Happy Bright Friday! Christ is risen!
Touchstone Magazine posted an interesting interview of Hadley Arkes by Marcia Segelstein: “Courage & Conversion.” In the interview, the professor talks about natural law, the wayward tendencies of man, and his teacher, Leo Strauss. Unlike many of Strauss’ disciples, Arkes has chosen a more religious form of return, and he answers Segelstein’s questions about his conversion to Christianity:
MS: In the column you wrote the day after you were received into the Catholic Church, you talked about courage. As a Jew, did it take a unique kind of courage to become a Christian?
HA: I went on to explain in those comments that I did not see myself as abandoning the Jewish people.
MS: But as a Jew, was it harder?
HA: Theologically I don’t think it was. As Michael Novak [his sponsor] said, “When you’re Catholic, you’re at least Jewish.” Everything in the New Testament is predicated on the Old. As part of the Creed, we accept the prophets: “God spoke through the prophets.” It is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I asked my wife how many people sitting in a synagogue in Amherst believe that God made a covenant with Abraham. And she said, “Actually believe it? Probably a third.” And I said that every serious Catholic I know does. So on one level it may not be as difficult as people suppose.
But on the level of family, it is quite difficult. I know that my parents could not have understood this. I loved my grandparents very much and I have a sense that a decision like this would have been very hurtful to them, maybe because they wouldn’t have understood it. For the most part, my family around me has been understanding and sympathetic.
Certain members of the family see it as a defection. And this is really very strange because some scoff at religion and profess to be atheists. How is it that a Jewish atheist is not thought to have left the Jewish people, but the Jewish Catholic has? Here I am affirming the God of Israel and his laws. The Jewish atheist rejects them. So which one of us is leaving the Jewish people? I’m certainly not defecting from the Jewish people and I’m certainly not even defecting from Judaism because I think Judaism is carried over into the Church. I haven’t felt less Jewish being in the Church. I think I learn more about the Jewish traditions every day at Mass.
Religious rabbinical Judaism is not dead in America, but it is ailing. It is not therefore surprising that so many of that community’s pious and wise are converting to Christianity. Not since the first century of the Great Commission have Christians been so positively focused on the rabbinical community, and their recent openness, interest, and charitable disposition toward the children of Jacob have likely made the journey easier. I suspect that most rabbinical Jews still consider Christianity through tribal lenses rather than theological ones. Such explains the reactions of Arkes’ family members and much else. Alexandrine Judaism, with its philosophical and theological emphases, readily accepted the Gospel. The rabbinical tradition, reactive against the Greco-Roman world, refused the universal messianic message as part and parcel of filthy goy corruption. Secular atheists of Hebraic lineage may appear far removed from the spirit of Jabneh, but they retain that ancient mindset, though ridiculously inconsistently. Men are always somewhat arbitrary and moved by matters of convenience when they apply their principles, especially when justifying their stance toward allies and enemies.
Happy Bright Monday! Christ is risen!
Last month, the planning commission for a new Russian Orthodox Center in Paris announced the winning design by the Arch Moscow Group. You may read about the project in Le Parisien, “Centre orthodoxe russe à Paris : voici le projet retenu” or on Muuuze, “Centre orthodoxe par SADE – Arch Group.” The Moscow based model workshop ABTB also has several models of the complex.
When Fr. Hans posted the story on the A.O.I. Observer, my interest in matters French and Russian compelled me to write: “Highly Visible Russian Church to be Built in Paris.” Here is an edited version of my comments, which allowed me to indulge the white person pleasure of mentioning one’s time abroad:
When I read about this yesterday, I had mixed emotions. It somewhat reminds me of Wright’s Greek Orthodox Church. For a contemporary structure, it is not terrible, but why do architects feel the need to dare something unprecedented? It’s a symptom of modern artistic narcissism. The temple itself actually looks normal, though covered with a lace structure. I suppose that it is a compromise, which allows the builders to justify traditional architecture. The lace structure might have solar panels; if so, it is the least ugly and obtrusive way of having such panels that I have seen. Moreover, the cover might be useful for processions on rainy days. The gardens look nice. Modern design can look less sterile and offensive when it incorporates gardens, and Paris excels at this combination, as you can see in the new parks from the last few decades.
I lived in Paris, and I know that it would have been nice to have a Russian parish on the Left Bank. Alexander Nevsky and Saint Sergius are charming but not terribly convenient for folks south of the Seine. As rue Daru continues to be under the Ecumenical Patriarch, I wonder if this new center is Moscow’s way of reasserting authority over the Russo-French community. Speaking of which, are there any plans to “reabsorb” the Russian Orthodox in Western Europe? Or is the Exarchate happy to stay under the E.P.?
[In the post, Fr. Hans shared his aversion to the Centre Pompidou.] By the way, Father, I think that most Parisians like the Centre Pompidou. It usually has a lot going on that’s free, and the fountains are interesting. It always reminded me of a hamster habitrail for people. I did have a prof that frequently complained about it, as she liked the old Beaubourg houses. What the older Parisians really hate is the destruction of Les Halles–the market that they miss much.
As I was reading various articles on the web about the new Russian Center, I was shocked at how many Frenchies were complaining in the comment sections about the “double standard” that they see where mosques are socially condemned and discouraged but this Russian Center is being celebrated. I never would have thought of that. Of course, there is no demographic threat from Russian immigrants; Eastern European hordes are not radically changing French cities. Moreover, France and Russia have had a special relationship for centuries, and aside from a few spats here and there (Shorty’s invasion of the Motherland, for example), their history has been amicable. Consider the temples that the Romanovs financed as well as the splendid Pont Alexandre III. Orthodox Russia is closer to Roman Catholic France than the alien people, religion, and ways of the Maghreb. Moreover, Russkies have not repeatedly bombed Parisian metro stations and set fire to the suburbs, and that might make people besides the Front National a bit apprehensive. Regardless, the French Left does not like to discriminate, and so they issue charges of hypocrisy.
I encountered the wonderful consequences of France’s vibrant diversity when Algerians bombed the Port Royal RER station just as I was dining with some friends at a student restaurant that overlooked the station. I also witnessed the benefits of such diversity when thugs des banlieues would occasionally assault my French copains, who would return home bruised and bloodied, though the police were not that interested once they discovered what the perpetrators were. I personally never had trouble with the Algerians in Paris as I frequently visited Arab neighborhoods to eat the best couscous dishes that I have ever tasted for drastically less money than standard Parisian restaurants. I spent dozens of evenings in the tea room of the Grande Mosquée de Paris while chatting with friends and enjoying cheap delicious pastries. I also occasionally visited l’Institut du monde arabe. Overall, I had a rather positive experience of the Franco-Arab scene. My negative incident with the Mohammedans occurred in the slums of Brussels, but that is another story.
On a lighter note, for more S.W.P.L. laughs regarding white people’s overseas adventures, read “Travelling”and “Japan.” As always, Christian Lander delivers perspicacious humor.
Christ is risen!
Have a wonderful feast of feasts!
I wish everyone a blessed Holy Thursday.
I wanted to know the origin of Maundy Thursday. The Repository of Knowledge Wikipedia states:
Most scholars agree that the English word Maundy in that name for the day is derived through Middle English, and Old French mandé, from the Latin mandatum, the first word of the phrase “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos” (“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you”), the statement by Jesus in the Gospel of John (13:34) by which Jesus explained to the Apostles the significance of his action of washing their feet. The phrase is used as the antiphon sung during the “Mandatum” ceremony of the washing of the feet, which may be held during Mass or at another time as a separate event, during which a priest or bishop (representing Christ) ceremonially washes the feet of others, typically 12 persons chosen as a cross-section of the community.
Others theorize that the English name “Maundy Thursday” arose from “maundsor” baskets, in which on that day the king of England distributed alms to certain poor at Whitehall: “maund” is connected with the Latin mendicare, and French mendier, to beg. A source from the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod likewise states that, if the name was derived from the Latin mandatum, we would call the day Mandy Thursday, or Mandate Thursday, or even Mandatum Thursday; and that the term “Maundy” comes in fact from the Latin mendicare, Old French mendier, and English maund, which as a verb means to beg and as a noun refers to a small basket held out by maunders as they maunded. The name Maundy Thursday thus might arise from a medieval custom whereby the English royalty handed out “maundy purses” of alms to the poor before attending Mass on this day.
May everyone have a good Paschal Triduum!
I hope that everyone is having blessed holy week.
Last month, Fr. John Zuhlsdorf commented on an article by Louis Verrecchio who wonders about the connection between the liturgical woes of the Roman Church following the Second Vatican Council and the widespread moral confusion and apostasy among the children of that community. You may read Fr. John’s “Did liturgical optionitis and degraded liturgy lead to dissent about morality?” and Mr. Verrecchio’s piece at the Catholic News Agency, “Liturgy’s effect on gay ‘marriage’ debate.”
The Christian experience of two millennia has vouchesafed the trustworthiness of the principle lex orandi, lex credendi. If we destroy one, the other will follow in its ruin.