Star Wars Episode VII

OK — completely off-topic (but hey !! it’s my blog !!), but I was just stunned last night when I heard the news that a new Star Wars trilogy, Episodes VII-IX, is now actually in production, with Episode VII having been given a 2015 release date.

It doesn’t matter that I never believed George Lucas’ claims that they wouldn’t be made, but I still had to triple-check the calendar to make sure that the whole, bizarre story, including the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney for $4B, wasn’t an April Fool…

I did actually hear some vague rumours about this new trilogy last year, so I shouldn’t have been so completely shocked by this news — but I am !!!

It should surprise nobody, of course, that “JabbaPapa” might be a bit of a Star Wars geek, and have been since I first saw the original in late 1977 or early 1978 (it was released down here far later than the US) — and I’ve kept my love for these films even into adulthood, because although I’ve retained the ability to watch them as if through my 12-year-old eyes, my literary studies have simultaneously developed my appreciation for their fine technical qualities, Lucas’ experiments with cinema as an art form, their often quite brilliant writing (which I think is sometimes right over the heads of the typical Star Wars fan, particularly the astonishingly baroque literary/theatrical/operatic aesthetic of Revenge of the Sith), as well as Lucas’ brilliant directing skills — that are so easily taken for granted given the sheer number of times that he’s been imitated by lesser directors.

Lucas will not be either directing or writing the new ones though ; but given the overall success of his endeavours as “creative consultant” on the Clone Wars animated series (which will also be his job title for work on the new trilogy), I think it will actually be interesting to see how that will work in the three new Star Wars Episodes.

But I have to say, that I do sometimes get quite annoyed with so many of the fans of the original trilogy, who complain about Lucas so-called “ruining” Star Wars, and about his constant re-editing of the already released films etc … It’s quite incoherent for these people to complain, loudly, about The Phantom Menace, immediately after it was released — when you then hear the exact same crowd complaining just as loudly about how he changed the film first for the DVD release (and, BTW, this was a great improvement over the original release, because the extended pod race places so much better emphasis in the overall structure on Anakin as a main character) ; but especially for the recent Blu-Ray re-release (where the improvements are both very technical, and constitute a massive boost in terms of the quality of the final edit — particularly as they really let Liam Neeson’s stunningly good performance as Qui Gonn breathe freely, instead of being so awfully stifled by that very imperfectly rendered Jar Jar that was such a huge distraction in the original edit) — because these complaints simply underscore the fact that no matter how much these fans complain about the prequel trilogy, they still get into a total hissy fit if Lucas starts tinkering with those Episodes… The fact is, even the most vocally negative original trilogy fan boy still thinks that Episodes I-III have the same kind of sacredness to them that he imagines in Episodes IV-VI.

Fun fact : Mark Hamill has had a contract for Episode VII since the early 1980s.

Sadly, the great Jabba the Hutt will not appear in the new trilogy, having been strangled to death by a cute girl in a metal bikini…

Oh, and just as a Catholic comment — FWIW, I disagree with Fr. Barron’s comments about the spirituality of Star Wars, and his description of it as pantheistic in nature ; while it’s certainly not Christian as such, except in a quite abstract manner, the Force is both immanent and transcendent as depicted in the films, as it is present in the material nature of the midi-chlorians, and it also exists as an energy field created by all living things, AND it exists in the empty space between the rock and the ship.

I’m surprised that Fr. Barron, who is usually a quite incisive theologian regarding the modern culture, didn’t realise that this ternary nature of the Force is also quite perfectly functional as a hidden metaphor of the Trinity.

The New Evangelisation

The Synod of Bishops has just completed its latest meeting, and it has delivered a message to the People of God (that’s us !!!), in this Year of Faith, about the New Evangelisation.

Now — quite apart from the fact that the English translation of this message is stylistically flawed ; the contents of the message have not prevented the usual suspects from reacting to the declaration in their habitual manner.

Whether it’s to claim this message as more “proof” that Vatican II was “the Devil’s Council”, or to use the message as an occasion to heap abuse on Pope Benedict XVI, or leap onto their own personal hobby horse to ride into battle over Ecumenism, or Communion in the Hand, or the inherent goodness of the SSPX, or &c… the one feature that they ALL seem to have in common is that they do not deal with ANY of the actual contents of the message.

But I personally find that there are many contents in this message that are quite worth thinking about !!!

One comment in particular strike me as being rather wise :

5. Evangelizing ourselves and opening ourselves to conversion

We, however, should never think that the new evangelization does not concern us personally. In these days voices among the Bishops were raised to recall that the Church must first of all heed the Word before she could evangelize the world. The invitation to evangelize becomes a call to conversion.

We firmly believe that we must convert ourselves above all to the power of Christ who alone can make all things new, above all our poor existence. With humility we must recognize that the poverty and weaknesses of Jesus’ disciples, especially of his ministers, weigh on the credibility of the mission. We are certainly aware – we Bishops first of all – that we could never really be equal to the Lord’s calling and mandate to proclaim his Gospel to the nations. We know that we must humbly recognize our vulnerability to the wounds of history and we do not hesitate to recognize our personal sins. We are, however, also convinced that the Lord’s Spirit is capable of renewing his Church and rendering her garment resplendent if we let him mold us. This is demonstrated by the lives of the Saints, the remembrance and narration of which is a privileged means of the new evangelization.

If this renewal were up to us, there would be serious reasons to doubt. But conversion in the Church, just like evangelization, does not come about primarily through us poor mortals, but rather through the Spirit of the Lord. Here we find our strength and our certainty that evil will never have the last word whether in the Church or in history: “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27), Jesus said to his disciples.

The work of the new evangelization rests on this serene certainty. We are confident in the inspiration and strength of the Spirit, who will teach us what we are to say and what we are to do even in the most difficult moments. It is our duty, therefore, to conquer fear through faith, humiliation through hope, indifference through love.

So — the first step of the New Evangelisation, is to start by evangelising ourselves, or let ourselves be evangelised by others ?

It’s hard to reconcile this call to us from the Holy Father in communion with the Synod, with the knee-jerk reactions of some of our more skeptical brethren !!!

Second, the key to the New Evangelisation is not to try and do our own will, but to let the Will of the Christ work its own way through us ?

Well I can most certainly agree with this wisdom, and it’s clearly our best and only defense against the heresy of Modernism !!!

Revelation is not, after all, something that we have the power to control, or even understand, with our minds — but it’s that part of God and our relationship with God that we can understand in our souls. If we say “God is this”, or “God is that”, then I think we are far from His Kingdom indeed.

But then, so it is with the New Evangelisation — if we say the New Evangelisation is “this” or “that”, then how are we Evangelising ourselves ? How are we letting the Christ speak through our words ?

Shouldn’t we let ourselves simply be open to the opportunities that come our way, as God provides them, and let open our souls to the reactions to them that Prayer, or Graces, or Charisms might send to us, and then just speak or write the words that come with them ? It does not matter if these are just the words of our own minds, because the Christ can inspire us there as well – for as long as we never confuse the contents of our solitary minds with what the Christ wishes to be taught.

Revelation is given to us, together, not separately — our Faith in Revelation is that whatever one might neglect to say, through ignorance or lack of talent, will surely be said by another of the Faithful.

Quiet when we listen, thoughtful when we meditate, open and direct when we speak — this is the way of the Christian when we consider the Revelation of God.

Whatever is “new” about this Evangelisation concerns the surrounding culture, and the new technologies — as well as the failures of the past. Can we content ourselves with the simplistic catechesis of the 1970s and 1980s ? Can we cling to the false rebellions of these or those that have sprung up in the individualism of the culture ? Can we shut ourselves up in our talking shops, and our parish halls, and our cosy little online groups ?

Yes, we are facing a massive onslaught from the militant atheists, the indifferentists, the secularist politicians, the internet trolls, and in our daily lives all too often from our own families, our friends, our workmates, and all too many complete strangers with a chip on their shoulder. And one is sorely tempted to heed the Christ’s own advice to shake the dust off our feet, and move along…

But when they come knocking on our own door, we must stand firm and straightforward in our defense of the Revelation, that is Evangelisation.

We are become the body and the blood of the Christ in the Holy Eucharist, and the New Evangelisation is simply to declare our Faith and the Truth of God in the face of a hostile crowd that is pressing at our gates.

{6:12} For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the directors of this world of darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in high places.
{6:13} Because of this, take up the armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand the evil day and remain perfect in all things.
{6:14} Therefore, stand firm, having been girded about your waist with truth, and having been clothed with the breastplate of justice,
{6:15} and having feet which have been shod by the preparation of the Gospel of peace.
{6:16} In all things, take up the shield of faith, with which you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one.
{6:17} And take up the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit (which is the Word of God).
{6:18} Through every kind of prayer and supplication, pray at all times in spirit, and so be vigilant with every kind of earnest supplication, for all the saints,
{6:19} and also for me, so that words may be given to me, as I open my mouth with faith to make known the mystery of the Gospel,
{6:20} in such a manner that I may dare to speak exactly as I ought to speak. For I act as an ambassador in chains for the Gospel. (Ephesians)

{8:38} For I am certain that neither death, nor life, nor Angels, nor Principalities, nor Powers, nor the present things, nor the future things, nor strength,
{8:39} nor the heights, nor the depths, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans)

Ite, Missa Est

Well, I’m just back from following my first ever Traditional Latin Mass.

The Mass was given in a church belonging to our own parish, by a priest belonging to our own diocese, so that it was canonically given in full and total regularity.

Now — where to begin…

First, I was not put into some kind of aesthetic sensation of awe by the beauty of the Old Mass, simply because my Latin is too canny to be aware of the language of the Mass otherwise than as just another language that I understand. My meditation this morning, both before and after the Mass, has been centred around the expression Deo Gratias — because having discovered in the street some simple benefit for myself on the way to the Mass, I prayed briefly saying “Thank You, God” — and the most direct translation of the Latin, in the Mass later, is exactly that — or even just “Thanks, God”.

The language in the Mass is there not to set up God as on high and aloof from us, but to bring Him into this sort of close and familiar, familial, feeling of Love, received, shared, and given — in trust, confidence, and honesty.

That the language of the Old Mass is in Latin changes this not in the slightest.

It was maybe surprising that it was only til about halfway through the Mass that dear Père Le Quay started to realise that I was not actually familiar with it (more about this later) — except that my experience of the old liturgy was that it’s “just” the Mass. The only time I’ve EVER been shocked by the Novus Ordo was the ONE time that I attended the Mass given in English (I usually follow the Mass in French) — because I found that the translation itself was quite heavily protestantised, incorporated some quite dubious readings and interpretations NOT found in the Romance language translations, and generally speaking, it felt more like a *progressive* Anglican liturgy than a Catholic Mass. On the other hand, I was surprised by the liturgy of the Old Mass not in the slightest. OK, there were a couple of places where I didn’t know that I was supposed to respond to the priest, including once by virtue of being on the wrong page — but this is both normal and unsurprising.

Fundamentally though, it just seems to me that the Old Mass and the New Mass are essentially the same.

I have NOT been betrayed by incompetent catechists teaching their incompetent 1970s uncatholic understandings.

I do NOT have any difficulty with the Latin — nor do I inappropriately provide the language itself with any undeserved quasi-mystical veneration.

I understand the theology of the Mass where it is explicit in the Old Mass and implicit in the New — but ALSO where it is explicit in the New Mass, but implicit in the Old.

I remain in Full Communion with our Church, and with both of our Bishops, our curate and all the other parish priests, and all the Faithful of our parish whether I attend the New Mass in our parish or the Old Mass in our parish.

It’s just the Mass — and of course, “just the Mass” is a living miracle in our midst.

The only weird things about the Mass this morning are the following :

1) The congregation was constituted of the priest and myself.

It’s rather ironic, given the propensity of my traditionalist friends to claim that Vatican II and the New Mass have destroyed Mass attendance, that the choice that I have on the Sunday seems to be between attending the Traditional Mass as the ONLY lay Catholic in the congregation ; or to attend a perfectly orthodox, non-abusive, Novus Ordo Mass in the company of a congregation numbering in the hundreds, including dozens of children, and the majority of the Faithful being in the working age bracket of 20-year-olds to those in their 60s.

2) My only “surprise” with the Old Mass was, well — What on Earth is all this fuss about ???!!???

… and I’m asking this question of both factions.

Why on Earth do the liberals try and suppress a Rite of the Mass that has absolutely nothing wrong with it ?

Why on Earth do the more radical traditionalists condemn the New Rite which is so substantively equal to the Old ?

I mean, we can ALL complain when the catechism and the theology that people are taught, particularly our children and youth, are just so intensively and blatantly deficient, so that people end up being unable to comprehend the Mass at all, both Old and New — but the answer to this problem is to provide good catechesis ; not to provide either this or that extremist liturgical fetishism !!!

I will continue to accompany dear Père de Quay in his lonely traddy vigil, because the orthodoxy and the Tradition of our Church need defending — but I think when I do so in future, I’ll need to go to Mass twice on those Sundays. Because defending the minority cannot require abandoning the majority.