Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Pope's Address for Lent

“The justice of God has been manifested
through faith in Jesus Christ” (cf. Rm 3, 21-22)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Each year, on the occasion of Lent, the Church invites us to a sincere review of our life in light of the teachings of the Gospel. This year, I would like to offer you some reflections on the great theme of justice, beginning from the Pauline affirmation: “The justice of God has been manifested through faith in Jesus Christ” (cf. Rm 3, 21-22).

Justice: “dare cuique suum”

First of all, I want to consider the meaning of the term “justice,” which in common usage implies “to render to every man his due,” according to the famous expression of Ulpian, a Roman jurist of the third century. In reality, however, this classical definition does not specify what “due” is to be rendered to each person. What man needs most cannot be guaranteed to him by law. In order to live life to the full, something more intimate is necessary that can be granted only as a gift: we could say that man lives by that love which only God can communicate since He created the human person in His image and likeness. Material goods are certainly useful and required – indeed Jesus Himself was concerned to heal the sick, feed the crowds that followed Him and surely condemns the indifference that even today forces hundreds of millions into death through lack of food, water and medicine – yet “distributive” justice does not render to the human being the totality of his “due.” Just as man needs bread, so does man have even more need of God. Saint Augustine notes: if “justice is that virtue which gives every one his due ... where, then, is the justice of man, when he deserts the true God?” (De civitate Dei, XIX, 21).

What is the Cause of Injustice?

The Evangelist Mark reports the following words of Jesus, which are inserted within the debate at that time regarding what is pure and impure: “There is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him … What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts” (Mk 7, 14-15, 20-21). Beyond the immediate question concerning food, we can detect in the reaction of the Pharisees a permanent temptation within man: to situate the origin of evil in an exterior cause. Many modern ideologies deep down have this presupposition: since injustice comes “from outside,” in order for justice to reign, it is sufficient to remove the exterior causes that prevent it being achieved. This way of thinking – Jesus warns – is ingenuous and shortsighted. Injustice, the fruit of evil, does not have exclusively external roots; its origin lies in the human heart, where the seeds are found of a mysterious cooperation with evil. With bitterness the Psalmist recognises this: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps 51,7). Indeed, man is weakened by an intense influence, which wounds his capacity to enter into communion with the other. By nature, he is open to sharing freely, but he finds in his being a strange force of gravity that makes him turn in and affirm himself above and against others: this is egoism, the result of original sin. Adam and Eve, seduced by Satan’s lie, snatching the mysterious fruit against the divine command, replaced the logic of trusting in Love with that of suspicion and competition; the logic of receiving and trustfully expecting from the Other with anxiously seizing and doing on one’s own (cf. Gn 3, 1-6), experiencing, as a consequence, a sense of disquiet and uncertainty. How can man free himself from this selfish influence and open himself to love?

Justice and Sedaqah

At the heart of the wisdom of Israel, we find a profound link between faith in God who “lifts the needy from the ash heap” (Ps 113,7) and justice towards one’s neighbor. The Hebrew word itself that indicates the virtue of justice, sedaqah, expresses this well. Sedaqah, in fact, signifies on the one hand full acceptance of the will of the God of Israel; on the other hand, equity in relation to one’s neighbour (cf. Ex 20, 12-17), especially the poor, the stranger, the orphan and the widow (cf. Dt 10, 18-19). But the two meanings are linked because giving to the poor for the Israelite is none other than restoring what is owed to God, who had pity on the misery of His people. It was not by chance that the gift to Moses of the tablets of the Law on Mount Sinai took place after the crossing of the Red Sea. Listening to the Law presupposes faith in God who first “heard the cry” of His people and “came down to deliver them out of hand of the Egyptians” (cf. Ex 3,8). God is attentive to the cry of the poor and in return asks to be listened to: He asks for justice towards the poor (cf. Sir 4,4-5, 8-9), the stranger (cf. Ex 22,20), the slave (cf. Dt 15, 12-18). In order to enter into justice, it is thus necessary to leave that illusion of self-sufficiency, the profound state of closure, which is the very origin of injustice. In other words, what is needed is an even deeper “exodus” than that accomplished by God with Moses, a liberation of the heart, which the Law on its own is powerless to realize. Does man have any hope of justice then?

Christ, the Justice of God

The Christian Good News responds positively to man’s thirst for justice, as Saint Paul affirms in the Letter to the Romans: “But now the justice of God has been manifested apart from law … the justice of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (3, 21-25). What then is the justice of Christ? Above all, it is the justice that comes from grace, where it is not man who makes amends, heals himself and others. The fact that “expiation” flows from the “blood” of Christ signifies that it is not man’s sacrifices that free him from the weight of his faults, but the loving act of God who opens Himself in the extreme, even to the point of bearing in Himself the “curse” due to man so as to give in return the “blessing” due to God (cf. Gal 3, 13-14). But this raises an immediate objection: what kind of justice is this where the just man dies for the guilty and the guilty receives in return the blessing due to the just one? Would this not mean that each one receives the contrary of his “due”? In reality, here we discover divine justice, which is so profoundly different from its human counterpart. God has paid for us the price of the exchange in His Son, a price that is truly exorbitant. Before the justice of the Cross, man may rebel for this reveals how man is not a self-sufficient being, but in need of Another in order to realize himself fully. Conversion to Christ, believing in the Gospel, ultimately means this: to exit the illusion of self-sufficiency in order to discover and accept one’s own need – the need of others and God, the need of His forgiveness and His friendship. So we understand how faith is altogether different from a natural, good-feeling, obvious fact: humility is required to accept that I need Another to free me from “what is mine,” to give me gratuitously “what is His.” This happens especially in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. Thanks to Christ’s action, we may enter into the “greatest” justice, which is that of love (cf. Rm 13, 8-10), the justice that recognises itself in every case more a debtor than a creditor, because it has received more than could ever have been expected. Strengthened by this very experience, the Christian is moved to contribute to creating just societies, where all receive what is necessary to live according to the dignity proper to the human person and where justice is enlivened by love.

Dear brothers and sisters, Lent culminates in the Paschal Triduum, in which this year, too, we shall celebrate divine justice – the fullness of charity, gift, salvation. May this penitential season be for every Christian a time of authentic conversion and intense knowledge of the mystery of Christ, who came to fulfill every justice. With these sentiments, I cordially impart to all of you my Apostolic Blessing.

My thanks to Fr. Laurent Demets for the text. Spread the word!


“The literal meaning of stayagraha is this – insistence on truth, and force derivable from such insistence” (447).
The principles of Satyagraha are beautiful principles derived from the statutes of most major world religion. It speaks of love and of truth as one, as God as one, and therefore, intends to unite all religions, regardless of creed or dogma. Regardless of the ultimate truth of who God is, the implications of some good or truth in human beings are the same, and should be pursued to an ultimate end. However, in a secular government, it would seem impossible to implement such standards of truth and love because of their foundations on religion. How is a Western nation supposed to adopt the principles of satyagraha, when religion and state are meant to be seperate? Secularity is the state of being unattached to religion, and as long as the definition of secularity remains so, the principles of satyagraha may not be implemented in a Western nation without the loss of it's secular identity. However, were secularity to be redefined as containing only those elements of religion which have been shown to be universal, then satyagraha could be successfully implemented in Western nations without the loss of secularity. The first step to achieving this goal is to reintroduce the taboo subject of religion in the Western state. The second is to effect laws which are synonymous with the goals of satyagraha, and lastly, one must teach humans the principles of satyagaha from a young age, in the schools of these Western nations. Once these things have been done, one may find a completely transformed society, in which the pursuit of Truth and Love are the goals of every man, woman, and child.
The first way in which to implement satyagraha in Western nations is to eliminate the fear of religion. State and Religion are separate entities, but, as to quote Sir Thomas Moore, “when a public man ignores his private conscience, the end result is chaos”. The states of all Western nations must come to realize that the values of religion maintain their integrity whether in the guise of Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, or Hinduism. The only belief which is not synonymous with these values is Atheistic Nihilism, which believes in nothing at all except terror and wilderness. Without a belief in the soul, it is impossible to believe in the dignity of the human person, or in Truth, or Love at all. Thus, if a state wishes to cultivate virtue, goodness, and the pursuit of Truth and Love, then it must encourage religious piety, not discourage it. The state must encourage all the good aspects of religion and discourage all the bad aspects, not discourage all the aspects of religion all together. “All religious sects and divisions, all churches and temples, are useful only so long as they serve as a means towards enabling us to recognize the universality of satyagraha” (449). Once the highest axioms of religion are no longer taboo in society, once piety is looked upon as a civil virtue as well as a private one, then corruption will fade away, immorality with die, and divisions among men will cease. It is not differences of opinion which matter and which should be eradicated. No, for this will lead us on the short route to terror. Rather, the state must focus on unifying it's people with love and the universal principles of world religions, in short, with the principles of satyagraha.
The second method and logical progression for introducing the principles of satyagraha is to effect laws which are in accordance with these principles and do away with laws which are not in accordance. The state, in encouraging it's people to embrace the principles of satyagraha, must allow resources and tools for those people who wish to pursue those principles to do so. A law against the public display of the ten-commandments, for example, would be a hindrance to the mutual well being and the practice of satyagraha, because it attempts to do away with the display of the highest axioms of a religion. These axioms are good, and in accordance with satyagraha, and thus a law prohibiting their display would be hindering satyagraha, and in conflict.
The final step in implementing satyagraha is to provide for the education of children in the ways of satyagraha. To quote Ghandi, “It should be an essential of real education that a child should learn that, in the struggle of life, it can easily conquer hate by love, untruth by truth, violence by self-suffering” (447). All children must believe that the principles of satyagraha are principles on which the world is set in its foundations. If they believe this, then they will grow up following these principles, and the future of Western civilization will be faced towards the realization of satyagraha. But this can not be done without the previous two steps already in place. Otherwise, children will grow up with opposing forces on their minds, arguing one against the other, and will not know whom to believe. Thus they will grow up with doubt and without a firm belief in Truth or Love, and live in the constant fear of error. The state, if it wishes to see satyagraha realized in the minds and hearts of its people, must therefore teach its future generations the highest axioms of Truth and Love from an early age. The children must know this from their youth, in their schools, and in their public spheres as well as in their homes.
In conclusion, the principles of satyagraha can only be implemented in Western society if the following were to take place. First, religion must be embraced as a method in which truth may by realized and love effected. Secondly, laws must be implemented to aid the pursuit of truth and love. And lastly, the state must take measures to encourage the implementation of the principles of satyagraha into the youth of its population. Once these measures have been implemented, the state will find itself experiencing a renaissance not only of virtue and moral values, but also in its economic, scientific and artistic spheres. Once excellence of one kind has been realized in a society, it spills over to surrounding areas, spreading its sweet smell and its goodness. Satyagraha is not valuable just for the issues of corruption and violence, but also for its effects on the social, political and financial wellbeing of the state.

Works Cited
Ghandi, Mahatma. “The Theory and Practice of Passive Resistance.” Cultural Conversations: The Presence of the Past. Eds. Stephen Dilks, Regina Hansen, and Matthew Parfitt. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2001. 445-447.

Ghandi, Mahatma. “Meaning of Satyagraha.” Cultural Conversations: The Presence of the Past. Eds. Stephen Dilks, Regina Hansen, and Matthew Parfitt. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2001. 447-449.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Benefits of Vocal study

Singing is a journey of self-discovery into the nature of one's own instrument, their voice. It is at the same time exploration, discovery, and actualization of all human potential and self-awareness. Singing is also:
1. As in the situation of acting, lends animation and expressiveness to the countenance
2. a means for the expression of internal thoughts and emotions
3. enlightens one to the world of fine text and artistic literature
4. Develops a better speaking voice for better self-expression and articulation
5. Allows one to overcome shyness and psychological inhibitions which restrict the outpouring of self into the external world.
6 Healthy, developing the lungs and introducing high levels of oxygen into the bloodstream and excellent for good posture and graceful poise
7. Is pleasurable as an artistic pursuit.
Aka... There is nothing disadvantageous about pursuing vocal literacy.

My definition and defense of singing

Singing is the ultimate psycho-physical act because it is the totality of the human body and soul working together to produce something truly beautiful. There are four major aspects of this mental and physical integration which is known as singing; respiration, phonation, resonation, and articulation.
Respiration provides the wings with which tone flies from the body.Without breath, nothing can happen that would happen in the voice. One must have complete control over their breathing mechanism, and to do this, a knowledge of the physiology and nature of the breathing instrument is vital. Coordination and management can be achieved by frequent breathing exercises, to open up the chest, increasing the flexibility of the diaphragm, and the capacity of the lungs. One must know how to "hook" into their breath, or access their supply of breath pressure and oxygen to produce a healthy and strong tone. to this end, more exercises are recommended.
Phonation is made up of three parts: (1) pressurized air from the lungs and through the glottis, (2) muscular adduction of the vocal chords, and (3) oscillation of the vocal folds. The oscillation of the vocal folds is what produces the tone through an event known as the Bernoulli Effect, when pressurized air flows through the opening of the vocal chords during abduction, which then forces air past in a steady steam, causing the chords to vibrate like the strings of a violin. To produce high quality phonation requires steady breath pressure, flexibility and relaxation in the vocal chords and in the laryngeal mechanism, tone clarity, and freedom. Freedom is key to proper phonation, because a constricted or stressed muscle will inhibit the oscillation and cause a strained tone, without vibrato.
Resonation is tone quality, that which is the acoustics of the sounds made by the vocal folds. Aspects of resonance include the space, or surfaces of resonation, frequency, amplitude, duration, and focus. The spaces/surfaces of resonation are perhaps the most important of all the factors of resonation. The surfaces do the resonating are the chest and subglottal airways, the larynx, the pharynx and the oral cavity, and the nasal and sinus cavities, out of which the oral cavity is the most important because of the immense amount of space available for the shaping of the tone.Various techniques of positioning allow maximal vocal resonance, including the position of the tongue, teeth, lips, and larynx. It is Resonation which produces the qualities we look for and which catch our ear.
Articulation is the ability to produce words identifiable to the human linguistics. The qualities of articulation are vowels and consonants, the factors of diction, by which one makes themselves understandable. This is necessary to convey the meaning of the text, and thus is a vital aspect of the singing gesture. The mechanisms of the body which produce articulate sounds are the larynx, tongue, teeth, and lips. To become fluent in the skills of articulation, a singer should pursue a complete knowledge of the different sounds of the different languages typically used in art songs, and maintain the articulatory flexibility to produce these new and different sounds.
All these aspects combine to produce that most beautiful of physical gestures, the singing gestures. It is excellence in all these little factors which combine into a Gestalt, or whole, greater then the sum of all the factors. The sound becomes something more, something which connects to the soul of the human person. In a way, singing is a more complete expression of the human person then thought, because it is a total body and a total mind integratoin. Whereas thought relies on the brain alone, singing relies on the whole body and the control of the mind, which is the true understanding of the human person as body and mind, not separate, but inseparable, not divided, but working together as a unified whole.