I will be live-streaming video of the installation of the new Archbishop of Denver, Samuel Aquila at 2:00PM Mountain today, July 18, 2012. You can view the video at http://livestream.com/archden
When the Iranians announced that a worm had got into their computers last week, I was a little surprised. I mean, most computers have hard plastic cases and are not usually placed in muddy puddles. But then I realized, “Oh, they meant a virus, a trojan a computer worm, not just any old worm.” With that cleared up, the NY Times released a related story yesterday which prompted some Catholic Bible Student interest. (In case you have not read about what happened–basically, a big ugly computer worm called “Stuxnet” infested the computers at Iran’s nuclear facilities.) Apparently, one of the files in the worm is entitled “Myrtus.” The NY Times intelligently relates how this title may be an allusion to the Book of Esther. This allusion may indicate that the Stuxnet worm is connected to the Israelis, specifically their cyberwarfare unit in their intelligence service. Unfortunately, the Times article does not get into explaining the exact connection between the word “Myrtus” and Esther until late in the article, except for saying it is connected to the myrtle plant. So what is the connection?
The NY Times tells us this:
Then there is the allusion to myrtus — which may be telling, or may be a red herring.
Several of the teams of computer security researchers who have been dissecting the software found a text string that suggests that the attackers named their project Myrtus. The guava fruit is part of the Myrtus family, and one of the code modules is identified as Guava.
It was Mr. Langner who first noted that Myrtus is an allusion to the Hebrew word for Esther. The Book of Esther tells the story of a Persian plot against the Jews, who attacked their enemies pre-emptively.
“If you readyou can make a guess,” said Mr. Langner, in a telephone interview from Germany on Wednesday.
Carol Newsom, an Old Testament scholar at, confirmed the linguistic connection between the plant family and the Old Testament figure, noting that Queen Esther’s original name in Hebrew was Hadassah, which is similar to the Hebrew word for myrtle. Perhaps, she said, “someone was making a learned cross-linguistic wordplay.”
Ok, so that’s all fine, but let’s get into the details about this so-called allusion.
The word at issue is actually a Latin word. In the Latin Vulgate, the word only shows up in Isaiah 55:13 (“pro saliunca ascendet abies et pro urtica crescet myrtus et erit Dominus nominatus in signum aeternum quod non auferetur”). The word in Hebrew here is “hadas”. In Latin, it is less common than the adjectival form, myrteus. Here’s the dictionary entry from Lewis and Short’s Latin Dictionary, provided by Perseus Digital Library:
A Latin Dictionary. Founded on Andrews’ edition of Freund’s Latin dictionary. revised, enlarged, and in great part rewritten by. Charlton T. Lewis, Ph.D. and. Charles Short, LL.D. Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1879.
So that’s the word which shows up in the Stuxnet computer worm files. We have three more questions to answer. What does myrtle look like? How is the Latin word myrtus related to Esther? Why would an allusion to Esther indicate any kind of Israeli involvement?
2. The Latin word myrtus translates into Hebrew as “hadas”, which I stated above. This exact Hebrew form shows up only in Isaiah 55:13 and Nehemiah 8:15. Other forms of the same word occur in Isaiah 41:19 and Zechariah 1:8, 10 and 11. In every case, the word is translated as myrtle. But…where this gets interesting is that the name of Esther in Hebrew is “Hadassah”. The word only appears once in the Bible in Esther 2:7. The Bible is talking about Mordecai who “was bringing up Hadassah, that is Esther.” Hadassah is her Hebrew name and “Esther” is her name in Persian. The Hebrew name, Hadassah, comes from the same root as the word for myrtle (hadas). So…by a long, circuitous, multi-langugage path, the word myrtus which is “hadas” in Hebrew, the basis for “Hadassah,” the Hebrew name for Esther, connects us to the biblical story of Esther.
3. Ok, great. We have traced the linguistic connections, but why Esther? Well, in Esther, the Jews beat the Persians. Esther and Mordecai are living in the capital of the Persian empire and are under attack by a certain high Persian official. Through a series of twisty-turny events, Esther and Mordecai avoid the persecutions of the official and win peace and prosperity for the Jews in the Persian empire. It is a story of the underdog overcoming a powerful foe. In addition, the Persian empire was the ancient version of Iran. Susa, the capital, was in modern-day Iran. Iranians speak the Persian language. And modern-day Iranians think of themselves as the heirs of the great Persian empire of ancient times.
So, the connection is rather apt, if a little obscure. Just as Esther subverted the power of the Persian empire in ancient times, so the Stuxnet worm is subverting the neo-Persian-Iranian empire in modern times.
So, I gave you a false alarm back in March that the Pope’s Postsynodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Bible would be out by Easter. That did not happen. However, I just obtained new information that the final edits to the manuscript were in the works during the first week of July and that it now has been submitted to the official Vatican publisher. The document exists and will soon be published. As soon as I hear anything more, I will let you know.
A new Catholic hymnal, which promises to be very different from what we American Catholics are accustomed to is on its way to the printers. The St. Augustine Hymnal from International Liturgy Publications (Watch out! The page plays music!) contains hymns and songs by Catholic composers. Most of the music is not available in other hymnals–namely the ones that most parishes purchase annually from GIA (Gregorian Institute of America) and OCP (Oregon Catholic Press). The St. Augustine Hymnal, I hope, will be very good for the Catholic music market in the United States. The music is new, different and hopefully, very good. I would not be surprised if you find it in the pew at a lot of Catholic Churches over the next few years. It might force GIA and OCP to change up some of their music, but we will see. Church musicians and music directors can get a free copy of the new hymnal here. ILP is doing something new and different. I think we could all use a breath of fresh air in our congregations’ music. I hope that the St. Augustine Hymnal will provide it. I’ll pick up a copy and let you know what I think. Oh yeah, and the new hymnal is very economical at only $7.95. Lots of parish finance committees will breathe a sigh of relief over that!
I just heard from the Al Kresta show that a few of the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist will be featured on Oprah’s national talk show on Tuesday, February 9. This group of sisters has been growing by leaps and bounds since its foundation 13 years ago. Their mother house is in Ann Arbor, MI and they have opened schools in other dioceses. Oprah’s crew went to the mother house and did some filming which will be show during the program. Right now, the group includes 98 sisters and at the helm is Mother Assumpta Long, OP. I am sure the conversation will be interesting, so I’d encourage you to tune in.
I’ve been thinking (as has everyone else) that we need a copyright law reform in the US. Copyright law has not been touched by Congress since 1998 and things have changed a bit since then. Right now, there is a showdown between Google and several publishers over the Google Books service. Friend of the court briefs and such were all due January 28, 2010 and the federal court (Judge Danny Chin in Manhattan) is scheduled to hear arguments on February 18. Google is hoping to settle with the publishers on a class action basis which would allow them to electronically reproduce up to 20% of a book online in Google Books and allow them to post “orphan” books. Orphan books are technically under copyright, but have no copyright owner (since the author is deceased and the publisher has gone out of business). Google is gaga over orphan books because it sees them as tons of free exclusive online content. Reproducing these books online would let them post ads next to them and rake in cash on clicks.
A bunch of people have weighed in on the grandiose case since it affects pretty much everyone who either reads or writes. There is tons to read on the case. Here are the places to look:
A lot of folks are terrified that this big Google settlement will kill creativity by making it unprofitable (this is from the writer side of things). A lot of other people are scared that the settlement will force all electronic content to be constantly “metered” so that every book is “licensed” to you as you pay for it page-by-page. Google is frightened because if they lose, they could be liable for up to $3.6 trillion in copyright infringement! There is a lot at stake in this settlement and I must say that I hope Congress will weigh in at some point soon and do a copyright law overhaul. Don’t hold your breath.
You may have seen this story swirling through the Bible news internet blogoplex. Ellen van Wolde, a professor at Radbound University in the Netherlands has claimed that the Hebrew word br’ in Genesis 1:1 means “separated” not “created” thus making God a divine manipulator of things already existing, not a creator ex nihilo. Well, as you can imagine, there have been many responses.
This debate is is important because of the central idea of creatio ex nihilo in Catholic thought. The Catholic Catechism addresses the doctrine of creation in CCC282-301, especially 296-298. The Catechism cites Lateran Council IV which states that the Trinity is “the one principle of the universe, the creator of all things, visible and invisible, spiritual and corporeal, who by this almighty power from the beginning of time made at once out of nothing both orders of creatures, the spiritual and the corporeal, that is, the angelic and the earthly, and then the human creature, who as it were shares in both orders, being composed of spirit and body” (Neuner-Dupuis 19; DS 800; emphasis mine).
However, I don’t think very many people will take Prof. Wolde’s theory very seriously.
The World Youth Day events are going strong this week. They opened on Monday with Mass with Cardinal Pell of the Sydney Archdiocese on Tuesday, July 15. They close with the finale events: vigil with Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday and mass with him on Sunday. But if you’re thousands of miles away from Australia and would like to see some of the action, there’s a few places to view the television coverage.
First, take a look at:
The Official World Youth Day Video Site
You can find video of all the major events with little or no commentary (a relief), but it’s not live.
the EWTN coverage.
EWTN has live coverage of the major events.
I’m sure that there are other sites broadcasting video in other languages. If I find them I’ll let you know. Of course, you can get video snippets from the major news sources like the AP and Reuters, but they’re not going to be bringing huge amounts of coverage.
UPDATE: You can get the audio of the Pope’s speeches at World Youth Day through one of the podcasts I mentioned below: http://www.radiovaticana.org/rss/rss.xml
Thanks to a reader’s comment, you can also find TV coverage of World Youth Day at popeinaustralia.com.
Global Climate Change is the new Apocalypse.
Health is the new salvation.
Doctors are the new healers.
Government is the new Savior.
News is the new Gospel.
Abortion is the new sacrament.
Professors are the new theologians.
Teachers are the new priests.
Activists are the new evangelists.
Chemical imbalances are the new demons.
Psychologists are the new exorcists.
All this progress is not really new at all, is it?