Blog Archives

The Best Laid Plans (Do Not Require a Plan B)

 

The-Best-Laid-Plans-Of-Mice-And-Men-Often-Go-Awry

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

–Robert Burns, “To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough”

This is famously misquoted in standard English (as opposed to Burns’s Scots dialect) as “The best-laid plans of mice and men go oft awry.”  In any case, the sentiment is true enough.  How often do we plan something only to have events seemingly conspire to screw it all up?  How often does the most meticulous planning crash and burn before our eyes?  It’s not for no reason that we have the American idiom “Plan B”.  This is, of course, what you do–or attempt to do–when your original idea, Plan A, fails.  Sometimes we seem to run through the whole alphabet of plans and still things “gang agley”.  Then again, we’re not God.

The point I’m getting at here is something I’ve alluded to numerous time over the course of this and other series of posts at this blog.  In this post, I want to address the matter in a more direct and explicit manner.  The matter at hand relates to the interpretation of the Fall of Man, as described in the opening chapters of the Book fo Genesis.  My main purpose in “Legends of the Fall” has been to try to find a way to understand the aforementioned Fall give our current understanding of human origins and the impossibility of reconciling that understanding with the Genesis account.  I’m still pretty far out from coming to such an understanding, admittedly.  Nevertheless, I think it is useful to look at issues which, while partially tangential, nevertheless have implications for the course of the main argument.

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Theism Revisited: God, Gods, and Íñigo Montoya

Eight years ago, I looked at the various forms of theism and considered what they meant for us moderns, particularly my fellow Catholics.  For various reasons, I want to return to that topic and look at it from a different perspective.

I’ll start with a common atheist slogan often used in discussion with monotheists (usually Christians).  I should make clear upfront that I am not deriding or criticizing atheists as such.  I put in that disclaimer because a commenter on one of my posts a year or so ago took considerable umbrage at my noting that he was, in fact, an atheist in linking to his blog.  I thought that by doing so I was indicating that people who disagree on substantial matters can actually agree on other things.  He seemed to think I was somehow calling him a horrible, awful, evil person because he was an atheist.  That was a complete and total mischaracterization of what I said, and bore no resemblance to it, in fact, and we ended up having a fairly long (and, alas, pointless) argument in the comments.

Thus, I want to note here that while I’m going to discuss a view that many atheists hold that I think is mistaken, this is in no way meant to disparage atheists as such, or paint them as evil people.  In fact, plenty of theists consistently make the very same mistake.  It is a somewhat subtle mistake that is very widely held; and thus I think it to be worth discussing, from either a theistic or atheistic perspective.  Onward, then!

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Quote for the Week

Now let the heavens be joyful,
Let earth her song begin;
Let the round world keep triumph,
And all that is therein;
Invisible and visible,
Their notes let all things blend,
For Christ the Lord is risen
Our joy that hath no end.

–Saint John of Damascenus, in The Congregational Hymn Book: Psalms and Hymns for Divine Worship (1881), p. 219; courtesy of Wikiquote.

A Prayer for Easter

It is only right,
with all the powers of our heart and mind,
to praise You Father
and Your Only-begotten Son,
Our Lord Jesus Christ:
Dear Father, by Your wondrous
condescension of loving-kindness toward us,
Your servants, You gave up Your Son.
Dear Jesus You paid the debt of Adam
for us to the Eternal Father by
Your Blood poured
fourth in loving-kindness.
You cleared away the darkness of sin
By Your magnificent and radiant Resurrection.
You broke the bonds of death
and rose from the grave as a Conqueror.
You reconciled heaven and earth.
Our life had no hope of eternal happiness
before You redeemed us.
Your Resurrection has washed away our sins,
restored our innocence and brought us joy.
How inestimable is the tenderness
of Your love!

–Saint Gregory the Great’s Easter Prayer; courtesy of here.

Quote for the Week (Belated)

All the great groups that stood about the Cross represent in one way or another the great historical truth of the time; that the world could not save itself. Man could do no more. Rome and Jerusalem and Athens and everything else were going down like a sea turned into a slow cataract. Externally indeed the ancient world was still at its strongest; it is always at that moment that the inmost weakness begins. But in order to understand that weakness we must repeat what has been said more than once; that it was not the weakness of a thing originally weak. It was emphatically the strength of the world that was turned to weakness and the wisdom of the world that was turned to folly.

In this story of Good Friday it is the best things in the world that are at their worst. That is what really shows us the world at its worst. It was, for instance, the priests of a true monotheism and the soldiers of an international civilisation. Rome, the legend, founded upon fallen Troy and triumphant over fallen Carthage, had stood for a heroism which was the nearest that any pagan ever came to chivalry. Rome had defended the household gods and the human decencies against the ogres of Africa and the hermaphrodite monstrosities of Greece. But in the lightning flash of this incident, we see great Rome, the imperial republic, going downward under her Lucretian doom. Scepticism has eaten away even the confident sanity of the conquerors of the world. He who is enthroned to say what is justice can only ask:

‘What is truth?’ So in that drama which decided the whole fate of antiquity, one of the central figures is fixed in what seems the reverse of his true role. Rome was almost another name for responsibility. Yet he stands for ever as a sort of rocking statue of the irresponsible. Man could do no more. Even the practical had become the impracticable. Standing between the pillars of his own judgement-seat, a Roman had washed his hands of the world.

Since that day it has never been quite enough to say that God is his heaven and all is right with the world; since the rumour that God had left his heavens to set it right.

The Collected Works of G. K. Chesterton; courtesy of Wikiquote.

Zen Gospel Singing for the Weekend

When you’re not sure which religion you should be in….

 

A Prayer to Sts. Joachim and Anna

Akathist Hymn to Joachim and Anna, Ancestors of God

Kontakion 1

To the holy and righteous Joachim and Anna, forbears of Christ and elect among the human race, who gave birth to the holy Maiden of whom the Son of God was born in the flesh. Since you have great boldness before Christ our God and stand before His heavenly Throne, earnestly entreat Him that we may be delivered from all misfortune and thus may unceasingly cry aloud to you:

Rejoice, holy and righteous Joachim and Anna, Ancestors of God.

Ikos 1

An angelic messenger was sent to you by God, O holy and righteous Ancestors of God, when you both expressed your sorrow — you Joachim in the wilderness, and you Anna in the garden — offering up supplication to God. Thus, the incorporeal one brought the joyful tidings that you would give birth to an all-blessed daughter in whom the whole human race would be blessed, and with the angel we also offer you joyful praise:

Rejoice, branches of the vine of life who blossomed forth holiness from the root of David.

Rejoice, for you gave birth to a daughter more blessed than all generations of men.

Rejoice, most honored forbears of the Incarnate Son of God.

Rejoice, most excellent disclosers of the mystery hidden from before time began.

Rejoice, closest relatives in the flesh to the Consolation of Israel.

Rejoice, blood relatives of the Redeemer Who was promised to the world.

Rejoice, holy and righteous Joachim and Anna, Ancestors of God.

Kontakion 2

Seeing himself belittled by the high priest in the Temple of Jerusalem because of his lack of children, the holy Joachim was sorely distressed. In bitterness of soul he withdrew to his flocks in the wilderness. There he offered fervent supplication with tears, that the Lord would grant him to be called “father” by a child of his own. He therefore added fasting to prayer, and in the contrition of his heart cried aloud to God Almighty: Alleluia.

Ikos 2

Knowing the extent of her husband’s grief, the holy Anna wept bitterly in her house and prayed that the Lord would remove from her the reproach of barrenness. Rightfully remembering the patience of the righteous ones, we humbly cry out thus:

Rejoice, divinely chosen pair who gave birth to the one who would become the Mother of One of the Trinity.

Rejoice, for you brought forth an immaculate Mother for your Creator.

Rejoice, blessed pair who raised a daughter who is most blessed among women.

Rejoice, for God heard your petitions amid your barrenness.

Rejoice, for your tearful entreaties passed up to Heaven and reached the ear of the God of Israel.

Rejoice, for your temporal reproach has been transformed into eternal glory in Heaven and on earth.

Rejoice, holy and righteous Joachim and Anna, Ancestors of God.

Kontakion 3

Filled with the power of God, the angel of the Lord appeared to the holy Joachim in the wilderness and spoke to him. “God has heard your prayer and has been pleased to grant you His grace. Behold, Anna your wife will conceive and bear you a daughter who will be the joy of the whole world.” Having said these things, the incorporeal one commanded Joachim to return to the Temple of Jerusalem. There he would find his spouse praying, that with her he might also chant the hymn of praise to the God of Israel: Alleluia.

Ikos 3

Having great sorrow in your heart, O holy Anna, you entered the garden of your home where your eye saw little chicks lying in a bird’s nest in a tree. You immediately added supplications to your prayers, that the Lord might permit you to become the mother of a child. And, lo, the angel of the Lord appeared and spoke to you. “Your prayer has been heard, your sighs have passed beyond the clouds and your tears have come before God. Behold, you will conceive and bear an all-blessed daughter in whom all the peoples of the earth will be blessed, and through whom salvation will be given to all the world. Her name will be Mary.” Mindful of these most angelic tidings, let us chant these things to the Ancestors of God:

Rejoice, for you were chosen for ineffable glory.

Rejoice, for you walked blamelessly in all the Commandments of the Lord.

Rejoice, for you received eternal consolation amid your fleeting sorrow.

Rejoice, for you were exalted beyond expectation by the Right Hand of God.

Rejoice, for you showed humility in your tribulation, and the Lord God remembered you.

Rejoice, for you were chosen to become the forbearers of the Son of God.

Rejoice, holy and righteous Joachim and Anna, Ancestors of God.

Kontakion 4

Beset by a storm of doubt and perplexed by the angel’s tidings to him, the righteous Joachim immediately set out for the city of Jerusalem. There he found before the gates of the Temple the holy Anna, greatly glorifying the Lord. She declared to Joachim the joy of the angelic appearance and the prediction of childbirth. After Joachim had told his spouse of his own vision, he then cried with her to the Lord: Alleluia.

Ikos 4

When Anna’s relatives and friends heard of her all-glorious conceiving, they glorified the God of Israel. The divinely wise Anna promised the fruit of her womb to the service of God, and offered up fervent thanks to the Lord. In the same manner, earnestly singing the most glorious conception of the holy Maiden Mary, we say to her blessed parents:

Rejoice, joyous heralds announcing the Redeemer Who is come into the world.

Rejoice, grandparents of God Who in His mercy assumed our form.

Rejoice, through your blessed daughter, you provided flesh for the Word of God.

Rejoice, for you called the Incarnate God your grandson.

Rejoice, worthy servants of the great mystery of piety.

Rejoice, most excellent means of God’s condescension to men.

Rejoice, holy and righteous Joachim and Anna, Ancestors of God.

Kontakion 5

You were chosen to give birth in the flesh to the all-holy Birthgiver of God, the divinely radiant star who showed forth Christ God, the Sun of Righteousness. O most blessed Joachim and Anna, you have thereby received the enviable title of Ancestors of God. Upon her holy birth, Heaven and earth rejoiced and the entire human race was sanctified, crying to the God of Israel Who is wondrous in His saints: Alleluia.

Ikos 5

As parents, O righteous Joachim and Anna, you gazed tenderly at the Mother of the Creator, the holy Maiden Mary who was born of you, and you reverently ministered to her as the ark of God. We therefore beseech you not to turn away from us who fall down before you in prayer, but also attend to us who say:

Rejoice, for you were filled with radiant jubilation at the birth of the holy Maiden Mary.

Rejoice, for you were filled with delight at the sight of your most blessed daughter.

Rejoice, for you were moved to compunction at the sound of her voice.

Rejoice, for after these things, you were blessed by the high priest of God.

Rejoice, for you nurtured the unblemished ewe-lamb in your pious home.

Rejoice, for you received the Mother of the Lamb and Shepherd as your daughter.

Rejoice, holy and righteous Joachim and Anna, Ancestors of God.

Kontakion 6

You were shown to be proclaimers of the wonders of God, O Saints, when you fulfilled your vow to God and with glory brought the three-year old holy Maiden Mary to the Temple of God, so that she might abide in the Holy of Holies. Because of these things, you hastened with joy to chant to the God of your fathers this glorification: Alleluia.

Ikos 6

The divine Maiden shone forth like the full moon at her honored entry into the Temple of the Lord, and the angels marveled at her beauty. Taking her from your hands, O holy Joachim and Anna, the high priest Zachariah led her into the Holy of Holies with honor, for she was truly the living ark of God, and he blessed you as is proper with such praises as these:

Rejoice, for you have given birth to the universal joy of the human race.

Rejoice, for you have nurtured the cause of the restoration of mankind.

Rejoice, for you brought the living ark of God to the Temple of the Lord.

Rejoice, for you gave your holy daughter to dwell in the Holy of Holies.

Rejoice, for you are revealed as the relatives of God Who will become incarnate.

Rejoice, for you conversed with the angels.

Rejoice, holy and righteous Joachim and Anna, Ancestors of God.

Kontakion 7

Having fulfilled the desire of your soul and given your promise to God, O all-blessed Joachim, you departed this earthly life in holiness and righteousness, passing on to the Lord. We therefore ask you to petition Him that we also may be counted worthy to receive a peaceful and unashamed end, crying to Him: Alleluia.

Ikos 7

You led a new and God-pleasing life in your widowhood, O holy Anna, abiding in the Temple of God and ministering to your all-blessed daughter. For this reason, we praise you as a true and God-pleasing widow and the grandmother of Christ. With love we fervently honor you and your husband, Joachim the grandfather of God, and offer you such hymns as these:

Rejoice, just ones whose righteousness shines like the sun forever.

Rejoice, friends of the angels, who truly dwell with the saints in the presence of God.

Rejoice, for you stand near the Throne of Heaven.

Rejoice, for you have great boldness before Christ God.

Rejoice, adornment of the Church Triumphant in Heaven.

Rejoice, good support of the Church militant on earth.

Rejoice, holy and righteous Joachim and Anna, Ancestors of God.

Kontakion 8

Holy and righteous Anna, having reached the end of your earthly journey in the arms of your holy daughter, the Birthgiver of God Mary, you slept the sleep of death and were transported to God with hope. Glorifying your holy dormition, we entreat you, O most honored grandmother of God: When we also begin to fall into the sleep of death, beseech Christ the Savior that our soul may part gently from our body and escape the power of the demons, that we may be granted eternal salvation and may cry to Him in the joy of the saints: Alleluia.

Ikos 8

The whole Christian world blesses you as is proper, O holy and righteous Ancestors of God, Joachim and Anna, and in prayer glorifies your honored names. The Church of Christ celebrates your memory with splendor and offers hymns of praise to you.

Rejoice, beacons who graciously illumine the darkness of our soul.

Rejoice, for you mercifully look down upon mortals from the heavenly heights of your glory.

Rejoice, for you ever pray with Mary the Birthgiver of God.

Rejoice, for you thereby move Christ God to great mercy.

Rejoice, for you save from all misfortune those who cherish the Faith and who love one another because of you.

Rejoice, for you deliver those who call on your help in prayer from a violent and sudden death.

Rejoice, holy and righteous Joachim and Anna, Ancestors of God.

Kontakion 9

All the angels of God and the choirs of the saints of God in Heaven greet you, O holy and righteous Ancestors of God, Joachim and Anna, and on earth the generations of men praise you with prayerful hymns and cry to God in thanksgiving for your intercession: Alleluia.

Ikos 9

Our eloquence does not suffice to praise you fittingly, O holy forbears of Christ. Yet, knowing that you are merciful, we trust that you will not reject our inadequate praises. Rather, be fervent intercessors and advocates for us before the Lord, fulfilling the deficiency of our soul with your holy supplication, that we may cry to you this hymn of thanksgiving:

Rejoice, mediators who win for us the joy and eternal glory we desire.

Rejoice, fervent advocates before the Lord who acquire temporal and eternal blessings for us.

Rejoice, by your intercession, you preserve the faithful from deadly pestilence.

Rejoice, by your supplication, you dispel deadly plagues.

Rejoice, by your mediation, you cause earthquakes and violent storms to cease and you restore calm.

Rejoice, for amid all tribulation and misfortune, you hasten to our aid.

Rejoice, holy and righteous Joachim and Anna, Ancestors of God.

Kontakion 10

Holy and righteous Ancestors of God, Joachim and Anna, you have shown yourselves to be beneficial helpers of those who desire salvation of soul and diligently strive for this. O holy forebears, you are the guardians of monks and nuns, and you likewise offer supplication to God for all the faithful. For this cause, in thanksgiving to Christ the King of Glory, Who has glorified you throughout the world, all people may cry out: Alleluia.

Ikos 10

With the bulwark of your prayers, O holy and righteous Ancestors of God, Joachim and Anna, preserve and protect us from the temptations of the diabolical one that seeks the destruction of our soul. We know that your petition before the face of Christ our God, your Grandson according to the flesh, is able to accomplish much. Never cease to make supplication to Him in behalf of all who lovingly honor you and cry aloud:

Rejoice, fruitful olive trees pouring forth the oil of the mercy of God upon us in abundance.

Rejoice, cypress trees of excellent foliage who turn the burning heat of our passions into the stillness of dispassion.

Rejoice, purple and fine linen of which the tabernacle of God’s dwelling place was wrought.

Rejoice, turtle doves mated for life, who brought forth the immaculate dove.

Rejoice, for you reign eternally with your daughter, the Queen of all.

Rejoice, for you celebrate with her in splendor in her heavenly mansion in Zion on high.

Rejoice, holy and righteous Joachim and Anna, Ancestors of God.

Kontakion 11

Mercifully accept our hymns of praise and do not deprive us of your compassion, O holy Joachim and Anna, Ancestors of God. We are unworthy of your holy intercession because of our sins. Knowing that you are good and full of pity, however, we implore you to grant us mediation and to help us cleanse ourselves from defilement of sin through repentance. Thus, in purity of heart we may chant to our Creator the hymn of praise: Alleluia.

Ikos 11

Brethren, let us recognize the holy Ancestors of God, Joachim and Anna, as two radiant candles which lit the universal lamp. Mercifully illumined with the brightness of their heavenly glory, let us endeavor to become worthy by singing to them such words as these:

Rejoice, for you were counted worthy to raise her who is beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim.

Rejoice, for you were resplendent with heavenly brightness.

Rejoice, for you were filled with the sweet fragrance of the Spirit.

Rejoice, for you bear to God the incense of your prayers for the whole Christian world.

Rejoice, for you ever stand before the Throne of Christ with Mary the God-bearer and John the Baptist.

Rejoice, for we fall before you and honor the power of God in you.

Rejoice, holy and righteous Joachim and Anna, Ancestors of God.

Kontakion 12

Holy Ancestors of God, Joachim and Anna, ask the Lord to grant us divine grace and mercy, forgiveness of sins and correction of life. Never cease to entreat the countenance of Almighty God in our behalf, for you have acquired great boldness before Him. Falling down before you with fervor for this purpose, we beseech you as our true intercessors and helpers, and with real compunction we cry to the Creator of all: Alleluia.

Ikos 12

Singing of the great might of your intercession before God, O righteous Joachim and Anna, we sing also the praises of His all-immaculate Mother who was born of you. In our zeal we offer you these right-fitting praises:

Rejoice, for you are glorified from the East even to the West.

Rejoice, our protectors whose vigilance in intercession is never-waning.

Rejoice, for you grant your gracious help to every Christian soul.

Rejoice, most excellent healers who attend to those in pain and sorrow.

Rejoice, for you fulfill the entreaties and petitions of the pious.

Rejoice, most diligent and pleasing mediators who obtain for us temporal and eternal good things.

Rejoice, holy and righteous Joachim and Anna, Ancestors of God.

Kontakion 13

Holy and righteous Ancestors of God, Joachim and Anna, we entreat you with zeal and love, falling down before the footstool of your feet. We ask that you beseech the Lord God to deliver us from the everlasting damnation prepared for sinners. Saved therefore by the loving-kindness of our God and aided by your holy prayers, we may sing in thanksgiving to Him the angelic hymn: Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

(Repeat Kontakion 13 three times.)

Kontakion 1 (repeated)

To the holy and righteous Joachim and Anna, forbears of Christ and elect among the human race, who gave birth to the holy Maiden of whom the Son of God was born in the flesh. Since you have great boldness before Christ our God and stand before His heavenly Throne, earnestly entreat Him that we may be delivered from all misfortune and thus may unceasingly cry aloud to you:

Rejoice, O holy and righteous Joachim and Anna, Ancestors of God.

Ikos 1 (repeated)

An angelic messenger was sent to you by God, O holy and righteous Ancestors of God, when you both expressed your sorrow — you Joachim in the wilderness, and you Anna in the garden — offering up supplication to God. Thus, the incorporeal one brought the joyful tidings that you would give birth to an all-blessed daughter in whom the whole human race would be blessed, and with the angel we also offer you joyful praise:

Rejoice, branches of the vine of life who blossomed forth holiness from the root of David.

Rejoice, for you gave birth to a daughter more blessed than all generations of men.

Rejoice, most honored forbears of the Incarnate Son of God.

Rejoice, most excellent disclosers of the mystery hidden from before time began.

Rejoice, closest relatives in the flesh to the Consolation of Israel.

Rejoice, blood relatives of the Redeemer Who was promised to the world.

Rejoice, holy and righteous Joachim and Anna, Ancestors of God.

A Prayer

Ancestors of God, Joachim and Anna, your distress and reproach were overcome by the Almighty God, and thereby the Savior of the world came into the world through your holy daughter, Mary. Your prayers were abundantly answered by our merciful God Who rewards patience, humility and compunction. We praise you for your faith and for your commitment to prayer, and we implore your compassion upon our lack of fruitfulness in the Christian virtues. Holy and righteous Joachim and Anna, teach us to be living temples of the grace of God, so that we also may devote ourselves to holiness and bring forth treasures which are pleasing to Him. Growing older with each passing day, we ask your guidance that we might reach a peaceful end on this earth and thereby be united with you forever in the Kingdom of Heaven. Amen.

Courtesy of here.  An akathist is a traditional prayer in the Orthodox Church which is addressed to one of the Persons of the Trinity, or to a saint.  “Joachim” and “Anna” or “Anne” are the names traditionally attributed to the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Today is their feast day.

Two Prayers to St. Charbel

1.

Lord, infinitely Holy and Glorified in Your Saints,
You have inspired Charbel, the saint monk,
to lead the perfect life of a hermit.
We thank You for granting him the blessing
and the strength to detach himself from the world
so that the heroism of the monastic virtues of poverty,
obedience, and chastity,
could triumph in his hermitage.
We beseech You to grant us the grace of loving and serving You,
following his example.
Almighty God, Who has manifested
the power of St. Charbel’s intercession
through his countless miracles and favours,
grant us…

(State your intention(s) here…)

through his intercession.

Amen.

Our Father…
Hail Mary…
Glory Be…

2.

O God of Silence, in stillness Your adorable and mysterious Trinity lives, loves and acts. In the silence of time, Your great Mysteries have been accomplished. Blessed is the one who quiets everything within himself and listens to the impelling voice which leads to You. Charbel heard this voice and closed himself in solitude. He separated himself from a self-seeking world and spoke with You. You taught him to deny himself and to die, like the grain of wheat. You asked him to bind himself to You in a life of poverty, chastity and obedience. Freed from himself, he discovered You, 0 Lord, embraced the way of the Cross and filled his spirit with the memory of Your Son’s passion and death. The holy Mysteries became his life, the Eucharist his real food and the Mother of God his consolation. Day and night he sought You in the Scriptures and in the lives of the saints. Through unending prayer his whole life became a living hymn of praise to You and ended in a sacrifice of love that continues to proclaim Your glory. We beseech You, through his intercession, to inspire us to a life of prayer and sacrifice. Help us to live lives of quiet dedication to the service of Your Church, forever.

Amen

Courtesy of here.  Today is his feast day.

Quote for the Week

Faith both in the Immaculate Conception and in the bodily Assumption of the Virgin was already present in the People of God, while theology had not yet found the key to interpreting it in the totality of the doctrine of the faith. The People of God therefore precede theologians and this is all thanks to that supernatural sensus fidei, namely, that capacity infused by the Holy Spirit that qualifies us to embrace the reality of the faith with humility of heart and mind. In this sense, the People of God is the ‘teacher that goes first’ and must then be more deeply examined and intellectually accepted by theology.

–Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience 7 July 2010 at the Vatican web site; courtesy of Wikiquote

Marian Music for the Weekend

Slightly belated, but enjoy anyway.