is a seducer and an Antichrist” (2 John 1:7).

What the Apostle was condemning in those strong words were the earliest of the gnostic heresies, those strange amalgamations of Christianity and pagan mystery religions. Their sectarians fancied that they were little sparks of divinity trapped in matter, who could only be liberated by the gnosis, the secret knowledge.

There was also an early heresy, called docetism, which said that the Word did not assume real flesh, but took the appearance of a man (dokein in Greek, means “to appear”). Rebuked by St. Ignatius of Antioch and condemned by the Church, docetism would return in more subtle forms, admitting that our Lord was man, but denying that he had a real human soul (Apollinarianism), a true human nature (Monophysitism), or a human will and operation (Monothelitism). The last of these heresies was so repulsive to St. Maximus the Confessor (580-662), that he preferred to have his hand cut off, his tongue sliced out, and to die in exile rather than submit to a corrupt bishop who professed it.

Then there were the denials of our Lord’s divinity in heresies like Arianism, which still persists in sects as divergent as Unitarianism and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Finally, there was Nestorianism, the heresy that denied the union of the two natures in the one Person of Christ. The heretical Patriarch Nestorius had it that there were two persons in Christ, the divine Person of the Word and the person of Jesus Christ the man. Consequently, he asserted in a sermon that Mary should not be called the Mother of God; she was only the mother of a human person.

The Fathers of the Church have left us heroic professions of truth against these blasphemies, and all of them impress upon us that the little Inhabitant of the Christmas Crib was Almighty God come in the flesh to save us. St. Athanasius made the point, against Arianism, that since Christ was supposed to divinize us by grace, He could not perform this mission if He were not Himself divine by nature. St. Gregory Nazianzen professed, against the Apollinarians, that “What has not been assumed has not been healed,” i.e., our Lord did not redeem human nature unless he possessed a human nature. Far from being satisfied with artful turns of phrase in their polemics, these Fathers, like St. Maximus the Confessor, suffered for their confession at the hands of the antichrist heretics.

The entire Catholic Faith is summed up in the image of the Madonna and Child: She, the Immaculate Conception, was conceived full of grace to be Mother of God; and He is One of the Holy Trinity come down to take her Flesh as true Man in order to save us. So much do heretics hate this beautiful scene that the Iconoclasts, who inherited many of the earlier eastern heresies, cut off St. John Damascene’s hand for painting it! That hand was miraculously restored it to him by our Lady.

Orthodoxy has always been attacked by antichrists. (Yes, there will be one Antichrist at the end — “the man of sin” of 2 Thess 2:3 — but St. John speaks of many “antichrists” in 1 John 2:18.) Is it any wonder that certain nefarious elements in society “have issues” with Christmas? As the early heretics wished to “dissolve” Jesus by destroying the union of two natures in one divine Person, so too, modern antichrists wish to dissolve the divine Babe from our public square: “And every spirit that dissolveth Jesus, is not of God: and this is Antichrist, of whom you have heard that he cometh, and he is now already in the world” (1 John 4:1).

According to St. Robert Bellarmine, the focus of the devil’s attack in the second millennium has moved away from the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation. Instead, the old goat has taken aim primarily at the Church, giving us the Great Eastern Schism and the Protestant Revolt. And he has been refining his approach ever since. In our own day, he has given us the “deadly error” of indifferentism (to quote Pope Gregory XVI), the heresy that says one religion is as good as another. He has caused an even worse pandemonium: an identity crisis within the Church herself. Some of our very own ecclesiastics do not know what the Church is. They have “dissolved Jesus” in His Mystical Body.

But even in the midst of such a crisis, we find consolation: “Behold, I make all things new!” (Apoc. 21:5). All the historical triumphs against error won by the martyrs and confessors will be renewed in grand style. The victories of the devil and his antichrists continue to mount, but the Triumph of the divine Babe will be all the sweeter because of it. It will mark the victory of our Lord, His Church, and His Vicar. What’s more, to the eternal confusion of Antichrist and Satan, Christ’s Triumph will be the Triumph of His Mother, the Woman who will crush the head of the ancient serpent!

And that should give us all a Merry Christmas.


Brother André Marie is Prior of St. Benedict Center, an apostolate of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Richmond New Hampshire. He does a weekly Internet Radio show, Reconquest, which airs on the Veritas Radio Network’s Crusade Channel.


The featured image shows, “The Nativity,” by Matthias Stomer, painted ca. 1640.

Pope Saint Leo The Great: A Christmas Sermon

This sermon, by Pope Saint Leo the Great, was delivered on Christmas Day, 450 AD. It is here translated by Jane Patricia Freeland, C.S.B.J., and Agnes Josephine Conway, S.S.J. and extracted from Leo The Great: Sermons.


When the faithful meditate about divine things, dearly beloved, the Birth of our Lord and Savior from his Mother comes to mind every day and all the time. For, a mind that is poised to acknowledge its Maker—whether occupied in the sighs of entreaty, or the exultation of praise, or the offering of sacrifice—such a mind touches upon nothing more frequently in its spiritual insights, touches upon nothing more confidently, than the fact that God the Son of God, begotten by his co-eternal Father, was also born through a human birth.

But no day suggests to us more than today that this Nativity should be worshipped in heaven and on earth. With a new light radiating even in the atoms themselves, no day more than today impresses the entire splendor of this amazing mystery upon our senses. We recall not only to mind, but even—in a way—to sight, the conversation of Gabriel with the astonished Mary, the Conception by the Holy Spirit (as marvelous in being promised as it was in being actually granted), the Maker of the world brought forth from a virginal womb, and the one who established all natures made the Son of her whom he had created.

On this day, the Word of God appeared clothed in flesh, and, what could not even have been seen by human eyes before, “could” now “be touched with the hands.” On this day, the shepherds learned from angelic voices that a Savior had been born in the substance of our body and soul. On this day, a new archetype for proclaiming the Gospel was deposited with those who preside over the Lord’s flock, so that we too might say with the celestial host: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good Will.”

That infancy, which the majesty of God’s Son did not scorn, was eventually brought to perfect manhood with the increase of age. When the triumph of his Passion and Resurrection had been brought to completion, all the activities of the lowliness he had undertaken for our sake passed away. Today’s feast, nevertheless, renews for us the sacred beginnings of Jesus’ Birth from the Virgin Mary. As we worship the Birth of our Savior, we find ourselves celebrating our own origin as well. For the Conception of Christ is the origin of the Christian people, and the birthday of the Head is the birthday of the body.

All of the elect have their own special place, and the Church’s children are set off from one another by the passage of time. Yet all of us, the whole sum of believers who have sprung from the baptismal font, just as we have been crucified with Christ in his Passion, been raised with him in his Resurrection, and been set at the right hand of the Father in his Ascension, so too have we been born along with him in his Nativity.

Whenever believers in any part of the world undergo regeneration in Christ, they become transformed into “new human beings,” through a rebirth—once the path of their original “former selves” has been cut off. They are no longer considered to be in the lineage of their carnal father, but are counted among the descendants of their Savior. It was precisely so that we might be able to become children of God that he was made the child of a human being. Had he not come down to us in this humility, none could come to him by any merits of their own.

May earthly wisdom not bring murkiness here into hearts of the elect. May this dust, possessed of earthly thoughts and destined to go back soon into the depths, not raise itself up against the sublimity of God’s grace. Now, “at the end of ages” what had been arranged “before time began” has been accomplished. Now that the symbolism of figures has given way to the actual presence of reality, the law and prophecy have been turned into truth.

Abraham has indeed become “the father of all nations,” and “the promised blessing” has been given to the world “in his seed.” No, it is not only those whom flesh and blood has begotten that are Israelites. Rather, the whole adopted group have entered into that inheritance prepared for the children of faith. Let the deceitful insolence of foolish questions not cause an uproar. Let human reasoning not dilute the effects of God’s work. We “with Abraham put our faith in God, nor do we hesitate in reservation.” “Instead, we know full well that God has the power to bring about what he has promised.”

Our Savior, dearly beloved, was born not from the seed of flesh, but from the Holy Spirit. As a result, the condemnation of that first transgression did not have a hold on him. Hence, the very magnitude of the gift that was bestowed demands of us a reverence worthy of its splendor. As the blessed Apostle teaches, therefore, “we have not received the spirit of this world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we might know what things have been given to us by God.” He cannot be duly worshipped except by offering back to him what he himself has given.

What can we find in the treasure of the Lord’s generosity so appropriate to the honor of this celebration as peace? Peace was the first thing proclaimed by the angelic choir at the Lord’s Nativity. It is peace which gives birth to “children of God.” Peace nurses love, engenders unity, gives repose to the blessed, and provides a home to eternity. It has for its own particular work and special benefit the joining to God of those whom it separates from the world. Wherefore, the Apostle urges us to this good when he says, “Justified then by faith, we are at peace with God.” In this brief sentence is contained the force of almost all the commandments. Where the truth of peace has been, no virtue can be lacking.

Indeed, what is it, dearly beloved, to be at peace with God except to will what he bids and to refuse what he forbids? If like minds and similar wills seek one another out in human friendships. and differences in lifestyle can never attain to a stable concord, how will someone have a share in peace with God if that someone takes pleasure in things that displease God and purposely takes delight in things by which he knows God to be offended?

Children of God do not take that kind of attitude. No, adopted nobility does not admit of such wisdom. Let the “chosen and royal race” respond to the dignity of its regeneration, let it love what its Father loves, and let it not rebel from its Creator in anything—so that the Lord might not say once again: “I have given birth to children and raised them, but they have repudiated me. Oxen recognize their owner, while an ass knows its master’s stall; but Israel does not realize who I am, and my people have not understood me.”

This favor involves a great mystery, dearly beloved, and this gift surpasses all gifts—that God should call a human being his child and that human beings should refer to God as their Father. From these titles, we perceive and we learn who it is that can rise up to so great a height of affection. If, in human offspring and earthly lineage, the vices of an evil life draw a cloud over the children of illustrious parents, if unworthy descendants are put to shame by the very reputation of their ancestors, how badly will they finish up who for love of this world are not afraid to be disowned from the lineage of Christ. But, if it wins praise among men for the honor of fathers to be reflected in their progeny, how much more glorious is it for those born of God to mirror brightly the image of their Creator and to show in themselves the one who created them? As the Lord said, “So must your light shine before human beings, that upon seeing your good works they may extol your Father who is in heaven.”

We know too well that, as the Apostle John says, “the whole world rests under the sway of the evil one.” Laying down traps, the devil and his angels strive through innumerable temptations either to scare off human beings (with obstacles) from their struggle toward the things above or to corrupt them (with success). But “greater is the one with us than the one” against us. No battles can overpower us, no conflicts harm us if “we are at peace with God,” and continually say to the Father with all our heart, “Thy will be done.”

When we accuse ourselves by our own confession and deny a consent of the heart to carnal appetites, we of course rile up against us the enmity of the one who gave rise to sin, but we build up an invincible peace with God. In rendering service to the grace of God, we are not only made subject to our King through obedience, but are even joined to him through the will. If we are of one mind with him (willing what he wills, disapproving of what he disapproves), he himself will bring us victory in all our battles. He who has given the “will” will bestow also the ability. In this way can we “cooperate,” with his works, speaking that prophetic utterance in the exultation of faith: “The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defender of my life. Of whom shall I be afraid?”

Let those then “who were born not from blood, nor from the will of flesh, but from God” offer concord to God as peace-loving children. Let all the adopted members join together into that “firstborn” of new “creation” who came “not to do his own will, but that of the one who sent him.” For the Father’s grace has not adopted as heirs those who disagree or differ, but, rather, those who “think the same thing” and love the same thing. Those who have been “re-fashioned” according to one and the same image ought all to have the same kind of heart.

The birthday of the Lord is the birthday of peace, for, as the Apostle says, “He is our peace who made both things one.” Whether Jew or Gentile, “we have access to the Father through him, in a single Spirit.” On the day before his Passion (a day chosen beforehand according to a voluntary arrangement), it was this doctrine especially in which he instructed his disciples, so as to say: “My peace I give you, my peace I leave you.” So that the particular characteristics of his peace would not lie hidden beneath a generic word, he added [the following qualification]: “Not as the world gives do I give to you.” He was saying that the world has its own kinds of friendship, joining many hearts together with a distorted love. There are even some who are like-minded in vices, and the similarity of their desire engenders an equivalence in their affection.

If perhaps some should be found who take no pleasure in perverse and dishonorable things, who exclude unlawful concords from the bond of their mutual affection, they do so—if they be Jews or heretics or infidels—not out of a friendship with God, but from the peace of this world. When it comes to those who belong to the Spirit and who have kept the universal faith, peace comes down from above and leads right back up. It does not wish to mingle in communion with lovers of this world, but, rather, to resist all obstacles and to fly away from destructive pleasures to true joys—as the Lord says, “Where your treasure has been, there also will be your heart,” that is to say, if the things which you have affection for are down below, you will go down to the depths; if the things which you love “are up above,” you will go up to the heights.

May the Spirit of peace guide us and lead us there, with us willing the same thing and “thinking the same thing,” with our hearts joined in faith, hope, and love. For, “whoever are guided by the Spirit of God, they are children of God,” who lives and reigns with the Son and with the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.


The featured image shows the adoration of the Magi. Panel from a Roman sarcophagus, 4th century AD. From the cemetery of St. Agnes in Rome.

Verse And Worse: A Response To Philip Larkin

They tuck you up, your Mum and Dad
So you sleep sweet the whole night through
Their values really are quite trad
They only want the best for you!

And they were much loved in their turn
By grandparents in duffel coats
Who, though they seemed a little stern,
Were kindly souls, this poet notes.

Man hands on happiness to man
And with it comes both health and wealth
Make the most of life – you can!
And you’ll have happy kids yourself!


The featured image shows, “Mother Tucking Children into Bed,” by Norman Rockwell; painted in 1921.

A Reflection On Mystery

Few words can be more misleading to the modern ear than the Orthodox use of the word “mystery.” It’s a fine New Testament word and is (technically) the proper name for the sacraments in Orthodoxy (though we most often say ‘sacrament’ in English). Its root meaning is that of something “hidden.” In our culture’s language, mystery is more a matter of a who-done-it or a reference to something so puzzling or beyond us that it cannot be known. It’s not unusual for the non-Orthodox to complain that when pressed really hard, the Orthodox will take refuge and say, “It’s a mystery.” So, what is the mystery in “mystery?”

There is a debate about the exact root of the word in Greek. Most agree that it has to do with silence. Indeed, one speculation is that it is onomatopoetic (a word that sounds like what it is). As such, it comes from a root which is the sound you make when your mouth is closed (“mmmm”). In St. John Chrysostom’s liturgy, directions to priests on certain prayers are that they are to be said “mystically,” meaning that the prayer should be spoken softly (sotto voce). This soft-spoken meaning also can reflect the sense of “secret.”

“Mystery” is a major term in some of St. Paul’s writings, particularly Ephesians and Colossians. There he describes the entire plan of salvation as a “mystery that has now been revealed.” He makes reference to the same thing in Romans as well (16:25). Christ Himself uses the term in Mark’s gospel, telling the disciples that it has been given to them to “know the mystery of the Kingdom of God,” while it is hidden in parables for others (4:11).

But there is more to the word than mere secret. St. Paul also speaks of the “mystery of godliness” and the “mystery of iniquity.” In those expressions the word does not describe secret information, but a hidden process at work. And this gets closer, I think, to St. Paul’s other uses as well. For him, “mystery” is not the same thing as “secret.” It is not information that is being held back. Rather, it is a reality that is not made manifest as of yet. And this is at the very heart of the Orthodox use of the word.

When St. Paul speaks of the “mystery hidden from before the ages” (1Cor. 2:7; Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:26) he is referencing Christ’s Pascha, the “Lamb slain from the foundation.” This is not a reference to a secret plan, but to the very hidden truth of Christ Crucified and its work in creation. I’ve always appreciated C.S. Lewis’ play on this in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. He describes a “deep magic” which the witch does not know, and, on account of which she unwittingly brings about her own defeat. In the Corinthians passage St. Paul says:

But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Cor. 2:7-8)

In the presentation of Christ crucified as mystery, we are to understand that the crucifixion itself is a manifestation in time of that which has been true from before the ages. The crucifixion is more than an event – it is a revelation of the truth of who God is. It is proper for us to say that Christianity is inherently apocalyptic – it is a revealing of that which has been hidden.

This same theme even plays out in the description of our salvation:

Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Col. 3:2-4)

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. (Rom. 8:18-19)

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. (1 Jn. 3:2)

Something of the same notion is found in the Old Testament as well:

Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them. In the time of their visitation they will shine forth, and will run like sparks through the stubble. (Wis. 3:5-7)

It is keenly important to understand that what is hidden is not something that does not already exist: that would be a mere secret, an idea. The mystery described and referenced within the Scriptures is a reality that existed before the creation itself. It is Christ crucified. It is the treasure of our salvation:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Pet. 1:3-5)

It is this very “mystery” that forms the substance of the sacraments of the Church. In Baptism, we are Baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ (an eternal reality); in the Eucharist, we eat and drink the Body and Blood of the crucified Christ, slain from the foundation of the earth, and so on. The mystery of our salvation is not presented to us as something that has not yet happened. It is rather something that has not yet been revealed. Its reality is greater than the things we see at present:

For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:17-18)

This same understanding is the basis for the various forms of allegory used in reading the Scriptures. That reading is not a literary device. Rather, it is a discernment of something that is true and real and that lies beneath the surface of the words. Those who champion the “literal-historical” reading, as though it were the only firm foundation, utterly neglect the very character of our salvation. The mystery of the crucified Christ is the content of all Scripture, and is read by those who know Him.

The Orthodox answer, “It is a mystery,” is not an effort to dodge difficult questions. It is, instead, an attempt to say what is most profoundly true. Not only is Christ the mystery which has been made known, but we ourselves are a mystery, yet to be revealed. The world around us, like the Scriptures themselves, have Christ Crucified as their truth, for Christ is the Logos, according to which and through which the logos of every created thing is made. If you do not know the mystery of creation, then you do not know creation.

It is a mystery known to the trees and rocks. They groan, waiting for it to be made manifest. Occasionally, they begin to shout, to sing and to clap their hands. The song of creation is a mystery, heard by those who have ears to hear.


Father Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.


The featured image shows, “The Visitation,” by Gerónimo Antonio de Ezquerra, painted ca. 1737.