Chaos; Child and the Creator-Creature Relationship

Theological questions are rather muted in Chaos; Child until the depths of Onoe and Takuru’s relationship is revealed at the end of the series.  The odd and poorly Englished subtitle to Chaos; Child reads: “If you are God, and the delusion becomes reality.  About what kind of noids you get?  Is it the sensual world?  The despotic society?  The destructive sanctions?  Or…”  Or, will your lust to solve a convoluted and macabre mystery materialize?  By the end, I realized that Takuru is essentially a God character and Onoe is his creature, created by his psychic powers during his hour of need in the Shibuya earthquake set off by the events of Chaos; Head.  For this reason, Takuru holds himself responsible for Onoe’s murders: they were committed to fulfill Takuru’s subconscious desire for solving a complex mystery and being a hero.

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The first thing to notice about Takuru’s Haruhi Suzumiya-esque existence is his intrinsically flawed godhood.  The real God does not need His creatures (Psalm 50:6 – 13) and His care of them is for the sake of their happiness, even if God delights in the happiness of His creatures.  Conversely, Takuru needs Onoe, and she exists for him to be happy and rejoices in Takuru’s happiness.  This reversal must happen whenever one incomplete being takes another incomplete being for its god.

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Reblog: Examining Light Novels: On Female Deacons

“Examining Light Novels” has returned to Beneath the Tangles!  I decided to write it on a somewhat contentious topic–at least, in Catholic circles.  The idea was mentioned in volume thirteen of Spice and Wolf.  I wonder what religious ideas the next volume will present the reader?

Click on the link below!

Examining Light Novels: On Female Deacons

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The Importance of a Personal Philosophy

The latest episode of 91 Days inspires this topic, especially in light of what happened at the end of that episode.  Angelo has lived without purpose for the seven years following the murder of his family.  He exists in a cheap apartment with no signs of individuality and makes a living through theft.  He constantly thinks about his one great treasure, his deceased family, and has no desire to really live.  This makes him easy to manipulate as Angelo becomes embroiled in the power struggle within the Vanetti mob.  While he shows himself resolute, resourceful, and tough, he soon becomes a pawn barely able to exercise his own will.

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The above shows the importance of having a personal philosophy and of being true to oneself.  Indeed, one cannot ever be true to oneself without some personal philosophy.  The most warped mindset is that of relativism, and the relativist stands as the most miserable of all men, because his stance changes with the zeitgeist.  In terms of mindset, a racist imperialist is superior to a relativist.  Sure, it’s an awful thing to judge other men purely on external characteristics and to support a program of conquest for the benefit of the fatherland.  But, the relativist can morph from a classical liberal to a socialist to a monarchist to a democrat depending on what the majority prefers.  In England, the relativist abhors female circumcision; in Indonesia, he deems it a cultural practice worthy of toleration.  Contention and ostracism are feared above all.  At least, the racist imperialist has objective standards which he is willing to fight for.  Also, because he has objective standards, the racist imperialist can be convinced that his objective standards are not true and be brought closer to the truth.  The relativist blows with the winds of expediency.

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Battles and Hope

Angry Thrust

We’re in the eighth week of the season, and I should write my mid-season review soon–perhaps this Sunday.  Yet, so many shows are about to expire on Hulu: Tide Line BlueProject ArmsMagic Knight Rayearth, etc.  My determination to at least sample from these fine old shows has inspired me to write the following article on Magic Knight Rayearth.  (Also, I did finish the Dirty Pair OVA, which I hope to review soon–and no, that show is not as bad as the title makes it sound.)  This series falls into the genres of shoujo and fantasy, along the lines of Pretear and Escaflowne.  (I apparently have completed five shows which fall into both categories, all of which have a rating of four stars or higher from me.)  Magic Knight Rayearth has greatly amused me by the realistic reactions of Umi and Fuu when faced with monsters: scream and run away!  (There is a reason why history has not recorded conquering armies of high school girls.)  However, Hikaru is much more spirited than the other two, and they are gradually rising to the challenge of saving the world from the evil Il Pallazo Zagato and his minions.

Shadowy Zagato

This manga from which this show is adapted was published in 1993, but its focus on hope, following one’s dreams, and the importance of will power manifest strong influence from the eighties.  The eighties were an incredibly upbeat time, which can be felt especially in its popular music, and that quality draws may people to have a fondness for that decade.  What made it so upbeat?  From an American perspective, I can point to two reasons: 1) economic prosperity and 2) Ronald Reagan.  The latter reason probably made someone’s eyes roll, so I shall endeavor to explain the mood of the country prior to his election, as I have gleaned it from books, my parents, and others who experienced them.  (I myself only lived through four of those years.)

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Observations on How Religion Rolls Back Superstition

Many watching Mayoiga have no doubt discerned that the characters are stupid.  Not that this sort of thing is rare in the horror genre, but here it should be pointed out that much of their stupidity derives from their superstitious ideas, which plainly comes forth in that most believe Masaki to be a ghost.  What is a ghost?  The soul or spirit of a deceased person.  It is in the nature of ghosts to be immaterial, and so they can’t be touched and don’t need food, which explains why Our Lord had St. Thomas the Apostle touch His wounds and why He ate fish before the apostles after His Resurrection.  I might add that one cannot tie up or wound ghosts either, as the protagonists of Mayoiga were able to do to Masaki.  The point of the above is that no Christian would take seriously the contention that Masaki was a ghost, but particular nonbelievers, lacking the education provided by the Faith, are more susceptible to superstition in this matter.

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The concept of religion guarding against superstition sounds odd to us: we’re trained to think of religion as promoting superstition.  Even in the days of Plutarch (c. 46 – c. 120 AD), the Romans were held to be superstitious by the Greeks because of their fervor for religion.  There are even some Catholic superstitions, which often base themselves on certain acts or rituals guaranteed to gain the object of our prayers.  In reality, there are several elements which much be present for a prayer to be effective, such as humility, devotion, confidence, necessity for salvation, and the will of God.  Believing a pious practice will obtain one’s prayers may increase one’s confidence and devotion, but without the other three conditions, one’s prayer will not be answered.  Sometimes a prayer to a lesser saint is more effective because one’s devotion to that saint is greater; but, as George MacDonald wrote, God would “instead of being a merciful Savior, be the ministering Genius of our destruction” if He answered every prayer exactly as we wished it.  Not everything we want advances our salvation or is in accord with God’s will.

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The Final Temptation of Jeanne D’Arc

In watching Shingeki no Bahamutsine dubio the best show of the past season, the temptation of Jeanne D’Arc struck me enough to produce the present article.  Their portrayal of demons and how they tempt people advancing in virtue is very true to reality.  Note well, the devil does not tempt everybody in the way that Jeanne was tempted but only the virtuous.

Jeanne at the stake

According to Aristotle, there exist four kinds of people in the quest for virtue.  Well, Aristotle does list two more; but one is a worse state of the vicious man, and the other is lukewarm.  Neither are especially important to my arguments here or to Aristotle himself.  The four classes consist of the vicious, the inconstant, constant, and the virtuous.  The vicious freely and painlessly commit sins out of habit; the inconstant fall often though they intend to do the right and are pained by their sins; the constant avoid wrongdoing even though the practice of virtue feels painful to them; and the virtuous joyfully and often painlessly do the right thing.  The devil does not bother to tempt the vicious, sometimes finds it necessary to tempt the second, fights against the progress of the third, and–in his bitterness at their good fortune–wages total war against those sane individuals who love the practice of virtue.

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Most of us are slightly insane in believing that sinful deeds are good for us.  We believe so either because of the pleasure obtained in the sinful act (occasions of lust, sloth, or gluttony come to mind) or because sinning appears to be to our advantage (e.g. theft or destroying a personal enemy’s reputation through slander and detraction).  On the other hand, the virtuous make for very difficult targets for the devil, because not only do their minds and will tend toward the right but even their affections and emotions.  Every sin repulses them, no matter how apparently advantageous or pleasurable, while the thought of any good deed spurs them to action no matter how arduous, self-effacing, or painful.  They possess true wisdom and solid good habits.  So how does the devil make war on them?

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We see the answer in Jeanne D’Arc’s temptation, which spans episodes nine and ten: the devil assaults them with darkness in order to take away their wisdom.  Not only does Martinet try to make the sinful desirable for Jeanne but even persuades her that goodness itself does not exist.  Martinet mocks her belief that she is a holy knight and states flatly that the gods have abandoned her.  Jeanne makes the fatal mistake, which everyone makes, of actually talking to the devil and engaging with his ideas instead of treating them with contempt.  Demons lack all wisdom and deal exclusively in lies–no matter how persuasive their words or how close they seem to match reality.  By engaging with them, we only become entangled and influenced by them.  Our Lord provides the perfect example of how to deal with devils when He does not permit them to speak (Mark 1:25 and 1:34).

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Shingeki no Bahamut‘s gods are finite beings; therefore, they did indeed abandon her.  However, when the devil tells us that God has abandoned us, we ought instead understand that the devil is panicking in seeing that God works ever more strongly in perfecting our souls.  In Jeanne’s case, Martinet even resorts to impersonating the gods in order to induce despair into her soul.  I can think of two saints against whom the devil has impersonated Our Lord: St. Martin of Tours and St. Padre Pio.  The people of St. Martin’s time esteemed him as equal to the apostles.  Padre Pio is the greatest saint of modern times.  Both saw through the devil’s schemes.  The more hotly pursued we are by evil, the more tightly God binds us to Himself: “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:29).

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Sadly, Jeanne allows her mind to become so disturbed by the abandonment of the divine and the problem of evil that she drinks Martinet’s poison.  Similarly, if we allow despair and distrust of God to guide our choices, we shall doff our wisdom, imprudently indulge our senses, and eventually drink the poison of the vices.  Fortunately, such failings do not turn us instantly into demons!  But, how shameful for someone who has been given so many graces and the honor of participating more in Christ’s Passion than other people to not only distrust God but to show Him scorn!  Surely, God will bring down many punishments upon such people and abandon them to the deepest hell!

Our Lord Jesus Christ descending into hell on Good Friday.  He grasps Adam by the hand in order to lead him to paradise.

Our Lord Jesus Christ descending into hell on Good Friday. He grasps Adam by the hand in order to lead him to paradise.

No, God is infinitely more merciful than even St. Michael in Shingeki no Bahamut.  As St. Bernard of Clairvaux writes, “When we fly from Thee, Thou pursue us; when we turn our backs, Thou present Thyself before us; when we despise Thee, Thou entreat us; and there is neither insult nor contempt which hinders Thee from laboring unweariedly to bring us to the attainment of that which the eye has not seen, nor ear heard, and which the heart of man cannot comprehend.” People are weak and ignorant, stray from the truth, and sin.  However, God is ever faithful, even if we are unfaithful: “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13).  God Himself restores the light lost amidst darkness and the faith lost in bitter trials.  This restoration may take a long time, but we are assured to be more blessed then than we were before–as was the case with Job.  No matter how dark and bitter our present circumstances, God never swerves from being generous, good, merciful and caring.

Nisemonogatari and Being a Phony

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I mentioned in my post before I traveled across half the country that I was watching Nisemonogatari, which might be translated as “Tale of the Fakes” or “Tale of the Phonies.”  Watching through episode seven made me ponder just what a phony was in Nisemonogatari’s book.  The ideas surrounding the issue reminded me of this great passage from Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment.  Razumihin begins berating Raskolnikov by saying:

“Well, go to hell then,” he said gently and thoughtfully. “Stay,” he roared, as Raskolnikov was about to move. “Listen to me. Let me tell you, that you are all a set of babbling, posing idiots! If you’ve any little trouble you brood over it like a hen over an egg. And you are plagiarists even in that! There isn’t a sign of independent life in you! You are made of spermaceti ointment and you’ve lymph in your veins instead of blood. I don’t believe in anyone of you! In any circumstances the first thing for all of you is to be unlike a human being!…And if you weren’t a fool, a common fool, a perfect fool, if you were an original instead of a translation…”

Only Dostoyevsky could pose this problem so well: “If only you were an original instead of a translation…”  The reason Raskolnikov stopped being human is because he murdered an old woman for money and a sense of power.  His crime destroys his humanity.

Kaiki

One character in Nisemonogatari who fits the same description is Kaiki the con artist.  Sin detracts from our humanity and thus from our originality.  Of course, “errare est humanum,” but sins are sins because they make us less than who we were meant to be.  Our Lord came to deliver us from sin, and we slowly walk, slip, fall, and stand back up again on the way of perfection until we see the image and likeness of God made perfect in us in heaven.  In our perfection according to God’s image and likeness lies our originality.

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But, I do think Nisemonogatari distinguishes between two kinds of fakes: the completely fake and the almost original.  Kaiki, because of his preference for money over the service of God and his fellow man, is a complete phony.  He introduces himself as Kaiki with the kai spelled as the clam/kai in “a mound of clams” and the ki as the ki/tree in “a dead tree.”  This brings to my mind Our Lord’s cursing of the fig tree.  The fig tree did not produce fruit when our Lord needed it, so it was cursed with barrenness.  Kaiki imitates the clam in its refusal to offer itself: Kaiki refuses to offer his talents for the good of his fellow man.  Also, like a dead tree, he bears no fruit.  A perfect name for a villain!

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Yet, a different sort of fake is symbolized by Karen Araragi.  She is almost original in that we see her using her talents for the good of others.  Where she lacks originality, as her brother aptly notes, is that she has appropriated other people’s desires and does not know what she really wants.  She merely plays.  But, her play reveals that her talents are genuine, which indicates that her true calling is not far from her play.  One day, she shall discover the true purpose her martial talents and give up her play as a seigi no mikata–ally of justice.

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And the majority of humanity undergoes the same struggle as Karen in finding their true purpose.  People try to advise us to take one path or another, but we can ever only truly find our path through looking at our own hearts and praying to the God who made us all originals.

On the Communion of Saints

I’ve tried twice to write the present article.  Neither scribbling quite satisfied me, and so I just decided to ramble and hope for the best.  Through the prayers of St. Ignatius of Loyola, whose natalis we celebrate today, may this ramble on the Communion of Saints benefit my dear readers!  Speaking of my dear readers, thanks to those who commented on my last article and made me think more deeply about the points I tried to make.  Your thoughtful observations rendered the comments section more interesting than the article itself!

All-Saints

At any rate, how are Christians benefited by the Communion of Saints?  And who makes up the Communion of Saints?  All the Faithful make up this body, whether on Earth, in Heaven, or in Purgatory.  (Protestants and Orthodox included, as to be baptized is to be made one with the Body of Christ.)  The Communion of Saints forms a bulwark against worldliness.  Meditation on the example and desires of the saints insulate us both against worldly desires and the despair which often threatens us during grave trials.

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That the Communion of Saints keeps our eyes fixed on the King of the Saints, Our Lord Jesus Christ, may especially be seen in the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola.  Those familiar with his life know that chivalric literature influenced St. Ignatius as a youth to seek military glory.  His brave career as a soldier ended at the Battle of Pamplona, where a cannonball wounded him in both legs.  This led to a long period of recuperation and agonizing surgery, which he endured most manfully.  While convalescing,  he wished to read more books on chivalry, but was told by his caretakers that they place where he stayed only had the Bible and the Lives of the Saints.  He read these and soon found himself fired by the love of God and the desire to imitate the saints.  He wrote down the words of Jesus Christ in a red pen and the words of St. Mary in blue in order to make them a constant meditation.  Upon recovery, he forsook a life in the world in order to pursue one of prayer, fasting, and poverty.  Eventually, St. Ignatius founded the Society of Jesus, whose members, the Jesuits, stand as one of the most prominent religious orders in the Church.

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We, like St. Ignatius, are born into the world and find ourselves influenced by it.  It is very easy for us to become enmeshed in mere daily living and worldly desires.  The end result is losing all taste for religion.  After all, does not BIBLE stand for Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth?  Heaven can wait.  We have decades before we need to meet our Maker!  We can put off prayer, fasting, and almsgiving for later.  A person with such attitudes has already been enmeshed in the world, and stands the chance of losing eternal life.

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After St. Ignatius’ conversion, he never looked back.  The reason is because he took up the desires of the saints.  The saints’ desire for holiness and eternal life replaced his desire for worldly glory.  Though the latter part of his life was spent in society (Ignatius lived as a hermit for a short while), keeping mindful of God and the Saints preserved him from adapting the desires of secular persons.  As he writes in his Spiritual Exercises:

Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul.

The other things on the face of the earth are created for man to help him in attaining the end for which he is created.

Hence, man is to make use of them in as far as they help him in the attainment of his end, and he must rid himself of them in as far as they prove a hindrance to him.

Therefore, we must make ourselves indifferent to all created things, as far as we are allowed free choice and are not under any prohibition. Consequently, as far as we are concerned, we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short life. The same holds for all other things.

Our one desire and choice should be what is more conducive to the end for which we are created.

Ignatius always remembered that he was a child of God with an eternal inheritance.  In comparison to eternal life, all else is dross.

Though intimate with the King and noble society, St. Thomas More valued riches and status as nothing compared to God and the Truth.  A great example of living in the world but not being of it.

Though intimate with the King and noble society, St. Thomas More valued riches and status as nothing compared to God and the Truth. A great example of living in the world but not being of it.

The whole trick to living in the world but not being of it resides in remembering to which community we belong.  Though we love and respect our secular friends and wish for them to gain the same end we hope for, it is necessary for us to avoid falling into the same errors as they do–especially the error that religion holds no relevance to everyday life.  The words and deeds of the saints–and indeed the saints themselves–can be brought into our daily lives.  In our imitation of the saints, the charity and virtue we show may even be instrumental in drawing secular persons to our society.

May St. Ignatius pray that we all arrive where he and the other saints praise Our Lord through the ages of the ages.  Amen.

On Vanity

Though the Lincoln Island episodes (I love the nod to Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island) of Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water stand as some of the most ridiculous and boring episodes of anime (John Samuel even advised me to spare myself the pain of watching them), they at least inspired the present article on vanity.  You see, Nadia has an absurd attachment to her vegetarian and technophobic ways.  Now, there is nothing wrong with with either declining to eat meat or preferring low tech or archaic things.  These are personal choices, the first perhaps makes for a healthier lifestyle and the latter less slavery to technology.  Problems arise, however, when the person ceases to believe that these things are personal choices, but rather the only correct choices for everybody.  In the anime, we see Nadia calling Jean a bad person for eating meat and exclaiming that Marie is on her way to fiery damnation for her carnivorous ways.

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It sometimes surprises me that Nadia can be so likable with all her vanity and pride, but elevating one’s personal preferences to the objectively best manner of thinking is a common fault.  In the Gospels, we see the Pharisees do this when they complain of the Apostles eating with unwashed hands as if they have committed a terrible transgression.  In our own time, we can point to various snobs who vaunt their peculiarities over the erring ways of the rest of humanity: vegans, vegetarians, non-smokers, teetotalers, hybrid car drivers, anti-hunters, anti-gunners, literary snobs, wine snobs, health fanatics, exercise fanatics, tea connoisseurs, fountain pen connoisseurs, art enthusiasts, classical music enthusiasts, people who use organic foods only, cigar snobs, cosmopolitans, nationalists, intellectuals, otaku, lengthy anime series haters, popular anime series haters, and the list might go on forever.  All the above are personal inclinations–no more that that.  If someone tries to argue that these choices are clearly superior to other choices, intelligent people can easily peg them as a snob.  Why does following a particular fad or predilection so easily make people believe they are superior to people following different fads or predilections?

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But, my favorite feature of human vanity is the anti-snobbery snob.  This occurs when a person develops opposite habits to those whom he perceives to be snobs in order to further disassociate with them: eating red meat with every meal, never buying organic products, having one beer a day, owning a gas guzzling truck, having animal trophies in every room, refusing to read literature, never touching wine, etc.  Avoiding the arrogance of the snobs often causes one to become a snob oneself–and occasionally to one’s detriment.  When I advised one person to use a glass mug with his craft beer, he deliberately picked up a plastic mug and would not change his mind!  Why?  What pleasure is there in putting one’s lips to a plastic mug rather than a glass one except whatever pleasure anti-beer connoisseur snobbery affords?

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In the case of reverse snobbery, I confess myself to have fallen into such concerning alcohol.  The only creature worse than a wine snob is a teetotaling snob: the wine snob is superior to you because his tastes are more refined; the teetotaling snob claims moral superiority over his fellows.  Reading about the Temperance movement birthed this anti-snobbery.  After all, we see that people in the Temperance movement resorted to violence in order to further their goals, founded religions with teetotalism as a fundamental tenet, lied to influence the passage of Prohibition, and made clearly exaggerated claims against drinkers–such as that drinking was un-American.  (Those German and Irish immigrants were terrible drunks, you know!  But, I don’t think the per capita consumption of 18 gallons of pure alcohol at the beginning of the 19th century can be laid entirely on Germans and Irish.)  Meeting and listening to people whose teetotalism was infected by moral superiority helped my prejudice along.  Only in the last three years have I softened my discrimination against non-drinkers as I met people whose teetotalism was unmixed with hauteur.

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However, perhaps the worst forms of snobbery and anti-snobbery find themselves in the realm of religion.  The groups having members most likely to be guilty of this are atheists, militant agnostics, Catholics, fundamentalist Protestants, Anglicans, and Western followers of Eastern religions.  Of course, believers and proponents of these systems can wrongly be perceived as arrogant merely because they believe their ideas are true–especially with the plague of relativism affecting the modern world.  But, some proponents of these worldviews go further than that.  They despise people of other backgrounds as backwards, uneducated, unthinking, unintelligent, unsophisticated, or morally defective.  They say to themselves, “If those people were not so stupid, stubborn, or wicked, surely they would believe what I believe!”  The worst thing about the arrogance of these people is that they drive away people who would otherwise be interested in the Faith.  (For obvious reasons, I am not as concerned about arrogant atheists or agnostics.)  When the stench of arrogance surrounds anything, people not inclined to examine it–whether it be Bordeaux or dogma.

Medieval Otaku Takes a Holiday

Well, dear readers, as you can see from the title, I have decided to place this blog on hiatus until the 151st anniversary of the start of the Battle of Gettysburg.  (To write more succinctly, July 1, 2014)  My posts feel belabored of late.  This means I need to perfect my hurricane before I can serve some refreshing articles to you.  After all, my best articles require me to make connections between anime, literature, and religion.  This leads me to the conclusion that I must use my leisure to study these things more; but, I want to leave you all with a final ramble.

Medieval Feast

While reading St. Thomas Aquinas’ On Prayer and the Contemplative Life, I discovered the three etymologies he offered for religion.  He draws the first from Cicero, who gives relegere, “to read again,” as the basis for the word religion, since the religious man reads things pertaining to worship repeatedly.  The next two come from the hand of St. Augustine, who claims that religion either derives from religere, “to choose again,” orthe most famous derivation–religandum, “binding again.”  The religious man chooses again those things which he has lost by his negligence–prayer, charity, virtue, holiness, etc.–and binds himself once more to the divine.  The three words above recall that religion is about perseverance.  If someone could be virtuous and follow all the precepts of the Church without effort, would we call them religious?  Maybe, but the man who falls and continues to turn back to Christ and metanoiein–to have a change of heart–every day strikes me as more religious.  Even Our Lord and Lady struggled in the maintenance of their spotless characters.

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People mess up, but God is always ready for our repentance–yet another important religious concept beginning with the prefix re-.  Let us use the month of June, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, to once again study His life, choose again the virtue, wisdom, knowledge, and grace contained therein, and bind ourselves yet again to the Fire of Divine Love emanating from this Heart.  We have already celebrated the feasts of Pentecost and Trinity Sunday.  Let us now prepare ourselves to remember Corpus Christi (June 22) and the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24).  Then, this month will end with the feasts of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (June 27), Immaculate Heart of Mary (June 28), and Sts. Peter and Paul (June 29).  Let us remember the two hearts which love us best and the Church through which the fruits of Christ’s Sacred Passion purify and make fervent the hearts of believers daily.

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Besides my wish to study more some literature and religion, I hope to do away with my need for watching anime with subtitles by the end of the month.  In my last experiment, I found Manga-san to Assistant-san to easy to understand, Nisemonogatari ranging from average to impossible, and, at the beginning of Soredemo Sekai ga Utsukushii episode 9, I just caught the word tabi, “journey,” and realized that it was too hard.  May that give you an idea of my present listening skills!  To the end of improving them, I’ll study my kanji learner’s dictionary and read Busou Renkin and Slayers.  (I read only the finest literature, you see. 🙂 )  If I want to add something hard, Kinoko Nasu’s Kara no Kyoukai or Natsume Soseki’s Within My Glass Doors will find their way on my reading list.

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You’ll still see me posting about literature and poetry on Aquila et Infans or American history and politics on Aquilon’s Eyrie.  Hopefully, these efforts will generate more interesting things to read by July 1st.  Should some kind individual claim that my articles are still interesting, I must also confess to wanting a break from this blog–even if just for about a fortnight.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus bless and keep you all!

Two Year Anniversary!

Well, dear readers, somehow I have managed to keep writing about anime and religion for two years.  This blog has narrowed its focus from all my hobbies and interests to mostly anime and religion.  After all, you won’t find articles like this on here anymore: Exploring the Brews of the Victory Brewing Company.  Though, you might find me writing about tea again.  And a couple of my reader’s favorite posts were on literature, but now I write about that in Aquila et Infans.  Here are two examples:

1) Fiction’s Raison d’Etre

2) Encore Une Autre Raison D’Etre pour Fiction

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Reading Froggy-kun’s post about what he looks for in an anime review made me think about my favorite type of article.  I prefer to pick up a thread in a particular anime and run with it rather than giving a thorough review.  When I try to give a review covering all aspects of a show, I usually miss some aspects or the article becomes scatterbrained or dull.  My “Hidden Gems of Anime” series shows this: Gokudo and Innocent Venus.  (You can see that I wrote them back at the time when I didn’t believe in using pictures.  My opinion on that changed a great deal!)  On the other hand, the articles focusing on a particular theme of a show feel like they’re written better, as is shown by the following:

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1) Applying the Feminist and Mimetic Lens to Iria: Zeiram the Animation (My favorite post which hardly anyone read.  Every blogger has at least one.)

2) Mirai Nikki: The Heretic Successor of Elfen Lied (A favorite post which everyone seems to have read at least once. xD )

3) Kiba and Cheza’s Love as Symbolic of Jesus and Mary’s

4) The End of Samurai Deeper Kyo: All About Heart

5) Is Sexuality Natural or Aquired?: No. 6’s Take on the Issue

6) Dusk Maiden of Amnesia and the Problem of Pride

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But, this site also finds itself dedicated to Christian spirituality–specifically Catholic spirituality, but I hope my articles profit my Protestant and Orthodox readers.  (Do I have any Orthodox readers?  Not to my knowledge, but maybe.)  I doubt that Medieval Otaku would be unique without articles such as these:

1) The Problem of Evil and Spiritual Envy

2) De Liberalitate et Peccato

3) Prayer Maxims from a Novice

4) Feast of St. Joseph the Worker

St. Joseph the Worker

Ah!  But, I must confess, my dear readers, that I fall so short of my own advice!  I ought to study my old articles again and reapply myself to the devout life!  Along with St. Jerome, I must exclaim: “Hypocrite reader – my fellow – my brother!”  Whatever is good in them is the result of grace rather than from my sinful mind.  I can say without much vanity that some of the articles are indeed very good.  To aid the process of my conversion, I’m going to confession today–perhaps the best way to mark a birthday:

5 Indeed, I was born guilty,
    a sinner when my mother conceived me.

You desire truth in the inward being;
    therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. (Psalm 51)

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Then, I am also grateful to this blog for introducing me to Sean Bishop.  I hope that his cartoon will be ready by the end of this year or the beginning of the next.  And then, I am especially grateful to those who still slog through so many of my lackluster articles to wait for the gems I occasionally produce; especially, TWWK of Beneath the Tangles, Genki Jason of Genkinahito, D. M. Dutcher of Cacao, Put Down the Shovel!, John Samuel of Pirates of the Burley Griffin, The Overlord Bear, David A, Zionista, Nami of The Budding Philosopher, Foxfier of Head Noises, Lee Relph of MIB’s Instant Headache, Japesland, Anime Commentary on the March, Naru of What is this “Culture” you speak of?, Cajun Samurai, Michelle Joelle of Soliloquies and GoodbyeNavi.  I suppose that’s all the people who have frequently commented on my blog.  I hope I didn’t miss anyone!  Anyway, without the interest shown by all my readers, I should never have continued writing for two years.

But, what would an anniversary post referring to all the above articles be without mentioning How to Weather the Anime Doldrums?  Even if that medium of anime, capable of producing some of the most extraordinary tales, begins to tire us, life is full of many other things to enjoy.

My Writing as a Hurricane

Well, dear readers, the lack of inspiration hitting me at the moment has caused me to ponder the ingredients in my writing style.  Why aren’t the juices flowing?  These thoughts and Froggy-kun’s article How Does Anime Influence Your Writing Style have engendered this article.  I have decided that the perfect metaphor for my writing is the hurricane.

Now, this is not the kind which destroyed New Orleans, but something of restorative value which is popular there: the fruity, tropical cocktail which my sister chides me for imbibing.  I needed to pick this cocktail because my usual choices are far too simple: a gin and tonic, a salty dog, a martini, a manhattan, a negroni, or a scotch and soda contain too few ingredients.  (I listed these just to show you that I do usually tend to masculine side of the cocktail spectrum.)  The complexity of the hurricane seems to capture each facet of my writing without exceeding the number of ingredients–as would be the case in the Original Singapore Sling.  (I really want to order that one day!  Probably annoy the bartender unless he’s on the order of Ryuu Sasakura of Bartender.)  Here’s the recipe:

I prefer the Bacardi 8 year old myself.

I prefer the Bacardi 8 year old myself.

Continue reading

Inuyasha and Beating the Devil

Inuyasha stood as my third favorite anime, but finishing Inuyasha: The Final Act gives me no choice but to bump it back into second place ahead of Code Geass.  Yes, the final installment of the series was enough to cover for any faults in the first several seasons.  The whole series focuses on the battle between good and evil.  Such shows and books are a dime a dozen, but Inuyasha parallels reality closely enough to catapult it to greatness.  In particular, Naraku very nearly captures the attitudes and wiles of the devil, and Inuyasha and his friends show how to beat the devil.

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#1 Good always wins.

This is the first and most important rule.  One must always act with this truth in mind lest one be taken down by despair.  Even if we are plagued with defeats, we must remember that an All-Powerful and All-Merciful God desires to hand us the victory which He won for us, and so we have great reason to hope, do penance, and continue doing good.  Naraku in particular tries to fill Inuyasha and his friends with despair.

The only thing to do is to keep fighting without believing the evil one’s lies.  As St. Anthony of the Desert (from whom I draw many of these maxims) said, Christ has defeated Satan so that the devils are powerless–they can only threaten.  They are no more than playthings for us Christians no matter how frightful they appear.  Christ always is ready to give us the power for victory, unless too much pride prevents his grace from being efficacious in us.  But these very falls provide reason for humility and allow for us to be victorious through God’s grace later.

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#2 Evil is best fought by the greathearted virtues of faith, hope, charity, and courage.

We see this especially in scenes like Sesshoumaru unhesitatingly entering the insides of Naraku, who has become a giant spider, in order to save Rin or Inuyasha jumping into the underworld to save Kagome.  Also, the utter reliance Kagome places in Inuyasha offers us a great symbol of faith: she does not fear falling into dark abysses, knowing that Inuyasha will save her.  We Christians should also not fear the darkness, knowing that we not only have a powerful savior, but an omnipotent and omnibenevolent Savior.

Evil cannot be conquered by excessive anxiety or worrying.  This is the fault of scrupulous people.  (Yours truly is guilty as charged.)  If we have excessive worry in our hearts, the devil will play upon these fears until we cannot perceive real goods or begin to fall into more vices.  Yet, if our hearts are filled with faith, hope, charity, and courage, all hell breaking into pandemonium cannot scare us.  Hence, it is important to fight evil with the greathearted virtues.

St. Anthony the Abbot doesn't look scared at all, does he?

St. Anthony the Abbot doesn’t look scared at all, does he?

#3 Remember Mercy and show mercy.

We are all weak and fall often.  Therefore, it is important to show mercy to one another, and to hope for mercy–even though all mercy is unmerited.

This is exemplified by things like Kagome forgiving Inuyasha for wounding her–the lover forgives her beloved.  In a similar way, the Church is the Beloved of God, who is more infinitely merciful than any human lover; and so, we have full reason to hope in receiving God’s mercy.  Then, we also have Sesshoumaru’s forgiveness of Sango for attempting to cut down Naraku by cutting through Rin in order to save Miroku.  Fortunately, Rin is not cut down, and Sesshoumaru completely overlooked Sango’s sin, for which she confesses to deserve punishment.  Though there is no forgiveness scene, the fact that Sango has three children at the end proves that forgiveness must at least have been tacitly given.

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#4 Even though we fall, don’t surrender.

Consider the mistakes Inuyasha and the gang made above.  They do not excessively grieve over their faults as to stop trying.  Rather, they continue to fight and refuse to give in to despair.  Miroku and Sango are particularly anguished by the prospect of the wind tunnel devouring Miroku; but, refuse to give in to despair, even though they come very close.

We are only human beings, not angels after all.

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#5 The devil lies and ought not to be heeded, even when he speaks the truth.

The devil is “the father of lies.”  Therefore, he ought never to be heeded.  Even when he speaks the truth, it is so that he can twist it to his own deadly purposes later.  Thus, Jesus Christ even silences the devil when he truly calls Jesus the Holy One of God.

In the same way, Naraku constantly lies or uses the peril of the situations to induce despair.  Sesshoumaru is perhaps the best at picking up on Naraku’s lies, especially where he quietly ignores all the illusions Naraku places before him of Rin.  (Indeed, silence and a calm mind are two great weapons in the fight against evil.)  And Inuyasha has this great line: “I’m sick of listening to you!”  In the same way, we should ignore the evil one and live our daily lines focused on doing good and our duty.

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#6 Though victory is assured, the struggle will take a very, very long time.

Inuyasha ran for a good 56 volumes, 193 episodes, and four movies in toto.  The struggle against evil in our lives and against our own vices will continue until death.  But, we must imitate Inuyasha and his friends in fighting this battle with perseverance and magnanimity until all our vices are pulled up by the roots.  Our Savior wishes this very thing.

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#7 Evil is small-hearted, mean, essentially nothing, and for nothing.

Kagome beautifully brings this out in a speech toward the end of the final battle.  Naraku lives merely to destroy.  He destroys relationships, friendships, families, and lives; but, for what?  No benefit ever accrues to him except that hollowest of pleasures: the delight in seeing another’s pain.  In the same way, the devil is the hater of all good and so truly deserves to be despised.

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However, Kagome’s speech brings out a very sad point: Naraku, while still a man, desired to be loved by Kikyo, but he gave in to despair and envy, which allowed him to be possessed by demons.  There are even hints in the show that a part of him wants to be good and to love others.  Rather than follow these good impulses, he actively strives to eliminate them.  These choices resulted in him becoming the evil creature that he is.

Hence, though we can gaily trample upon the devil and his designs, we should pity and pray for our fellow men who have fallen so low.  Remembering that if not for the grace of God, we ourselves would be in the same sorry state.

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The Pride of Despair and Humility of Hope in Claymore

My last article comparing Attack on Titan and Claymore spurred me to re-watch the latter–the lackluster quality of much of recent anime helped me along too.  At this point, I have reached the siege of Pieta, where some of the most desperate fighting in the series occurs.  The anime brings us one poignant moment when Miria, the Claymore ranked #6 in the organization and leader of the desperate band of Claymores, utters a prayer that all the fighters might survive.  Then, she undercuts this prayer by chiding herself for thinking that there is a God.

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Interestingly, this points to a possible rift between the conscious mind and the spirit.  Hopeless conditions and misfortunes may overwhelm the mind such that it can barely or not at all cling to the the belief that God exists, but there exists something in the spirit which refuses to accept a Godless universe.  Or, the thought might even come that God does not listen to us, that we have been rejected by God.  Brother Lawrence, the famed subject of The Practice of the Presence of God, thought for two years of his life that he would be damned.  Can there be a worse feeling than this for a believer?   Yet, he entrusted his cause to God and the feeling dissipated.   In such darkness, we do not even want to pray anymore, but the cries still come, “God have mercy on us!” or “Lord, you are in the midst of us and we are called by your name.  Do not forsake us!” (Jeremiah 14:9)  We doubt the rationalism of such acts, but the deepest part of our soul nourishes the hope that these words mean something.

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Hope is the operative word: for, if God is infinitely good, we need not fear whatever happens to us.  He is a loving Father with infinite care for all His children, as George MacDonald loved to repeat.  Speaking of George MacDonald, he penned this interesting phrase in Weighted and Wanting: “The pride of despair and the despair of pride.”  Despair can only come from pride and placing our hopes in our own strength rather than in God.  If we trust in God despite our misfortunes, then we possess the humility of hope.  And, as Jesus Christ emphasized to that great apostle of Divine Mercy, St. Faustina, humility is truth.  So, we keep slogging on despite the darkness.

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Perhaps, the connection between hope and humility is best exemplified in the duel of Clare and the Awakened Being Rigaldo.  Rigaldo had just killed four of the five captains in Pieta, leaving Miria as the sole survivor.  Those familiar with Claymore know that Clare is ranked as the lowest Claymore, despite having some great abilities.  Rather than give up, she keeps striving to use her power with greater precision and refuses to accept defeat, despite being beaten down several times and being obviously outclassed.  A proud soul would have just accepted this disparity and surrendered.  But, humility forces her to keep trying, telling her that not every last resource has been exhausted–that her heart yet beats and that is sufficient reason to persevere.  The truly humble man can never despair.

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A Review, or Rather Excoriation, of Blood C

This is not the my first review of Blood C.  There exists a prior draft to this article, but the extreme animosity expressed therein toward this show alarms even me.  So, I offer you another review of this show written with equanimity.  Those of my dear readers who liked Blood C may be surprised that it aroused so much hatred in me,  but, as this review progresses, you’ll probably concede that it could not but have produced such a reaction.

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I base this review on the ten episodes which I watched, and the first seven were rather pleasing to me.  I like the homey atmosphere of the town and school during the daytime hours.  Saya has such a sweet and pleasant personality coupled with stalwart courage and devotion to duty.  I enjoy the hard-hitting nature of the fights.  Concerning these things, I have nothing but praise for this show.

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But, around episode five or six certain darker aspects of the show came into focus and eventually led to themes and ideas which would have led to its authors being burned at the stake in any European country prior to the 18th century–even though they expressed no doctrinal heresy.  But, I think that these writers are heretics in a larger sense: they belittle the human spirit and despise the sacredness of the person.  If anyone were to act according to these things, their psyche would come to positive harm.

Not the best way to catch a person falling from a tree.

Not the best way to catch a person falling from a tree.

Of course, what ought to have tipped me off is the copious amounts of blood spilled in this show.  But, so many other anime use blood either for the sake of realism (most of them) or for the sake of emphasizing certain themes (e.g. Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal to emphasize the darkness of Kenshin’s way of life) that I confess to overlooking the gratuitous manner in which Blood C has the heroine covered in blood or has blood pouring out of her foes and victims.  It is human to enjoy hard struggles and feats of courage; it is inhuman to delight in simple bloodshed.  As for why I ignored such an obvious tip off, see the second paragraph.

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What finally convinced me of the show’s perverse character was episode 9, where Saya’s entire class is massacred by a monster.  (Except two anyway–one of whom perishes in the next episode.)  A few people die before Saya decides to draw her blade and fight the monster.  Now, a true heroine does not sit back and calmly decide whether or not to attack a murderous monster.  She immediately attacks the thing.  Worse yet, the monster avoids Saya to prey on her classmates and friends and kills each one of them, as they piteously cower in terror .  Finally, when there are no more students to kill, Saya goes into vampire mode and cuts down the monster.  (Should this not have happened after the first death?)  As a matter of fact, of all the opportunities Saya has to save someone, I don’t think that she ever succeeds and, in certain cases, she waits for the monster to have its fill before acting.

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What kind of artistic vision is this?  One cannot justify this slaughter as part and parcel of tragedy, because tragedy acknowledges human emotion.  Another thing which escaped my notice until episode 9 was how detached Saya was to the deaths of her friends, and how ineptly the anime rendered emotion.  The series can show happier emotions, but even these seem to be vacuous.  Of the deeper emotions of grief, love, and magnanimity, it shows a few tears shed by Saya and she gets headaches when she remember her past or the deaths of her friends; yet, it cannot convey the inner reality of these emotions to the audience, and your humble blogger wonders how much the concepts of grief, love, and magnanimity mean to the creators.  In regard to her lack of pathos and inability to understand romantic love in particular, I cannot but compare Saya to the insensible protagonist of Albert Camus’ The Stranger.

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Then, episode 10 came, where Saya allowed her boyfriend and penultimate school friend to be devoured.  Ought not Saya be shown a little pity?  At the same time, ought not Saya have shown more grief for the demise of yet another friend and have shown more solicitude for his survival?  Having finished end of this episode, I decided that I had had enough of the way this show trampled on everything true, good, and beautiful and could not bring myself to watch the last two episodes.

But, how do other of my dear readers feel about this show?  Do I go overboard in my criticisms?

Forgetting One’s Sins

Dear Readers, the idea for this article came from my reminiscences about my Alma Mater, Hillsdale College.  I feel that I was too shy to take proper advantage of the great minds and personalities which surrounded me there.  Among my reminisces, one professor stands out: Dr. Reist.  He was a hoot.  A professor not easily forgotten.  I’ll never forget the first time he walked into my classroom:

He says: “My wife broke her leg.”  The students collectively gasp.  Then, Dr. Reist says: “I told her having sex standing up was dangerous.”

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That’s a masterful way to break the ice!  One day, when he noticed people were not participating or had not done the readings, he told us that we weren’t free.  Which is an interesting way to put it!  And sealing one’s lips as one looks down at an unfamiliar text hoping that the professor won’t call on one may be compared to slavery.  After all, how much more preferable is it to be able to gaze steadily upon the teacher confident in being able to provide an answer to any question and being free to participate or not as you list?

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This professor, a fellow New Jerseyan, had once been Catholic but converted to a variety of Protestantism–even became a minister.  I suspect the reason for his conversion lay in that he felt Catholicism’s emphasis on faith and works placed too much emphasis on personal merit than on God’s election.  (But, even our merits are God’s gifts to us.  The idea of cooperation between grace and free will tends to overcomplicate matters from most Protestant perspectives.)  However, he seemed grateful for many of the lessons he learned as a Catholic.  For example, he once told us: “Do you know that it’s a sin to forget your sins?”

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And it certainly is: the sin of pride.  In our unending process of repentance, we ought always remember where we have been and all the patience God has shown us and continues to show us despite our iniquity and lack of amendment.  Even if we claim that we have progressed far from where we once were, that does not cancel out the fact that we did not deserve to be extricated from our wicked ways of living–that it was pure Mercy which brought us out of each vicious circle.  Even after confession where our guilt is washed away, can we ever stop mourning for the wounds we have placed on Christ’s body or forget that we still deserve temporal punishment and have deserved everlasting flames?

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So, whenever a non-believer claims that Christians have a nonchalant attitude toward sins because God is so ready to forgive, you can tell him that this is the attitude of the proud or the ignorant.  An educated Christian knows that he ought never stop pouring tears into his pillow or cease remembering the wounds of Christ until Christ himself has wiped away every tear  and welcomes us into Our Father’s house.

Dusk Maiden of Amnesia and the Problem of Pride

One of the things which I admire about anime is that when one feels like one has seen the same plot a million times over, the same characters ten million times, and the same school classrooms a hundred million times over, a show will surface to blow one’s expectations and remind one why anime was so appealing in the first place.  This little one season show, Dusk Maiden of Amnesia, stands head and shoulders above most anime for the profundity of its message.  I feel an eternal debt of gratitude toward Marlin-sama of Ashita no Anime for intriguing me enough to pick it up.  Among its themes, the refusal of its heroine to acknowledge her dark past and believing that she should be loved less if the hero discovered it reminds me of the folly of pride which believers can enmesh themselves in relation to God.

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Dusk Maiden of Amnesia has an interesting portrayal of pride in the mind of Yuuko, the ghost for whom Niiya, the protagonist, falls in love.  She has a light side which has expunged all the memories of suffering, bitterness, and hatred which she suffered in her past, and a dark side which remembers only these painful moments and can only feel these negative emotions.  This split is so complete that they appear as different persons.  We, dear readers, similarly have darkness and light within us; but most of us, however much we may minimize this darkness, never fall into that greatest temptation of pride: to cast off this dark side from our consciousness and to distort reality to the extent that we consider ourselves angels.

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But, Yuuko does have more of an excuse than most of us.  After all, she was sacrificed by superstitious pagans so that an epidemic might cease. (Perhaps superstitious is an unneeded modifier.  Can one truly be a pagan without being superstitious?  Oh, well.  That’s a question for another blogger.)  Nor was this a quick death: she was left to die alone of suffocation or of starvation in pitch blackness while suffering the agony of a broken leg at around 15 or 16 years of age.  All of this while thoughts of envy toward her best friend and hatred toward those who abandoned her there swirled in her mind.  That’s a memory I’m sure most of us would desire effaced!

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Yet, we are not walking according to the truth if we disown our suffering, evil thoughts, and dark deeds.  And do we not own our dark side more truly than than our good side?  After all, we cannot maintain the least virtue, perform a single good deed, or have one good thought apart from God, who aids us by His own divine life.  On the other hand, we can do all sorts of sins on our own and would even plummet into utter vileness if not prevented by His grace.  St. Philip Neri once remarked as he saw a condemned man passing him on the road: “There goes Philip Neri but for the grace of God.”  Nor is this arrangement unfair: how many sins have I myself committed despite receiving the grace to will otherwise?  How many times have I consented to sin without lifting up a single prayer so that I might will good instead of evil?  Or did pray, but never wanted to form the wholehearted will to shun what might be more delightful to the senses or sweeter to my ego?

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At any rate, Yuuko further compounds her darkness by believing that Niiya won’t love her if she has any darkness or suffering in her.  This is not true: we are all loved by the people in our lives in spite of our defects.  How much more ought we trust that God loves us in spite of our wickedness?  As believers love to repeat, God’s love is unconditional.  Even in the midst of mortal sin by which we deserve to be sent straight to hell, God does not cease loving us and strives to turn us to repentance.  Yet, I believe people growing in goodness are more susceptible to this form of pride than outright sinners.  Somehow, the delusion intrudes that God loves us because of our good deeds rather than simply because He made us and thought it delightful that we should be with Him in paradise forever.  Then, we start forgetting our wicked deeds or minimizing them under the delusion that God somehow loves us more infinitely for being good!

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Yuuko’s desire to forget her painful past becomes so extreme that she further effaces her memories of Niiya.  You see, Niiya had absorbed the dark side’s, Shadow Yuuko’s, terrible memories and Yuuko cannot help reliving them when she touches Niiya.  Therefore, she blocks Niiya’s presence from her vision.  Even though she strongly desires to see him again and stays in the same vicinity as him, she cannot see him.  At last, the only way that they can communicate is by writing notes to each other in a notebook.

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Is this not rather like a Christian who in his mad drive to forget the memory of his sins even avoids the sight of a crucifix?  I think it no accident that in one episode we see two images of a cross: one made by Niiya and Kanoe’s shadows crossing and the other one of light.  For, the cross is painful because we see our sins in the wounds of Christ, but these very wounds bring us in the light of Christ’s presence.  And Niiya and Yuuko exchanging notes is rather like how a Christian soul, when frustrated at not feeling God’s presence, will turn to the Scriptures–all the while yearning for the embrace of the One who loves her.

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Then, that beautiful scene occurs in their club’s room, the Paranormal Investigation Club.  Niiya takes a bat and begins shattering everything in the room in order to get Yuuko’s attention.  Furthermore, his actions bring Shadow Yuuko into focus for Yuuko at the same time.  This is reminiscent of St. Augustine’s Confessions:

You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.

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In this scene, we find that Niiya wishes especially to speak to Shadow Yuuko and embraces her, saying that he loves Shadow Yuuko too, because Yuuko and Shadow Yuuko are the same person.  In the same way, though Jesus hates the least speck of sin in our souls, He loves us entire.  He wishes to love us in pain as well as in joy, which is so plainly figured in the cross as Jesus endures all the pain caused by pain and suffering in our lives out of pure love for us.  The confession of love by Niiya allows for both halves of Yuuko to come together, forming Yuuko into a complete person.

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Since God loves us as a complete person, there is no need to attempt hiding our sinful selves from Him.  Rather, let us contemplate the Crucifix in which we clearly see our sins in the holes in Christ’s hands and feet, the pierced side, the crowning of thorns, and the anguished expression on His countenance, knowing that it is through means of these wounds that we are bound to Him forever.

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Speaking of forever (Big spoiler coming!  If you’re the kind of person who absolutely cant’s endure them, don’t read on!), I expected Yuuko to disappear in the last episode–the natural end for ghost stories like this.  And indeed, with her regrets being solved and the integrity of her person, she does disappear for a while, leaving Niiya in great sorrow.  Does this not remind us of how we desire heaven, where we shall be reunited with our loved ones and love shall endure in perfection forever?  It seems, however, that Niiya’s last kiss produced a new regret in Yuuko: she now desires many more kisses.  Truly, love is never exhausted!  Since this is a love story first and foremost, Catullus 5 powerfully comes to mind:

Let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love,
and let us judge all the rumors of the old men
to be worth just one penny!
The suns are able to fall and rise:
When that brief light has fallen for us,
we must sleep a never ending night.
Give me a thousand kisses, then another hundred,
then another thousand, then a second hundred,
then yet another thousand more, then another hundred.
Then, when we have made many thousands,
we will mix them all up so that we don’t know,
and so that no one can be jealous of us when he finds out
how many kisses we have shared.

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St. Leo the Great’s Sermons

A while ago, I took out a copy of St. Leo the Great’s sermons from the library, and found them a real treat to read.  Unfortunately, my studies prevented me from finishing my patron’s works, but I have read enough to gain a feel for his style.  St. Leo may be described as having a wonderful imagination and a virile and a confident Christianity.  Though employing a very traditional spirituality, St. Leo’s emphasis on mercy and gentleness make him very accessible to a modern reader.

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He especially focuses on the fundamental religious acts of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  Of these, he emphasizes almsgiving the most with fasting taking second place.  This may partially be due to the terrible plight of the poor at Rome, but St. Leo makes the excellent point that fasting without charity may be a form of greed: one abstains from indulging in food so that he may indulge himself elsewhere with the money he might have spent on these meals.  Fasting cleanses our soul by enervating the power vices have over us, particularly gluttony and lust; yet, it ought to be further cleansed of greed, envy, and pride by almsgiving.  (This is how I see these two actions destroying the vices.  If anyone can tell me how fasting and almsgiving also destroy anger and sloth, I should be happy to hear it.  But, overcoming these seem to require prayer and hard work–ora et labora.)

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St. Leo often reminds us that we are constantly at war with our foes, the devil, the flesh, and the world.  Our battle with the evil one is portrayed with wonderful drama, especially in one of his Christmas sermons.  Toward the end of this particular sermon, the beauty of God taking human flesh and defeating the devil in the very nature which the devil had defeated in the Garden is more vividly and thrillingly portrayed than anywhere else I have seen.  C. S. Lewis once commented that Christianity makes for a poor story compared to the pagan myths, but, in St. Leo’s hands, Jesus Christ stands head and shoulders above all the pagan heroes, and his glory and valor render paltry even the most interesting tales of the pagan mythology.

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So, I highly recommend St. Leo to you all if you want some solid advice on the spiritual life or a truly exciting vision of Christianity.

How to Imitate the Good Thief

Happy Palm Sunday, dear readers!  Here’s an article on a different subject than which I had promised earlier, but today’s reading on the Passion of Christ struck me so forcibly  that it would be a crime not to write about it.  The part in particular which struck me is the story of the Good Thief.  Now, I claim this to be my favorite story in the Bible; yet, my ignorance of all the implications of this story was very clearly laid out to me.  Let’s quote it here in full:

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35 And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.” 36 The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!” 38 Now there was also an inscription above Him, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”

39 One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” 40 But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” 43 And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:35-43)

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You notice that I quoted a little more than the story of the Good Thief.  This shows the general trend of people mocking Jesus, saying “Are you really the Messiah?”  I opine that the crowds, soldiers, and synagogue officials represent those people nowadays who are outside of the Church and refuse to believe.  Not only do they refuse to believe, but they even ridicule the idea of a Crucified God.  If only they would stop ridiculing Him, they might be converted like the centurion who says after Jesus breathes His last: “This man was innocent beyond doubt.” (Luke 23:47)

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But, I really do not wish to focus on the figures above, but rather the two thieves crucified with Jesus, who represent two kinds of Christians.  I say represent Christians because all Christians were baptized into the Passion and Death of Christ as well as into Our Lord’s Resurrection to new life.  So, we have to carry our crosses and be crucified on them eventually.  Note how the Bad Thief speaks to Our Lord: “Are You not the Christ?  Save Yourself and us!”  I feel that for the past while I had imitated the bad thief, and those who are troubled by the Problem of Evil or the Problem of Pain are rather similar.  Christians like this say: “Are you not all powerful?  Why do I have to suffer so much?  Is it really possible to suffer this much?  Take me down from this cross and just give me the Kingdom without a cross!”

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Then, there are humble Christians who realize that we must follow our Master all the way up Mt. Calvary, and say, like the Good Thief: “Justly do I suffer these things!  If I had not sinned, this would not be happening to me!  If I had not so much pride, this would not be happening!  Jesus suffered more than the human mind can fathom, and He was a pure and unblemished Lamb.  Ought I not to drain the cup my sins have merited?”

Jesus Speaks to the Good Thief.

Jesus Speaks to the Good Thief.

Then, instead of turning to Jesus and begging to be taken down from the cross, the Good Thief asks: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”  The Good Thief is not asking to be taken down from his cross; instead, he asks for salvation.  This salvation does not require freedom from suffering, but freedom and purification from sin and the promise of eternal life.  We should all try to imitate St. Augustine, who begged not to be spared pain in this life so that he might suffer less after death–referring to purgatory, I suppose.

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Then, by imitating the Good Thief, we shall receive words of consolation from God.  Jesus spoke to neither the crowds nor the bad thief because of their lack of faith.  But, if we have faith and do not blame God for any evil which befalls us, then Jesus shall speak to us and console us in our sufferings.  By continuing in this attitude, we shall one day hear the most consoling words of all: “Truly I say to you, today, you shall be with me in paradise.”

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De Admiratione vel De Stupore?

Since I wished to write an article on the necessary virtue of wonder, I thought to be Classical in the choice of my title by using Latin.  To my chagrin, the two Latin words Casull’s Latin Dictionary offered for wonder either go too far (stupor) or fall short (admiratio).  What else am I to do?  I suppose that I could have searched for an Ancient Greek word, since Greek has such philosophical and literal accuracy; but, Greek has never been my strong suit and Latin is much preferred.  So, I am left with two words which might be legitimately translated as admiration or stupefaction rather than wonder.

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The quotation on which my cogitation centered derives from Socrates: “A feeling of wonder is what marks the philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder.”  To relate it back to my Latin title, it may indeed begin as admiratio but become stupor when one realizes the vast extent of knowledge which one shall never obtain–not even if one had five lifetimes!  A philosopher is one who loves knowledge, knows that he has very little, and continually searches for it.  In this way one is continually amazed by the new material coming into his mind.

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A certain professor of philosophy named Dr. Graham McAleer exemplified this quality for me this semester.  On one occasion, I corrected him when he said that St. Bonaventure must have written The Journey of the Mind to God long after St. Francis’ death since St. Bonaventure was the seventh General of the Order.  I responded that the distance separating them was not long at all because St. Francis gave St. Bonaventure his name when that person was born  (I think that the original story is slightly different–but, that’s what I said, and it was St. Francis who gave St. Bonaventure that name), predicting a happy life for St. Bonaventure, whose name means “Good Journey.”  To this Dr. McAleer’s eyes widened in amazement.  His astonishment was such that it frightened me!  Here was someone who taught Bonaventure and philosophy for such a long time and he could still experience amazement concerning a short work whose pages he has made opaque with marginalia!  I cannot think of a more perfect example of a man with the quality of wonder.

In this picture, Charlemagne is commending the poor children who studied hard, while rebuking the sons of nobles who made poor progress in their studies through negligence.

In this picture, Charlemagne is commending the poor children who studied hard, while rebuking the sons of nobles who made poor progress in their studies through negligence.

The attitude of wonder leads to openness and humility, which has its opposite in pride, close-mindedness, and being domineering.  Many people pride themselves as thinking that they can control their own lives, that they know all they need to, and can put people into boxes to be manipulated or judged at will.  The last is particularly prevalent.  We know someone for a few months and believe that we know all their idiosyncrasies.  We expect them to act and react in certain way.  Rather, we should refrain from putting people in boxes–even when it seems tempting–so that we might continue to marvel at them.  This produces more charity and better relationships between people.  I wonder whether the cause of so many unhappy marriages is that spouses have placed one another in a box and lack interest in them, because they feel that they already know everything about their spouses.  And boredom equals disinterestedness, which ferments annoyance, which flames anger, which pours out divorce.

The father and mother of St. Therese of Lisieux, who happen to both be beatified!  By that, you can surely discern a happy marriage!

The father and mother of St. Therese of Lisieux, who happen to both be beatified! By that, you can surely discern a happy marriage!

But, perhaps the most common ways in which people box one another are in the realms of politics and religion.  How is it that knowing one or both of these things permits us to neatly package up another person and be done with them?  I suppose the most obvious answer is that these ways of thought have consequences in real life and people of these ideologies act in unison.  If Liberals are in power, gun laws are emplaced or guns taken away, abortion florishes, welfare programs increase, business taxes increase, government spending increases, less money is spent on the military, etc.  With Conservatives, the exact opposite occurs.  However, people are much more complex than the ideologies they belong to–and even the ideologies more complex than we imagine!  I doubt very few people are exact caricatures of the ideologies they serve.  This holds even more true in the realm of religion: the practices of religion and each person’s relationship with God vary so much because of the more personal nature of religion.  As St. Faustina said, people are worlds.  Don’t place people in boxes!

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I had a vision of this while reading Col. Gregory “Pappy” Boyington’s memoirs of his career in the Pacific theater during World War II, Baa Baa Black Sheep.  First, the man in general is difficult for me to understand.  Then, the people he meets are of the same class.  In particular, this passage when over my head, but will likely be understood by some of my dear readers:

                       Thought of seeing the ground crew, and the few of the staff who had waved farewell as we had taken off, came through my mind.  On most of them I had interpreted this wave to mean: “I hope you get back alive.”  I assumed that a few were thinking: “I hope you never get back.”  But to hell with them.  To hell with them all.

I would have understood this had he been referring to the second class of people, but I cannot understand his vexation with all of them.  This condemnation went well above my head.  No doubt, my acquaintance with Pappy Boyington will prove most fruitful.  May you all have someone rather translucent in your lives!  (I avoid saying opaque because–even though one can certainly marvel at a person one has no understanding of–one cannot really have a relationship with someone unless they understand at least a little about them.)

President Truman Presenting the Medal of Honor

We even go so far as to put our own selves in boxes: either we strive for something we’re not or we make ourselves less than we are.  This is all due to our controlling, know-it-all natures.  We ought to rather imitate Padre Pio, who said: “I am a mystery to myself.”  This does not contradict the dictum to know ourselves; but perhaps that our own efforts to understand ourselves ought to lead us to greater wonder concerning ourselves.  With this kind of openness, i.e. not trying to control our own lives but being open to where our gifts and talents lead us, God can take control of our lives and draw us to situations and places we would never have thought possible for us.

St. John of God led a particularly fascinating and varied life.  A great example of humility.

St. John of God led a particularly fascinating and varied life. A great example of humility.

So, do not judge, do not condemn, and forgive all offenses.  And remember St. Gregory of Nyssa’s famous advice: “Concepts create idols, only wonder understands.”