Friday, July 20, 2012

Everything Wrong With The Dark Knight Rises

I've decided to make what I'm sure will be the first of many posts on this much-anticipated movie a kind of list of reactions. Which are in no particular order. Make of it what you will:


  1. Pacing.
  2. Tone.
  3. Maniacal supervillanry.
  4. Doomsday devices.
  5. Uncompelling action sequences.
  6. A much, much too brief "re-training" period for Bruce. (Screen-time, I mean. 3 months in a few minutes? Cue sit-up montage.)
  7. A much, much too brief parallel "under seige" period for Gotham.
  8. Lucius Fox and Commissioner Gordon are side-lined.
  9. "Get the President on the line," etc.
  10. The old "fly away from the city, detonating the bomb and sacrificing yourself" trope (or should I say cliché) already used once this year by Avengers.
  11. A half-assed romance with Miranda Tate that means nothing and goes nowhere.
  12. "The Bat." That's a big one.
  13. Political commentary.
  14. Camp.
  15. Cat-woman's goggle, ear, things.
  16. Yet again, Bane is really just a tool.
  17. Batman having gone into retirement period. Batman doesn't retire for 8 years, no matter how good it is. Come on.
  18. No redemption for Gordon.
  19. The trivialization of Alfred's mourning.
  20. Alfred pretty much just showing up a couple of times to have rushed conversations that culminate in him saying something profound and insightful and then walking away dramatically.
  21. The Bat Cave? Meh.
  22. Everything, I mean everything about the ending.
Right after The Dark Knight came out I said that Christopher Nolan is gonna do another one, and it's going to be too huge, have nine million villains, in other words, fall into all the same "traps" the third installments in superhero series are famously plagued with. But for Nolan these wouldn't be traps. He would manage to unite it all into one cohesive story which hit at the heart of Batman and morality and all that stuff we love Nolan for.

The verdict? Nope. He couldn't do it. Pretty good effort I have to say. Not fundamentally flawed, I don't think, just poorly executed. Most of all I think it's pretty clear that Nolan didn't really wanna make this movie.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Peter Jackson: The Next George Lucas

Further evidence that Mr. Jackson's losing his mind:

Peter Jackson On Doing Away With Miniature Photography For The Hobbit

Remember when Lucas did away with miniatures and conventional special effects in favor of computer animation? That turned out great! I call it "Skywalker Syndrome." So far it's produced the Prequel Trilogy and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull among others. Let's hope the Hobbit films aren't quite in that category, but it's looking worrisome.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Treasures Of The Anglican Patrimony: The Prayer Of Humble Access

Part One

The Prayer of Humble Access. What kind of a series on the Anglican Patrimony would this be if it had started anywhere else? I find that those who have little or no experience with Anglo-Catholicism often pick out this one prayer above all else. Rightly so, it's a fantastic example of everything the Anglican Patrimony is about: theocentricity, piety, meekness, contrition, hieratic language, beauty, eloquence, solemnity, nobility, and so on.

The Prayer of Humble Access was composed by Thomas Cranmer especially for the 1548 Communion Service and was later incorporated into the first Book of Common Prayer (BCP) the following year. Here's how it appeared initially (a contemporary transliteration follows the original):
"WE do not preſume to come to this thy table (o mercifull lord) truſting in our owne righteouſnes, but in thy manifold & great mercies: we be not woorthie ſo much as to gather up the cromes under thy table: but thou art the ſame lorde whoſe propertie is alwayes to have mercie: Graunt us therefore (gracious lorde) ſo to eate the fleſhe of thy dere ſonne Jeſus Chriſt, and to drynke his bloud in theſe holy Miſteries, that we may continuallye dwell in hym, and he in us, that our ſynfull bodyes may bee made cleane by his body, and our ſoules waſhed through hys moſt precious bloud. Amen."
"WE do not presume to come to this thy Table (O merciful Lord) trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We be not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the Flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his Blood, in these holy Mysteries, that we may continually dwell in him, and he in us, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his Body, and our souls washed through his most precious Blood. Amen."
The prayer was revised slightly for the 1662 Prayer Book (the book still in force in the Church of England), which is identical to the version that appears in both the 1928 American BCP and traditional language rite of the 1979 book:
"WE do not presume to come to this Thy table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under they table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his Body, and our souls washed through his most precious Blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen."
"Strange to say, it was in the Middle Ages, 'the Ages of Faith', that Communion [of the laity] was less frequent than at any other period of the Church's history," (Catholic Encyclopedia). It is likely that this was due largely to the influence of the development and prevalence of Jansenistic tendencies, many believing that they could never approach the Sacrament in confidence by virtue of their great unworthiness. While it is, of course, true that we shall never merit the great mercies which Christ deigns to bestow upon us, this does not mean we should not accept them when he does, provided we are aware of our unworthiness and properly disposed as a result. Aside from the stain of serious sin, it is the simple acknowledgement of our lowly estate that puts us in the right place to receive grace. That is humility, which is all God asks. This is, in fact, precisely what Saint Paul prescribes:
"Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we should not be judged," (1 Cor. 11:27-31).
One of the common tenets of the Reformation was the stress of more frequent Communion of the laity. To be sure the more radical strains, including that of Dr. Cranmer himself, emphasized this as a result of their belief that the Eucharist was not a recapitulation of the Sacrifice of Christ, but nothing more than a memorial meal. The "virtue [of the Eucharist] was limited to the receivers of the communion, and the laity derived no benefit from private masses performed by priests," (Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation, 1489-1556).

Of course the Reformers also called for a more central role for Holy Scripture in the life of the Church, and Saint Paul explicitly enjoins humility before the Lord's Table. If, as proper Bible-believing Christians, we are to obey this command, the laity ought to be given the opportunity to express this humility liturgically prior to their Communion, right? Well...yeah.

As with so many other things, for whatever reason Dr. Cranmer did what he did, the result is not only beautiful, but, in and of itself and leaving aside historical implications, doctrinally sound and praiseworthy. In this particular example, we can even see a direct fulfillment of the wishes of the the Council of Trent, which also sought to reform the Church, though whilst preserving unity and orthodoxy, of course. Consider the following prescriptions from the Council:
"'Frequent and daily Communion...should be open to all the faithful, of whatever rank and condition of life; so that no one who is in the state of grace, and who approaches the holy table with a right and devout intention, can be lawfully hindered therefrom.' (2) 'A right intention consists in this: that he who approaches the Holy Table should do so, not out of routine, or vainglory, or human respect, but for the purpose of pleasing God, or being more closely united with Him by charity, and of seeking this Divine remedy for his weaknesses and defects'. Rule 3 declares that 'it is sufficient that they (the daily communicants) be free from mortal sin, with the purpose of never sinning in future', and Rule 4 enjoins that 'care is to be taken that Holy Communion be proceeded by serious preparation and followed by a suitable thanksgiving, according to each one's strength, circumstances, and duties,'" (Catholic Encyclopedia).
In other words, the Reformers weren't all wrong. Funnily enough, the Prayer of Humble Access provides a near perfect liturgical expression of these Tridentine instructions. But more than that, it is beautiful. I can speak from experience, unlike many of the prayers of the current Ordinary Form, if one is paying attention at all, it is really very difficult to pray the Humble Access and not mean it; like all good prayer, it evokes that for which it is petitioning God. Of course, grace has something to do with it, but who's to say that the grace of God cannot be mediated to us through the agency of liturgical language itself? Isn't that just to say that there should be a reciprocal relationship between words and belief? Prayer and work? Liturgy and life?

Lex orandi, lex credendi.

Next Up: Choral Evensong

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Treasures Of The Anglican Patrimony: Introduction

In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI responded to the "repeated" and "insistent" requests of groups of Anglicans "to be received into full Catholic communion individually as well as corporately," with the promulgation of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus. The document provides for the erection of "Personal Ordinariates" around the world in which former Anglicans may enter the full communion of the Catholic Church, while still retaining what is good, true, and beautiful in the "patrimony" of historic Anglicanism.

Our Lady of Walsingham, Houston:
The Principal Church of the American Ordinariate
As the Holy Father says, the first and most important goal of this scheme was "to guarantee the unity of the episcopate and to preside over and safeguard the universal communion of all the Churches." As Fr. Z rightly likes to remind us so frequently, "Benedict is the Pope of Christian Unity." The reconciliation of what the Catechism calls the Church's "separated brethren," is of primary importance to the Holy Father because "every division among the baptized in Jesus Christ wounds that which the Church is and that for which the Church exists; in fact, 'such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages that most holy cause, the preaching the Gospel to every creature.'"

But, this was not the only goal. The Constitution says that the Holy See has also acted "so as to maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared." That last phrase is key. Soon after the promulgation of Anglicanorum coetibus many in the Church began to speak of Benedict's apparent plan for the "mutual enrichment" of various liturgical uses within the Latin Rite. Especially they point to the 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum that cleared the way for wider celebration of what that document termed the Extraordinary Form. But this also applies to the Anglican Use, most of whom are bringing with them a particular reverance and dedication to the Sacred Liturgy, amongst other things, which it seems the Holy Father would like to exert a "gravitational pull," to use Fr. Z's phrase, on the celebration of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Use.
The Westminster Abbey Choir at St. Peter's in Rome
Since then many have attempted to examine the nature of the Anglican Patrimony to which the Holy Father is referring, to determine what it is the Ordinariates are bringing to the Church, and why His Holiness is so enamoured of it. (So enamoured, in fact, that he issued a personal invitation to the Choir of Westminster Abbey to sing at St. Peter's for, not just any feast, but the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul! I find it astounding that this event went by largely unnoticed. It wasn't that long ago the English were still hanging, drawing and quartering Catholics after all.) Several laudable articles have been produced, including this one by one of the Episcopal Vicars of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham himself, Monsignor Andrew Burnham, this one by Shawn Tribe of New Liturgical Movement, and one by Dr. James Patrick of the Walsingham Society in four parts: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four.
While all of these efforts are certainly commendable, I like the notion that an essential part of the Anglican Patrimony is what's been referred to as the peculiar Anglican "ethos," and this can be very hard to pin down. It can be difficult to explain to a Roman Catholic exactly what it is about Anglicanism, especially Anglican liturgy, which is so beautiful. Nevertheless, this is an extermely important task. If the Holy Father's goal of mutual enrichment is to be realized, those in the Ordinariate must take it upon themselves to bring the gift of their Anglican heritage and traditions to the wider Church.
I think perhaps the best way to come to an understanding of the Anglican Patrimony is to experience it firsthand. So, in an attempt to contribute something in that vein, here beginneth a new series on PopSophia entitled "Treasures of the Anglican Patrimony," in which I shall present particular (especially liturgical) elements of our tradition and provide cursory examinations of the same.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...