The notion of the “Dark Age,” after its coinage by Petrarch at the dawn of the Renaissance, may well have been propelled by later Reformation retrojectors–those projecting their own current views into the past–to blow at the candles illuminating Medieval culture so that the Reformation might better shine.
Modernity, post-modernity, and other contemporary cultural forces have especially resisted the words of the Medieval hymn to Mary, the Salve Regina, “gementes et flentes in hac lacrimarum valle,” translated “mourning and weeping in this valley of tears,” which is thought to have its origins in St. Jerome’s rendering of Psalm 83:7 (84:7)–
6 Beatus vir cujus est auxilium abs te:
ascensiones in corde suo disposuit,
7 in valle lacrimarum, in loco quem posuit.
Vulgate Psalms, Chapter 83, accessed from http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/vul/psa083.htm on 8/10/14.
–and which is now in many contemporary translations rendered as the “valley of Baca” instead of the valley of tears.
Contemporary Christians and agnostics likewise often reject the term, “valley of tears.” Garry Wills omitted the Salve Regina ending from his book on the Rosary (Catholics normally end their praying of the Rosary with the Salve Regina). The “valley of tears,” like St. John Paul II’s term “culture of death” from Evangelium Vitae, appears to make the progressive mind uncomfortable.
But I challenge contemporary thinkers to find a better expression to describe the terrible circumstances of those suffering from war, persecution, or poverty, than the “valley of tears.”
Scripture scholars have puzzled over the meaning of the Hebrew word Baca for centuries. Is it a place in Palestine, or a figurative state of sorrow?
In Arabic, Bakkah has a more precise meaning, the place of the sacred Kaaba in Mecca.
So those who suffer around the world today are indeed cast into the valley of tears, and into the collision of words and cultures–Baca, Bakkah–between Christian, Jewish, and Muslim interpretations.
Slavery has returned: it never left, but now is visible to the contemporary eye.
Yet can the contemporary eye fathom the meaning of the Enduring Dark Age that has exploded in our faces? What difference do progressivism, modernity, atheism, theory, narrative, etc., matter to Isis and their ilk? Atheists preaching their advantages to such a world merely sow into the wind. Can these violent fanatical forces be defeated by armies shaped today more to generate social change at home than the proper protective mission of a military force?
Fueled by almost a century of first Nazi and then Soviet anti-Semitic propaganda, a militant Islam is at war with the United States and Israel. Russia, Iran, and China are ready to pounce on their first geopolitical opportunities, and have an interest in prolonging the conflict. This general situation may not change for centuries.
Welcome, therefore, to the Enduring Dark Age, or if you prefer, the uncovering of a Dark Age that never really ended, but in which “enlightened” technological society collides with genocide, forced conversion, summary execution, and slavery–now made painfully visible by global communications, and catalyzed by the global proliferation of weapons down to the mad and genocidal local bully.
As long as hearts are darkened by hatred and fear despite our sophistication, and as long as the guns are not silenced, our age will darken still.
Salve Regina, Mater Misericordiae. . .
Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy. . .
Perhaps we can find hope and consolation in the words of the Psalmist beginning with–
How lovely your dwelling, O Lord of Hosts! (Psalm 84:1)
–and hear in the confluence of the contested words Baca and Bakkah the ending of tears and the presence of God.
O Clemens, O Pia, O Dulcis Virgo Maria!
© Copyright 2014, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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