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July 16, 2019

Sacrosanctum Concilium

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Synopsis

Sacrosanctum Concilium is the Second Vatican Council’s constitution on the sacred liturgy. It was the first document of the Council to be promulgated by Pope Paul VI (December 4, 1963). The provisions in this document eventually led to the New Order of Mass (Novus Ordo Missae) about seven years later.

Summary

INTRODUCTION

  1. Four goals of the Council:
    • increase vigor to life of the faithful
    • adapt institutions that can change to fit the times
    • promote Christian unity
    • call all of mankind to the Church
  2. Through the liturgy, the Church is made sacred.
  3. Practical norms should be established in the promotion and reform of the liturgy. These norms apply primarily to the Roman rite, but the principles and some norms apply to all rites.
  4. Obeying tradition, the various rites are held equal, to be preserved and fostered, and thus revised carefully.

CHAPTER I: GENERAL PRINCIPLES FOR THE RESTORATION AND PROMOTION OF THE SACRED LITURGY

I. The Nature of the Sacred Liturgy and Its Importance in the Church’s Life

  1. Christ, the Word made flesh, is the instrument of our salvation and perfect reconciliation with God. In Him we have the fullness of divine worship.
  2. The Apostles were sent to preach and to accomplish the work of salvation through the sacraments, especially baptism and the Eucharist.
  3. Christ is present in all liturgical celebrations (whole public worship): in the priest, in His Body, the Church, and in the Eucharist.
  4. The liturgy is a foretaste of Heaven.
  5. The liturgy is not the entire activity of the Church, for men must first be converted and do penance.
  6. The Church moves toward the liturgy and receives her power from it. The liturgy moves the faithful to be united in holiness.
  7. The faithful must be properly disposed lest they receive God’s grace in vain. Pastors must ensure that they are fully aware and engaged in the rite.
  8. Spiritual life is not limited to liturgy, but includes prayer: fraternal, interior, constant.
  9. Popular and ecclesial devotions in accord with laws and norms commended, but always surpassed by liturgy.

II. The Promotion of Liturgical Instruction and Active Participation

  1. Achieving the goal of full and active participation of the faithful in the liturgy begins with the priesthood.
  2. Liturgy professors must be trained.
  3. Liturgy courses to be required in seminaries/houses and principal in theological faculties, taught under theological, historical, spiritual, pastoral, and juridical aspects.
  4. Clerics in seminaries/houses to be given liturgical formation in spiritual life, with proper direction to foster understanding and participation.
  5. Secular and religious priests to be helped to understand the rites and live a liturgical life.
  6. Pastors must promote liturgical instruction of faithful and their active participation by word and example.
  7. Radio/TV transmission of rites (especially Mass) to be done with discretion and dignity under leadership of bishop-appointed persons.

III. The Reform of the Sacred Liturgy

  1. Some elements of liturgy are divine and immutable, others are not. Holy things should be expressed with more clarity. General norms hereby established:

A. General norms

  1. Liturgical regulation resides with the Apostolic See, with the bishop according to law, and with Competent Territorial Ecclesiastical Authority (CTEA) (limited). Priests may not change the liturgy.
  2. Tradition must be retained. Revisions require careful investigation. Unnecessary innovations must be avoided. New forms must grow organically from existing ones. Avoid notable differences in rites used in adjacent regions.
  3. Love of Scripture to be promoted. Lessons, prayers, collects, songs, actions and signs are derived from Scripture.
  4. Liturgical books to be revised ASAP by experts. Bishops worldwide to be consulted.

B. Norms drawn from the hierarchic and communal nature of the Liturgy

  1. Liturgical services are not private functions, but concern individuals in different ways according to rank, office and participation.
  2. Communal celebration is preferred over (quasi)private, especially Mass and administration of the sacraments.
  3. Each person (minister or layman) should perform (only his) office completely.
  4. Servers, lectors, the choir, etc. exercise genuine liturgical functions and should do so with sincere piety and decorum. They should be properly trained.
  5. Active participation includes acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, songs, actions, gestures, bodily attitudes, and reverent silence.
  6. Liturgical books to include rubrics for the people’s parts.
  7. No special honors for private persons or classes of persons aside from those for liturgical function, sacred Orders, or civil authority (when by law).

C. Norms based upon the didactic and pastoral nature of the Liturgy

  1. Liturgy is worship, but also instruction, not only in lessons and readings, but in prayer and song.
  2. Rites should be simple, short, clear, non-repetitious, commonly comprehensible, and self-explanatory.
  3. To connect words with rites:
    • There should be more reading from Scripture (varied and appropriate).
    • The sermon should be well-placed, exact, faithful, scriptural and liturgical, and focused on salvation (especially through the liturgy).
    • Liturgical instruction can include short directives and should use prescribed (or similar) words.
    • Bible services encouraged, especially on special days and when no priest is available (but Deacon or bishop-appointed person should preside).
  4. Regarding language:
    • Latin is to be preserved in the Latin rites.
    • Use of the vernacular language may be advantageous to the people and may be extended, first for readings and directives, then for prayers and chants.
    • CTEA (c.f. 22) will decide extent of use of the vernacular language, pending approval by the Apostolic See.
    • CTEA (c.f. 22) will approve translations of Latin texts into the vernacular language.

D. Norms for adapting the Liturgy to the culture and traditions of peoples

  1. Rigid uniformity not desired (unless faith or communal good is implicated; e.g. superstition or error). Genius and talents of races respected. Must harmonize with liturgy.
  2. Legitimate regional variations/adaptations (e.g. rubrics) permitted in liturgical books, but substantial unity of Roman rite must be preserved.
  3. CTEA (c.f. 22) will specify adaptations in sacraments, liturgical language. music, art, etc. per norms of this Constitution.
  4. Greater difficulties when more radical adaptation needed:
    • CTEA (c.f. 22) will consider elements of tradition and culture and submit them to Apostolic See for consent.
    • CTEA (c.f. 22) will be allowed to experiment within limits.
    • Liturgical laws often raise difficulties, especially in mission lands, requiring employment of experts.

E. Promotion of Liturgical Life in Diocese and Parish

  1. The bishop is the high priest of his flock and liturgical life of diocese centers around him.
  2. But he can’t be everywhere, so local parishes under pastors are set up, and sense of community encouraged.

F. The Promotion of Pastoral-Liturgical Action

  1. Zealous liturgical promotion/restoration is sign of God’s protection and the movement of the Holy Spirit in the Church.
  2. CTEA (c.f. 22) will set up a well-advised liturgical commission to regulate pastoral-liturgical action and to promote studies and necessary experiments before adaptations are proposed to the Apostolic See.
  3. Every diocese (or several together) to have a commission on sacred liturgy under the bishop to promote the liturgical apostolate.
  4. Every diocese should also have commissions for sacred music and for sacred art (these may be combined with commission on sacred liturgy).

CHAPTER II: THE MOST SACRED MYSTERY OF THE EUCHARIST

  1. Christ gave the Church the Eucharist to perpetuate His sacrifice of the Cross.
  2. The faithful should not be strangers or silent spectators, but take part in the offering with the priest and learn to offer themselves.
  3. The following decrees maximize pastoral efficacy, especially on Sundays and obligatory feasts.
  4. The Mass is to be revised to clarify it’s parts and their connection, to be simplified but its substance preserved, with some parts discarded and others restored.
  5. Scripture readings are to be expanded over the course of several years.
  6. Greater importance is to be placed on the sermon. It should not be omitted on Sundays and feasts.
  7. The intercessory “Prayer of the Faithful” is to be restored, especially on Sundays and feasts.
  8. The vernacular may be used, especially for the readings and intercessory prayer, but also to parts pertaining to the people (c.f. 36 & 40). The people should also be able to say/sing the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin.
  9. Communion under both kinds may be granted as the bishop sees fit.
  10. The two liturgies that make up the Mass (i.e. Word & Eucharist) form a single act of worship and the faithful should be encouraged to participate fully.
  11. Concelebration extended under specified circumstances.
  12. A new rite for concelebration to be written.

CHAPTER III: THE OTHER SACRAMENTS AND THE SACRAMENTALS

  1. Sacraments sanctify men, build up the body of Christ, and give worship to God, but they also instruct, so the faithful should understand them.
  2. Sacramentals signify effects (esp. spiritual) obtained through Church’s intercession, properly disposing men and occasionally making them holy.
  3. The proper use of material things can (almost?) always be directed toward sanctification and praise.
  4. Some rites have made the use of these unclear, and so revision is necessary.
  5. The vernacular is particularly useful (c.f. 36) and rites will be prepared ASAP (c.f. 22)
  6. The catechumenate (period of instruction for converts) is to be restored.
  7. Initiation rites in mission lands can be adapted when compatible. (c.f. 37-40)
  8. Simple and solemn rites of adult baptism to be revised considering restored catechumenate, and new Mass written.
  9. Infant baptism rite to be revised, clarifying roles and duties of parents and godparents.
  10. Baptismal rite to have variants for large groups, mission lands, emergencies, etc.
  11. “Order of supplying what was omitted in the baptism of an infant” to be replaced. New rite for receiving validly baptized persons into the Church.
  12. Baptismal water may be blessed during the rite with short formula, except during Eastertide.
  13. Confirmation rite to be revised for clarity. Baptismal vows to be renewed. New introduction for Confirmation rite outside of Mass to be added.
  14. Penance rite and formulas to be revised for clarity of nature and effects.
  15. Extreme unction should more fittingly be called “anointing of the sick” and can be administered who one begins to be in danger of death, not when it is imminent.
  16. Continuous rite to be prepared for anointing of sick between confession and viaticum.
  17. Anointings and prayers to be adapted to correspond with varying conditions of the sick.
  18. Ordination texts and ceremonies to be revised. Opening speech by bishop may be in vernacular. All bishops present may lay hands in consecration of new bishop.
  19. Marriage rite to be revised to signify the grace and clarify the duties of the spouses. Regional customs retained. CTEA (c.f. 22) can create regional rite in conformity with law.
  20. Matrimony to be celebrated between sermon and intercessory prayers. Prayer for the bride may be in the vernacular. If outside of Mass, epistle and gospel readings and blessing required.
  21. Sacramentals to be revised to enable full participation and new ones added as needed. Reserved blessings to be few and in favor of ordinaries. Some may be adminitered by qualified lay persons in special circumstances.
  22. Rite for consecration of virgins to be revised. Religious profession/renewal to be created to achieve greater unity, sobriety, and dignity. Profession/renewal in Mass preferred.
  23. Burial rite to express clearly the paschal character of death and regional traditions are to be considered. This extands to liturgical color.
  24. Burial rite for infants to be revised, and special Mass provided.

CHAPTER IV: THE DIVINE OFFICE

  1. Praying the divine office is another way the Church ceaselessly praises the Lord and intercedes for the salvation of the world.
  2. It makes the whole day holy. It is prayed by priests, others by Church ordinance, and the faithful (in approved form).
  3. They fulfill the duty of the Church and represent her before God.
  4. Scripture can inspire pastors to offer praises of the hours more vividly. (1 Thes 5:11; John 15:5; Acts 6:4)
  5. That it may be better and more perfectly prayed, the Council decrees…
  6. Traditional sequence of hours to be restored to genuinely related to times of the day.
  7. Specific rules for Lauds and Vespers (chief hours), Compline, Matins, Prime (suppressed), Terce, Sext, and None.
  8. The divine office is the public prayer of the Church and a source of piety; thus adaptations may be made to make its use more profitable.
  9. Psalms distributed over more than one week. Revision of psalter to consider use of Latin, Latin Church tradition, etc.
  10. Regarding readings: more Scripture to be covered, other readings better selected, and martyrdom/lives of saints agree with historical facts.
  11. Hymns to be restored to original form, mythology and non-Christian content removed, additional selections to be added as occasion arises.
  12. Each hour to be prayed close to its canonical time.
  13. Choral-office communities bound to celebrate in choir every day in addition to Mass (e.g. orders of canons, cathedral/collegiate chapters, major orders, etc.).
  14. Major-order clerics not bound to office in choir are bound to pray the entire office every day. (c.f. 89)
  15. Rubrics can define when liturgical service can be substituted. Ordinaries can dispense or commute the obligation.
  16. Members of dedicated institutes perform the public prayer of the Church, even if in approved short form.
  17. Clerics not obliged to choir urged to pray in common. All should pray as perfectly as possible, both internally and externally. It should be sung as often as possible.
  18. Pastors should celebrate chief hours (esp. Vespers) in common in church on Sundays and feasts. Lay people are encouraged to participate.
  19. Regarding Latin:
    • Latin to be retained. Ordinary can grant use of vernacular (c.f. 36) for individuals for whom it is an obstacle.
    • A competent superior may grant use of (approved) vernacular, even in choir, to nuns and members of institutes.
    • A cleric can use the (approved) vernacular if praying with the faithful or people in previous line item.

CHAPTER V: THE LITURGICAL YEAR

  1. Christ’s work of salvation must be celebrated on various days throughout the year (Sundays, Easter, etc.).
  2. The annual cycle honors Mary as well, who has an inseparable with salvation.
  3. The annual cycle memorializes the saints and martyrs as faithful examples.
  4. Traditional seasonal discipline completes formation of the faithful through instruction, prayer, penance, and merciful works.
  5. The Church celebrates the paschal mystery every 8th day (Lord’s Day, Sunday). The faithful are bound (required) to celebrate.
  6. The liturgical year to be revised, and the seasons preserved/restored to suit modern times, their specific character to be retained, with local adaptations allowed (c.f. 39-40).
  7. Propers for feasts of the Lord should take precedence over propers for saints’ feasts.
  8. The twofold character of Lent (baptismal and penitential) should be emphasized.
  9. Lenten penance should be both internal/individual and external/social, take into consideration regional circumstances, and encouraged by CTEA (c.f. 22). The paschal fast should be kept everywhere on Good Friday and into Holy Saturday.
  10. Feasts of saints who are truly of universal importance should be celebrated by the universal Church; others can be left to particular Churches, nations, etc. to venerate.

CHAPTER VI: SACRED MUSIC

  1. Music is the greatest art in the Church and is integral to solemn liturgy. Scripture, the Fathers, and the Popes agree. “[T]he Church approves of all forms of true art having the needed qualities, and admits them into divine worship.”
  2. Liturgical worship is more noble in song, including the faithful with assistance of ministers. (c.f. 36, 54, 63, 101; i.e. use the vernacular)
  3. Sacred music to be preserved and choirs promoted, but bishops and pastors must ensure active participation of the faithful. (c.f. 28, 30)
  4. Music must be taught in seminaries, novitiates, houses, schools, etc. by trained teachers. Higher institutes of sacred music should be founded. Composers and singers (esp. boys) must be liturgically trained.
  5. Gregorian chant should be given first place, but polyphony and other forms should not be excluded. (c.f. 30)
  6. Three books of chant to be prepared (typical, critical, simple).
  7. Religious singing of faithful to be fostered so that norms and rubrics can be met.
  8. Missionaries to be trained in music so that worship can be adapted to incorporate native genius/art in mission lands.
  9. The pipe organ should be given first place, but other instruments may be used with consent of CTEA (c.f. 22, 52, 37, 40), only if suitable for sacred use and edification of the faithful.
  10. Composers should cultivate sacred music, not limited to music for large choirs but for small one and the faithful. Texts must conform to doctrine. Scripture and liturgical sources should be used.

CHAPTER VII: SACRED ART AND SACRED FURNISHINGS

  1. The Church has always been a patron of the arts and has admitted changes in materials and style as art progresses.
  2. The Church has not adopted a particular style. Her treasury of art must be preserved. Modern art must give due reverence and honor.
  3. Ordinaries should seek beauty (not sumptuous art), remove works repugnant to faith/morals/piety or that are mediocre, and build churches suitable for celebration of and full participation in the liturgy.
  4. Placement of images in churches for veneration to be maintained, but in moderation and in proper spatial order.
  5. Ordinaries judge the art, giving a hearing to the diocesan commission on sacred art, to experts, and to other commissions (c.f. 44-46).
  6. Bishops should imbue artists with spirit of sacred are and of liturgy in person or through priests. Artists should be trained. Artists imitate God the Creator.
  7. Canons and statutes to be revised regarding material things: building, altars, tabernacles, baptisteries, images, vestments, etc. CTEA (c.f. 22) empowered to make regional adaptations.
  8. Clerics to be taught about the history and development of sacred art.
  9. Pontificals reserved for those with episcopal rank or particular jurisdiction.

APPENDIX: A DECLARATION OF THE SECOND ECUMENICAL COUNCIL OF THE VATICAN ON REVISION OF THE CALENDAR

  • The Council would not object to assigning Easter to a particular Sunday of the Gregorian calendar provided that non-Catholic Christians agree.
  • The Council would not object to designing and introducing a perpetual calendar into civil society provided that a seven-day week with Sunday is preserved.

Observations

  • The first session of Vatican II convened on October 11, 1962. Pope John XXIII died the following June. Within a month, Pope Paul VI is elected, and the second session began September 29th, 1963. This document was promulgated just over two months later, on December 4.
  • Many of the visible differences between the old Mass and the new Mass are not found in Sacrosanctum Concilium. In fact, it may come as a surprise to some that many provisions and decrees contradict common practices found in the Mass today, including:
    • Latin is not eliminated, but is specifically retained, and the vernacular is reserved for certain uses
    • Gregorian chant is given preference over all other forms of sacred music
    • Pipe organs are given preference over all other instruments
    • Celebrating Mass versus populum is not mandated or even mentioned
  • The phrase “active participation” is prolific throughout.
  • Many revisions are called for, but there are very few details or limits.
  • There are a lot of provisions made for “mission lands” and regional variations/adaptations.

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February 3, 2014

The Hunger Games


I never intended to read this book, but with the second movie in the theaters, I thought it was high time to get caught up. There is a lot of information about this story online, including this very informative wiki site, so I chose to provide a brief synopsis and to expound on a few observations I made while reading the book.


Synopsis

This synopsis is on the book. At the time of this writing, I have not yet seen the movie, so I do not know how faithful it is to the original story. Based on what I’ve read in the wiki pages I know that there are at least a few minor differences.

* * *   SPOILER ALERT   * * *   SPOILER ALERT   * * *   SPOILER ALERT   * * *

The story is set in a future North America, now called Panem. Following the destruction of modern civilization by natural forces, a totalitarian government called the Capitol arose and established rule over twelve districts. Each district provides different goods and services to the oppressive government. After a failed revolution by the districts against the Capitol, the Treaty of Treason was enacted. It contained penitential provisions including the institution of an annual contest called The Hunger Games in which every district must enroll one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen, chosen by lottery, to fight to the death in an outdoor arena controlled by the Capitol’s Gamemakers. These youth are called tributes and the lottery is called the reaping. This is the story of the 74th Hunger Games.

District Twelve is one of the poorest districts and has not had a Hunger Games victory in a long time. The tributes from Twelve, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, make a stunning impression during the opening ceremonies and are cast as star-crossed lovers. The 74th Hunger Games begin as normal, but as it becomes more likely that Katniss and Peeta must face one another as enemies in the arena, the Gamemakers change the rules, announcing that if the final two tributes are from the same district then they will be declared co-winners. This results in the formation of natural alliances between various remaining tributes, including Katniss and Peeta. The team from Twelve eventually win, but when the Gamemakers retract the rule change, Katniss proposes a suicide pact. She presumes that the Gamemakers will not allow them to end the games without a winner for if they were both to die then they would be martyrs in resistance against the Capitol and that could lead to civil unrest and even rebellion within the districts. When the Gamemakers realize what they are about to do, they quickly announce the two tributes as winners just before their plan can be fully executed.

My Initial Reaction

I really wanted to hate this story. Pitting children against one another in a death match, much less making it a game that some youths spend their whole lives in training to win, is not what I consider a very wholesome theme. To be honest, the thought still turns my stomach. What’s more, I heard nothing about the movie but how violent it is. This is why I didn’t read the book or see the film for so long. In the end though, I did enjoy the book, not just because it was fairly well-written with good characterization and subplots, but because it did not glorify the murder of children as I had first expected. Instead, it actually reinforced moral arguments against it.

Analysis

Basis. The story was much easier digest once I understood that it was loosely based on the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. In one version of that story the city of Athens must give up nine courageous boys and nine beautiful maidens every nine years as a tribute after suffering a major military defeat to Crete. The children are sent into Daedalus’ labyrinth where the Minotaur monster lives, and there they are killed and eaten. Theseus, who is secretly the son of the Athenian king, volunteers as a tribute with the intention of killing the Minotaur and ending the bloody ritual. With this in mind, I was able to force myself to stop pondering how the surviving descendants of Americans living in Panem could totally abandon Judeo-Christian morals in favor of the Capitol’s version of justice and focus more deeply on the story at hand.

Self-Sacrifice. The only overt expression of the Christian ethos is Katniss’ choice to volunteer to be a tribute in place of her younger sister, Prim. One might hope to see the tributes stand united, refusing to fight one another and accepting death at the hands of the Gamemakers. In this way, they would resemble early Christian martyrs. But this is not the plot the author chose, so we must trudge forward toward a less edifying treatment of the human condition.

Violence. Insofar as the book is concerned, the depiction of violence was no worse than any war novel I’ve ever read, and was actually far more tame than some. Fans of Stephen King and Clive Barker have no voice in this debate whatsoever. Some of the tributes are developed as characters easy to hate, the career tributes in particular since they are trained to be killers. Katniss is different. She is not a killer but a survivor and all of her ‘kills’ are presented as justifiable. Glimmer and the girl from District Four die from stings when Katniss drops a nest of genetically enhanced wasps on them. Katniss was cornered at that time, trapped in a tree, and if she had not done this then her own fate was imminent. She shot the male from District One after he kills her only ally, Rue. This happened so quickly that I interpreted it as an instinctive reaction, the elimination of an immediate threat, and not a vengeful murder in cold blood. The slaying of her final adversary, Cato, was depicted as a mercy killing for he was already being torn to shreds by mutant beasts created by the Gamemakers. As for the suicide pact with Peeta, that scene was reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet.

The Twist. The rule change made by the Gamemakers was very predictable in my opinion, and because it came at the point in the plot where it did, its reversal was even more so. Though I wasn’t necessarily expecting Katniss’ suicide wager, it was an obvious course of action given that neither tribute could bring themselves to kill the other and then pretend to live a normal life afterward. The biggest question left on my mind was whether or not the rule change (and/or its retraction) was announced to the watching public or only within the arena. After all, the Gamemakers do control what footage is released to the masses. That the star-crossed lovers had formed an alliance under the assumption that one of them would eventually be killed at the hands of another tribute would not have seemed unusual, and a final battle between them should they be the last two standing would have provided the ultimate in entertainment. The Gamemakers did not expect the suicide pact, however, and if Katniss and Peeta had succeeded then the secret rule change would have been exposed and the two from Twelve would had won the games together, at least in principle, for the Capitol would have had no way to cover up their rebellious act.

Etymologies. As long as its done well, I really appreciate it when authors give meaningful names to their characters. It just adds a different dimension to the characterization, a deeper sense of personality. Subtlety is key.

The name Katniss is a prime example, referring not only to an edible plant, thereby underscoring her ability to survive off of the land, but also to Sagittarius, the famous archer in Greek mythology, as a testimony to her skill as a hunter. Peeta is the son of a baker in District Twelve and so he known to Katniss as ‘the boy with the bread’. I found no official word that this pun was intended by the author, but many have noted online that the sound of his name is strikingly similar to ‘pita’ which is, of course, the name of a pocketed flatbread. (Because I was listening to the audiobook version, I thought at first that his name was actually Peter and that the narrator was pronouncing it with a slight English accent, that is until I looked it up online.) The names of some of the other tributes were really just nicknames, such as Foxface, whose name was derived not only from her red hair and slender facial features but also from her stealthiness. Similarly, Thresh’s name is certainly derived from the agricultural term, he being from District Eleven where agriculture is the primary industry. He seeks refuge in a wheat field because he is familiar with that type of terrain and knows how to prepare food from the crop. Moreover, the threshing of grains involves beating them until they separate from the chaff, and Thresh’s primary asset is his strength, which he uses to crush the head of Clove with a rock. I do find the selection of Cato’s name puzzling in a way. Based on baby name sites, it means wise or all-knowing. I find this ironic, not because he wasn’t a smart contender, but because we was immature and emotional, traits that overshadowed any real wisdom he may have possessed.

The application of meaningful names isn’t limited to the human characters in this story but extends to places and things as well. Consider Panem. At first glance one might assume it is a futuristic transliteration or abbreviated form of “Pan-American”. Indeed, the author may have banked on this illusory reference, but anyone who has studied even basic Latin should pick up on the root word for bread. The Latin phrase panem et circenses (“bread and games”) is used to refer to a superficial means of appeasement of the people through the satisfaction of shallow needs (i.e. the need for entertainment in this case). This phrase was used to describe Rome during its decline when the people lived in luxury with an insatiable appetite for entertainment, including games in which human captives battled beasts in an arena. Though the term was certainly borrowed from the Theseus myth, the word tribute literally means something that is paid, such as a tax paid to a ruler for protection. Tessera is a Latin word for inscribed stones or tiles that were commonly used as theater tickets. In Panem, tesserae are tokens for food rations given to a youth in exchange for additional entries in the reaping lottery (or to put it more morbidly, extra tickets to the Games).

As you can see, the author’s borrowing of terms from antiquity is far from trite and should earn for her some respect from the intellectual reader. I just find it curious that a culture having limited knowledge of history beyond the previous seventy-five years or so employs so much ancient vocabulary in their vernacular, especially since the meanings of the words often depend on historical context. Perhaps those in the Capitol are not so ignorant, and knowing that knowledge is power, they keep the inhabitants of the districts uneducated about the culture of their ancestors.

The Art of War. I’ve read a few books on military strategy in my time and I couldn’t help but notice how some parts of the narrative sounded like the excerpts from Sun Tzu’s Art of War. For example, Katniss preferred not to travel in the valley, because she felt exposed to predators, but would much rather traverse the hills, allowing her to fight down hill. She also knows how important it is to learn your enemy’s strengths and weaknesses, skills and tactics, and to know your own limitations as well. She uses incendiary warfare to disrupt the enemy’s supply lines. The Gamemakers understand that there are different types of terrain (ground) and that the tributes may enter them only under certain circumstances. They use disruptions to guide the tributes’ movements. Espionage and alliances definitely play a role. It should come as no surprise though. Sun Tzu is a short treatise on warfare that can be easily digested and is probably used quite often as a quick reference by authors when writing battle stories. Plus, she’s the daughter of an Air Force officer and Vietnam War veteran, so she has a subject matter expert close at hand.

Rule By Fear. The Hunger Games has an effect beyond the simple penance they impose. They reinforce the Capitol’s dominion over the districts, but they also hinder the districts from organizing an effective force against the oppressive government. There is the preparation for the games themselves. That several districts raise and train elite youths to be tributes expose where their resources are expended. Other districts are poor and must work hard to survive. Rivalries between districts also reduce the likelihood that rebellious alliances will form. Over time, the Games have been accepted as part of life in Panem, as horrific and as wrong as they may be, and the people are desensitized to the violence. To paraphrase the author, after the children are reaped everyone in the district rejoices save but two households, which close tight the shutters on the windows and figure out how they are going to make it through the coming weeks. This is a potentially volatile environment, so the Capitol is careful to put down any action that might encourage resistance or rebellion through police action.

Political Message. I was told by a friend that the book was published shortly after the tragic events of 9-11 and (more pointedly) the passage of the Patriot Act…well, by shortly I mean within a year or two. The implication was that Panem and the Capitol are warnings of what will happen to the U.S.A. should we continue to follow leaders like George W. Bush. Now, this is just his opinion mind you, though he did said “he read all about it on the Internet”. Honestly, I didn’t spend a lot of time trying to substantiate his claim, but if I have a chance to do so in the future then I will update this section with my findings. All I can say is that The Hunger Games wasn’t published until 2008, and it appears that the author was quite busy writing other books in the meantime. One might surmise that the timing of the book’s first publication less than two months before the 2008 presidential election was a little too coincidental. But then, the case can also be made that political conservatives could be just as likely to interpret the work as warning against the “evils” of a possible liberal administration. Just maybe, if any political message was intended at all, it was kept vague and flexible enough to make the story seem timely regardless of the current political atmosphere. If that was done with purpose, then well played, Mrs. Collins, well played indeed!

Conclusion

Though I enjoyed the story as it unfolded and the opportunity to reflect more deeply on its intricacies, I still question whether or not this book contains a theme too mature for pre-teen readers. I remember reading the story of Theseus and the Minotaur around that age, and fighting against a vicious beast to survive may be acceptable, but I do not see the need for a twelve-year-old to wrestle with the moral dilemma of being forced to kill their friends, classmates, and neighbors. With regard to the culture statement made by this work, I ended the book with the notion that the sequels will contain the story of a second revolution, a small seed of hope that liberty will indeed survive the wrath of the Capitol. When I mentioned this to a friend I was reassured more with a smile than with words that I won’t be disappointed in the outcome. With that, Catching Fire is already loaded into my vehicle’s six-disc changer and I brace myself for another eleven hours of agony and adventure.


July 30, 2010

Useful Latin Words & Phrases

Filed under: Language,Latin — Brandon @ 8:11 am
Tags: , , ,

My Lists > Language > Latin Resources > Useful Latin Words & Phrases


If nothing else, Latin is useful for getting a point across. For example, a single English word can have several meanings, all of which are conveyed by different Latin words that can be compared and contrasted. Also, word roots and extensions are very useful for understanding the meanings of unfamiliar words and for the expansion of one’s own vocabulary. They aren’t very useful if you don’t use them at least on occasion, so it is beneficial to have a good list of Latin phrases on hand. Below are links to some good online lists, as well as a (growing) list of phrases I’ve found helpful or just plain cool.


Sites

Some sites with useful Latin phrases:

And, some not-so-serious ones:

Favourites

Here are some I’ve used, mostly at work:

  • cum grano salis – “with a grain of salt”.
  • cura posterior – “future concern”.
  • domus dulcis domus – “home sweet home”, or at work: domus dulcis cubus.
  • esse quam videri – “to be, rather than seem to be”; common motto, including North Carolina’s.
  • ex abrupto – “without preparation”.
  • ex mea sententia – “in my opinion”.
  • imperium – power or authority.
  • in esse – “in being”, “in actual existence”.
  • locus in quo – “The place in which”; in law, the scene of an event.
  • obsta principiis – “resist the beginnings”; i.e. “nip in the bud”.
  • sapere aude – “dare to discern”; used by Horace, Kant & Foucault.
  • terra incognita – “unknown land”; ancient cartography term for unmapped regions.

From showbiz:

  • Me transmitte sursum, caledoni! – “Beam me up, Scottie!”

And, some from religion and philosophy:

  • credo ut intelligam – “I believe so that I may understand”; Anselm of Canterbury.

December 31, 2009

Latin Resources

Filed under: Language,Latin — Brandon @ 11:24 am
Tags: ,

My Lists > Language > Latin Resources


Even a small knowledge of the Latin language can prove to be very useful when studying other languages or when evaluating literature. It’s invaluable when studying Church documents, liturgical or historical. And it can be a lot of fun around the office if one or two others like to dabble in it as well. This page contains various resources, references and online tools, that I use to assist in translating and learning Latin.


Online Tools

Articles

My Latin Notes

Latin Texts


June 11, 2007

June 11, 2007: Finances, Gas Hedge Card, Latin Trek

Filed under: My Stack — Brandon @ 12:00 am
Tags: , , , ,

Financial Info
Aswath Damodaran is a prof at NYU. His site is full of useful spreadsheets, data, and such.
http://pages.stern.nyu.edu/~adamodar/

Gulf Station Gas Card
If approved, this card would allow you to pay for a certain number of gallons up front, at a specified price.
http://www.pfadvice.com/2006/06/05/pre-paid-gas-price-increase-hedge-card/

Me transmitte sursum, caledoni!
"Beam me up, Scottie!" in Latin.

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