Of good report

Murillo, Rebecca and Eliezer, 1650

Rebecca and Eliezer (1650), by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

—Philippians 4:8

I’m having a pretty good day. So I thought I would share a few good things that are going on now.

    The First Hebrew Primer

  • Part of my penance this week is to devote a considerable length of time to spiritual study — a burden on my time but a joy to my soul. And so, in addition to my studies of the daily readings and working my way through the Old Testament, I thought it would be a good time to dust off my Hebrew book, a study that would be of great benefit to my understanding of Scripture. I started working through the book (Simon, Reznikoff, and Motzkin’s The First Hebrew Primer) right before I began grad school, and got through the first few chapters — enough to know the alphabet — before the grad school monster clobbered me. I am reviewing now and planning to advance further, and I’m glad to find that I still have the basic skills I attained before (reading and writing right to left, understanding and writing the alphabet). It’s mentally exhausting, but exciting!

  • Just for the heck of it, I refreshed my memory of the Roman calendar, to date the headings of my Hebrew notebook (it was originally a Latin notebook). Hodie est dies Martis, ante diem XIX Kalendis Septembris, anno Domini MMXII, sive MMDCCLXV ab urbe condita. I should probably pick up the Hebrew calendar now, too.

  • Speaking of Latin: this is a pretty wonderful find on Google Books: A Copious and Critical English-Latin Lexicon (1849), by the Reverends Riddle and Arnold. Ah, I love free, old books, especially when they are as rich a trove as this.

  • Esplorazioni 1

  • Speaking of Rome: I received on interlibrary loan two massive red tomes — not from Rome, from Emory University; but originally from Rome: Esplorazioni sotto la Confessione di San Pietro in Vaticano (1951) — the official report of the excavations under St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican uncovering the tomb of St. Peter. This is it. Contained herein are a wealth of technical descriptions, diagrams, and photographs: this is the primary source on which all the books I’ve read so far are based. One challenge: it’s in Italian. But that will only add to the adventure of exploring the scavi in greater depth and unlocking their mysteries.

    (My desk is never really this neat. I shuffled off the contents just to take these pictures.)

    Below are a few quick snapshots from the books. I hope to be able to share some more highlights in the weeks to come.

    Esplorazioni 2 Esplorazioni 3 Esplorazioni 4
  • Do you like the paintings I post on here? WikiPaintings.org has fast become one of my favorite websites ever. The wiki’s goal is nothing less than to collect and catalog high-resolution images of the works of all the masters; to tag them and document them and share them. I post images from it almost daily. Whoever uploaded the great collection of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo is singularly responsible for bringing him, in the course of a few months, from being unknown to me to being one of my favorite painters ever.

  • Ware, The Orthodox Church

  • I’m reading a wonderful book on the Orthodox Church, The Orthodox Church by Metropolitan Timothy (Kallistos) Ware. I am not very far in (past the Seven Councils), but he is delightfully snooty toward the Roman Catholic Church and toward the non-Chalcedonian Orthodox, who don’t count.

All right. There are many other great things to share, but I will save some for tomorrow! Other things to do.


Adoration of the Shepherds

Gerard van Honthorst. Anbetung der Hirten (Adoration of the Shepherds). Oil on canvas, 1622.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
—Isaiah 9:6 ESV

Merry Christmas!

It’s been a busy season, though thankfully not as frantic as it has been in recent years. We are mostly staying put for once. I am home with my family, and we are having most of the family Christmas gatherings at our house. Friday night we had the extended family Christmas party, which brought the most people this house has seen in twenty years. Last night, Christmas Eve, was a quiet evening with the immediate family. I attended a vigil Mass at the local parish. This morning I opened gifts with the immediate family (way too much stuff for my liking, but I can’t complain), and my aunt and uncle and cousins are coming over for Christmas dinner and festivities with my mother’s side of the family. Tomorrow we will travel to have Christmas with my father’s side of the family.

My family is apparently still uncomfortable buying Catholic gifts for me. My dad did, however, give me an ESV Bible with Apocrypha, which I discovered only a week or two ago. The English Standard Version is my favorite Bible translation; my good (Protestant) study bible is ESV. One of these days I’m going to write about Bible translations here. The ESV wasn’t originally translated with the Apocrypha (including the Catholic Deuterocanon), and its absence was one of the main things that gave me pause about keeping the ESV my primary translation. Now (well, 2009) Oxford University Press has organized and published an ESV translation of the Apocrypha, and my translation is complete.

Thrifting Harvest, Christmas Eve 2011

My Christmas Eve thrifting harvest (zoomable)!

I also had a glorious thrifting harvest yesterday! One of the local Catholic parishes, I’ve discovered, clears out their “dated” books fairly often and brings them to one particular store. And apparently there is a paucity of Catholic nerds who frequent that store: I always rack up. Among my acquisitions this time: a four-volume set of The Liturgy of the Mass by Fr. Pius Parsch, a leading figure of the Liturgical Movement; a cool illustrated catechism; a Challoner-Rheims New Testament; a pretty picture book about Fatima; a scholarly examination of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus; a collection of St. Paulinus of Nola‘s poems; and books by St. Augustine, St. Alphonsus Liguori, Cardinal Newman, Fr. Merton, and more. Also, some pretty great Protestant books: a synopsis of the Gospels by Kurt Aland; a survey of Protestant thought and writings by Alister McGrath; and a defense of the Resurrection by Norman Geisler. Whew!

This parish, in my hometown, is only the second one I’ve been to as a nascent Catholic; I visited here once before a few months ago. I am not here to be critical, but I much prefer my spiritual home at school. The music here was a mess. But the Mass is still the Mass. The words of the liturgy are powerful, no matter who intones them; Christ visits us in the Eucharist, no matter what priest celebrates it and no matter where we ourselves may be visiting. This is one of the things I love about Catholicism most of all: it is not about the man at the front of the church; it’s about the Man at the Head of the Church. I go to Mass not to hear a likable preacher or enjoyable music; I go to partake in Holy Communion with Jesus Christ.

May you all have a blessed Christmas.