Thursday, August 14, 2014

Keeping Family Together

I was reading Denise Bossert's article on Catholic Exchange "The Challenge of the Assumption of Mary."  She raised this question:

Why is it so easy for people to believe that Jesus Christ will return and “rapture” those who love Him, leaving behind the rest of the world, but those same people find it impossible to believe that Jesus Christ came for His mother and assumed her, body and soul, into heaven?

Some Christians will believe in the Rapture, but not the Assumption of Mary. Both are about human bodies being taken up into Heaven. I think people forget the the Assumption of Mary is not the Ascension of Mary. Even Elijah was taken up into Heaven! The Church does not teach that Mary went up by her own power; rather, her son took her to be with him. It is by Jesus' power that the Blessed Mother is assumed into Heaven.

The Assumption of Mary also anticipates the bodily resurrection of the faithful.  St. Paul teaches that:

51 Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality.  1Corinthians 15:51-53
At the resurrection of the dead, we shall be changed: raised with an imperishable, immortal body. Mary has already been given that grace.

 The Catholic Church teaches that:
966 "Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death." The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son's Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians.--Catechism of the Catholic Church
Now there's a lot of theology in that paragraph. Today, let's keep it simple. The Assumption of Mary is about a son taking his mother home to be with him. It's act of love from Jesus to Mary.

It's about family being together.


Friday, July 25, 2014

There Are More Things in Heaven and Earth Than Are Dreamt of in Your Philosophy

The internecine battle among Yes fans over the rotational roster of lead vocalists has all the spite of Yankee fans arguing over the pitching rotation. Occasionally it becomes a hockey fight; all bluster and bravado born of frustration.

Cards on table: Jon Anderson is irreplaceable. Yes should have learned that by now. He is so much more than a lead vocalist with a tenor-alto range. If that were the case, either Benoit David or Jon Davison or even Tevor Horn would have done the job adequately. (Suggestion: Benoit David and David Benoit should do an album together. But I digress).

Jon Anderson was not only the lead vocalist and lyricist for Yes, he was the spiritual center of the band. He was also, as his nickname of Napoleon suggests, it's diminutive leader. Hand-in-waistcoat, Jon would be the one pushing the band to do more, to risk more. Now another Jon is mise en place to be the lead vocalist and, for Heaven and Earth, main lyricist. He is also, at 43, the youngest member of Yes with the rest in their 60s. This is your grandfather's Yes! Don't expect it sound like Yes of the 1970s. This is Yes of 2014.

"Believe Again" is the opening invitation to Heaven and Earth. Like any well-behaved opening track, it tells you what you need to know about what's to follow. After Steve Howe's volume-swelled intro, we hear Jon Davison sing a melody and lyrics that are very much in the Yes style, going quickly if briefly into his upper range. Chris Squire's harmony vocals are as good as ever, even if he's missing Jon Anderson's melodic phrasing to blend in and around. Howe's solo section, while not as fast as in the past, still has a lovely tone. While the lyrics are about a lover desiring to find the ability to believe in love again, the song is clearly meant to invite fans to believe again in this incarnation of Yes.

Next on deck, "The Game" sports a similar intro to "Believe Again", this time on keyboards.  While it works as a love song, it could also be about the game of the music business. "Step Beyond" could have stepped off the CD and not have been missed. Geoff Downes' toy synthesizer sound reminds me of something Will Farrell's Marty Culp would play, or an ice cream truck as it rolls through you neighborhood, or the Buggles. Fortunately, "To Ascend" puts us back in Yes territory with a slow ballad. (They may regret the line "as freed bird flies from the hand" when they play live, however). Many have put down "In a World of Our Own", but it has a jaunty rhythm and some funny lines--rather Beatle-ish. The moody and atmospheric "Light of the Ages" follows, written by a solo Jon Davison, who co-wrote all the others songs except for the Steve Howe penned "It Was All We Knew", a sort of English pastoral tune with the very catchy "sweet were the fruits/long were the summer days" melody.

Heaven and Earth closes with "Subway Walls." When I first saw the title, I expected it to be an odd-ball track. But it is one of the best on the album, certainly the most progressive, sounding reminiscent of "On the Silent Wings of Freedom" or "Shoot High, Aim Low." Given that Jon Anderson and Chris Squire were both big fans of Paul Simon, it seems apropos that this track, written by Davison and Downes, has some lyrical debt to "Sounds of Silence."

Heaven and Earth rewards the listener who is the owner of an open heart. No, it doesn't sound like classic Yes. It does sound like Yes, albeit a mid-temp mellower version. They lyrics don't rise to Mr. Anderson's (if I can get a bit New York Times-y) level of genius (Yes, I said genius!) , but they are well within the prog-rock template. The lyrics and melodies from Jon Davison are good but not quite surrounded by what Yes is capable of. From what I've read it seems that the recording time in between tours was too brief, the music isn't fully matured. For older fans who hold on to Yes of the 70's, let it go and, as Warren Zevon said, learn to enjoy every sandwich. And for the Heaven and Earth's new line-up, "as a stranger, give it welcome."

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Barkeep, I Need Some Wine....

I woke up one night in my hospital bed to see my friend Father Vincent Druding preparing to say Mass. I was groggy from sleep, so I took me awhile to realize what was happening. Fr. Vince told me he would like to say Mass, would that be OK? While I was very tired, how could I refuse this great grace?

I followed the liturgy as best as I could, drifting in an out of sleep--so just like a regular Mass! I didn't realize it at the time, but it was between 1am and 2am on July 16, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Much of what I remember comes from hearing the story of that night from Fr. Vince weeks, maybe months later. He was able to find some hosts in a Chapel, I think, but no wine. So he and someone from the hospital went out around midnight to try to find some wine for the Mass!

As I understand it, there were no regular liquor stores open and nearby convenience stores had only beer. So Fr. Vince ended up in a bar asking for some wine to use for a Mass! I'm not sure how much the bartender understood about why a priest was looking for wine after midnight, but Fr. Vince left with enough to say Mass.

Since then, I try to remember that night when Fr. Vince  after tracking down some wine in a bar, came to the foot of my hospital bed so he could say Mass for me on the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Beatae Mariae de Monte Carmelo, ora pro nobis!