On Metaphysics and Ethics

“Metaphysics is a necessary prerequisite of ethics. This truth is masked sometimes, since man, who carries within him the same realities – soul, freedom, the call of destiny – which metaphysics has to study and to know, and who thus lives the life of metaphysics before his mind has grasped its principles, man, I say, can afford the luxury of denying in theory the metaphysical truths of which in practice he makes considerable use. It is plain, however, that such a situation is not normal and that it is of supreme importance for man to take cognizance of all the things that are in him; and of the true dimensions of his being.”

Jacques Maritain, Freedom in the Modern World

The Transcendentals

Truth, goodness, and beauty are so fully transcendental properties of being that they can be grasped only in and through one another. In their communion, they furnish proof of the inexhaustible depth and overflowing richness of being. Finally, they show that in the end everything is comprehensible and unveiled only because it is grounded in an ultimate mystery, whose mysteriousness rests, not upon a lack of clarity, but rather upon a super abundance of light. For what is more incomprehensible than the fact that the core of being consists in love and that its emergence as essence and existence has no ground other than groundless grace?

Hans urs van Balthasar, Truth of the World

The Tunisian Option

From Oasis Magazine:

The creation of a moderate “European” Islam is an idea that is rapidly gaining ground following the events in Paris. The aim of such a project would be to counter the fascination that the bloodthirsty and radical version of Islam propagated by the Islamic State – and by al-Qaeda before it – exercises over the minds of young people, both in Europe and Arab and Islamic countries.

And yet, there’s no need to look so very far afield . . .

On blindness and true guides

“A blind man, if he be not quite blind, refuses to be led by a guide; and, since he sees a little, he thinks it better to go in whatever happens to be the direction which he can distinguish, because he sees none better; and thus he can lead astray a guide who sees more than he, for after all it is for him to say where he shall go rather than for the guide. In the same way a soul may lean upon any knowledge of its own, or any feeling or experience of God, yet, however great this may be, it is very little and far different from what God is; and, in going along this road, a soul is easily led astray, or brought to a standstill, because it will not remain in faith like one that is blind, and faith is its true guide.”

St. John of the Cross, Ascent of Mt. Carmel

The liturgy: foremost and indispensable

An Irish monk explains some liturgical differences:

“Jesuits, as practical individuals, are wont to pray privately in whatever posture a man finds congenial; there is a certain distrust of ritual, corporate ceremony, and rubrics. Nec cantat, nec rubricat. This approach to private prayer even affects the way certain Jesuit priests celebrate Holy Mass. Benedictines, on the whole, are wont to submit to whatever rites, ceremonies, and rubrics have been passed on to them. Schooled by long hours in choir, day after day, they habitually engage their bodies in a kind of sacred choreography that affects their most intimate yearnings Godward. Just as the Jesuit’s approach to personal prayer colours his approach to the liturgy, so too do a Benedictine’s liturgical instincts colour his personal prayer.”

On Divine Likeness

“As man’s distinction consists in a property which no other creature on earth possesses, viz., intellectual perception, in the exercise of which he does not employ his senses, nor move his hand or his foot, this perception has been compared – though only apparently, not in truth – to the Divine perception, which requires no corporeal organ. On this account, i.e., on account of the Divine intellect with which man has been endowed, he is said to have been made in the form and likeness of the Almighty, but far from it be the notion that the Supreme Being is corporeal, having a material form.”

Maimonides, A Guide for the Perplexed

Merit of the Call to Prayer (Adhān/Azān)

“Said the Prophet, on him be peace: ‘On the Day of Resurrection, three people will find themselves on a ridge of black musk. They will have no reckoning to fear, nor any cause for alarm while human accounts are being settled. First, a man who recites the Quran to please God, Great and Glorious is He, and who leads the Prayer to people’s satisfaction. Second, a man who gives the Call to Prayer in a Mosque, inviting people to God, Great and Glorious is He, for the sake of His good pleasure. Third, a man who has a hard time making a living in this world, yet is not distracted from the work of the Hereafter.’

“According to other Traditions, the Prophet, on him be peace, said: ‘All that hear the Muezzin’s cry, be they jinn, human or whatever, will testify for him on the Day of Resurrection.’ And: ‘The hand of the All-merciful is on the Muezzin’s head until he completes his Call to Prayer.’

“Commentators say that God, Great and Glorious is He, was referring to Muezzins when He revealed the Quranic Verse: ‘Who speaks better than one who calls to God and acts righteously?’ (Fussilat, 41:33)”

al-Ghazali, Inner Dimensions of Islamic Worship

Song of Toledo – Kindle, Nook and Paperback

Song of Toledo, a novel of 11th century Spain.

Now available on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.

Can a man go home again after fighting his own king?

The year is 1086, and for Brother Bernardo, who is accompanying the new archbishop of Toledo from the great monastery at Cluny back to the ancient capital of Hispania, that question is like a hammer blow sounding louder with each step he takes. Fourteen years ago, fleeing from the new ruler of the Christian realm, he abandoned his homeland, the defeated aide to an assassinated king. Now, following Alfonso VI’s historic victory over the Moors who have controlled Toledo for 300 years, Brother Bernardo is stepping back into a past he thought he had left behind forever.

Song of Toledo is the story of a man trying to find peace in a world that has changed in ways he never imagined possible. But it is also the story of Pelayo, the young novice whom Brother Bernardo takes on as a companion when he stops briefly at a small monastery along the way. Against his wishes, Pelayo is told he must accompany Brother Bernardo before he decides whether to take his vows and spend the rest of his life cloistered from the world. And it is the story of Faisal, the young Moor who has seen his beloved Tulaytula (Toledo) snatched from his people, shattering his own hopes for the future.

Written against the backdrop of the historical re-consecration of Toledo’s main mosque as a Christian cathedral, a time when the tide began to turn against centuries of Muslim domination of the Iberian peninsula, Song of Toledo follows the increasingly intertwined stories of Moors and Christians alike as they try to make sense of lives which are slipping, quickly and inexorably, out of their control.