Sunday, 30 December 2007
Can we invent a category of transraced? Or would that bring two cultural taboos into an unwinnable conflict? Or, let's take another example, what about those who feel older than their biological age- the transaged? Can I be given a senior's card and get discounts in shopping centres because I get on better with folk over 50 than with people my own age (and like to wear waistcoats, to boot)? The list goes on.
I read somewhere a little while ago (I forget where) that if abortion had nothing to do with sex, it would still be seen as horrific and barbaric. I wonder if the same principle applies here. Its all about sex. If these things had nothing to do with sex, nobody would have gotten up to try to normalise them. Same principle as with homosexuality and the gay agenda. Our culture's relativism happens in very few other places.
Mind you, one question that does intrigue me is what the ratios are with these "transgendered" folk of men who 'feel' like women and women who 'feel' like men. Are there more of one than of the other? One usually only hears about the former. A related question: why is it that gay men are almost always effeminate (thankfully with the exception of Ian McKellen) whereas lesbians don't act more masculine? I've often wondered about that. What is the reason behind it and is it significant? Good luck getting someone to do research on that though. They'd probably be sued.
Saturday, 29 December 2007
Thursday, 8 November 2007
Its going to take me a while to reach Canterbury Cathedral though. Over two weeks in fact. And what happens between now and then is anybody's guess. All is in God's hands though, and I'm pretty content to leave it there.
Libera me, Domine, ab vitiis meis, ut solius voluntatis tuae cupidus mihi sim.
Funny the things you find when you are randomly browsing. I discovered this when doing a search for St Peters Catholic Church, Winchester, where I will be offering the Sacrifice this Sunday. I haven't looked through the site exhaustively, but I like the concept. And, moreover, St Peters in Winchester got a pretty decent review. Which is a bonus.
Monday, 5 November 2007
Saturday, 3 November 2007
For some reason, the phrase conjures up in my mind images of our good Cardinal laying into various representations of evil (rainbow sashes and poker machines leap to mind) with a mighty swing of his crozier. If I were more artistically inclined I would try to draw it. Of course the question does arise, if Pell were made into a Latin verb, which declension would it be?
Friday, 2 November 2007
Gave to me this sword,
But one day when my strencth is slack
I shall give the wer-blade back
And cease to call men to attack
Or surrender at his word.
Thus do earthly duties end,
Finite, short in time;
I would not trade my life for such
A transit'ry pantomime.
Other duties do I have
More ancient of degree;
I serve an older emperor
Whose reign predates the sea.
His subject is the mighty oak,
His throne the Alpine height,
He raises waters to the sky,
Makes the ocean depths to fly
Then makes them fall when fields are dry,
Of such moment His might.
Great Caesar, when his days grow long
And Pluto comes to take
Across the Styx his soul, the Senate
Of him a god will make.
But my liege lord, the one I serve,
Will never know such fame;
He, being God, became a man:
From world's beginning was His plan
Ere ever endless ages ran,
And thus He has remained.
His pow'r pervades every realm,
Pierces princes, pummels vice,
Guides the shipman at the helm,
Rules over both men and mice.
Sov'reignty o'er men is His gift
Which He imparts, which He can lift,
As He each person's life does sift
And judges justly every life.
His justice rules both men and beast;
He's canny- Him no creature 'scapes;
He knows the greatest and the least,
He knows their mind, their moods, their shapes.
I tell you truly, man of Silene,
If what you say is what has been,
And this thing your virgin people rapes,
My King can give to you a peace-
It lies nigh at the door-
A peace whose friends are hope and life
And solace for the poor.
A peace that brings an end to strife
And does not come with war.
His title is the Prince of Peace,
And puissant yet is He;
His lowly, loyal liegeman,
His servant-soldier do I be;
His will will I enact
Your people so to free;
While He is on my side,
Whatever may betide,
No fire-belching beast
Or baleful monster will I flee.
So I swear to you on my own soul
And by my own baptismal vows
That I shall make your people whole
And once again hoist spirits high,
For I shall make the beast to die.
Man, show the way. I will hence now.'
The elder turned his back to go.
The soldier leapt and held his arm,
Without intending any harm,
But serious as an intoned psalm,
He spoke in tone sombre and low.
'My name is George,' the soldier said,
'A Roman soldier, I;
I do not fear a fearsome beast
Nor tremble when to die.
My soul is made of sterner stuff,
My heart beats bold and high.
Of peace to thee I lately spoke,
A peace that comes with war,
A peace with gifts attached to it
Of roads and Roman law;
But ill I spoke perhaps, for there's
A peace that counts for more.
You see this helm, this red-dyed cloak,
These boots, this gladius:
The symbols of my rank are they,
Esteemed and glorious.
And truly I'm great Caesar's man
And serve him with my life,
But there's agreater one than he,
Than whom a greater cannot be-
He makes the wretched blind to see
And brings an end to strife.
I am a Roman, goodly chief,
Its proudest citizen;
But greater is a kingdom
That transcends human ken;
And I too am its citizen
And member of that race;
My liege lord is the God of men
And arbiter of grace.
A dual citizen you see,
And Rome's the lesser part;
Rome and Caesar hold my flesh
But God does hold my heart.'
It seems we're stuck between the extremes of putting up Christmas decorations in mid-October (what the shopping centre where I work has done) or not putting them up at all. Me, I'm of two minds about the whole thing. A part of me loves the idea of Christmas as a public holiday (by which I mean one celebrated publicly)- one of the more enjoyable experiences of my life was strolling through the streets of London on Christmas 1999 and receiving several cheerful "Merry Christmas!"es from the few other folk who were also out and about that day. On the other hand, another part of me thinks it would not be such a bad thing for the Powers That Be to ban Christmas, because then the Christians might actually be free to celebrate it without the distractions of the Rush, endless nauseating advertising, and all the abominations of tackiness and kitsch that inevitably accompany it these days. More importantly, we might even be freed to observe Advent rather than have the feast forced on us while we should be preparing spiritually for it, then be prodded back to work the moment the real celebrations should just be beginning.
That never in a thousand years
Would we allow Silene to burn
Again, nor let our eyes discern
That beast, the object of our fears.
That oath we took we've also kept
And grimly have maintained our vow;
And, sickly as our hearts have stood,
Not all our hands with blood stained could
Persuade us to repeal it now.
Dearly, dearly have we paid;
Our hands are bloody, cheeks tear-stained,
And something stalks us like a shade,
For now within our spirits gaunt
Not only does the creature haunt
But grossest guilt exacts its reign.
I thee adjure, Roman man,
To speak if my words ring not true.
Methinks it far the better plan
To make one die instead of all,
If any man should die at all;
The loss of one to save the few.
The blood of children rests on us;
We've chosen- chosen!- crimson hands;
Now every man that draws the straw
Must go and face that gaping maw
And let his blood soak in the sands.
Yes, every man that draws the short,
Whether he be chief or serf,
Must hence to that cave grimly go
With falt'ring steps of fear, and slow,
Knowing full well what we know-
That soon his bones will bleach the earth.
And whittled down has been our folk
In number, and in spirit too.
A pall hangs over old Silene;
Our womenfolk no longer preen;
No child should see what ours have seen,
Nor wake each morn to dread and rue.
Each week anew we play the game,
Take part in the unseemly draw,
To feed to that which hath no name
The one who draws the shortest straw
And send him hence alone to face
The baleful foe-thing of our race.
Who feeds on our flesh, alive and raw.
Like hallowed Hellas in years past,
We live a cruel democracy;
Here all are equals, all the same,
Not one exempt from this dread game
That we continue to our shame,
Not of honour but necessity.
The lowliest in this lost town
May draw the short and go to die,
Or yet the chief- that is, I-
May be found by th'identical fate
And march off to instatiate
The lusty creature's stomach sly.
And herein lies my greatest woe;
Of woes the worst, well nigh too great
For me. I lay yon on the ground
Starkly stricken, for fate had found
For me- that wretched, wily Fate!-
Apportioned for me, closed me round;
From me has torn like Hades' hound
What of all things on earth I know
And love the best- my daughter-
And grimly thence has made her go.
And so, O man, to thee I say-
For none may conquer me today!-
That Rome will from Silene withdraw
Until you draw the shortest straw
And go yourself down that grim way!'
Thursday, 1 November 2007
'All down one long aisle of the forest the undersides of the leafy branches had begun to tremble with dancing light: and on Earth I knew nothing so likely to produce this appearance as the reflected lights cast upward by moving water. A few moments later I realised my mistake. Some kind of procession was approaching us, and the light came from the persons who composed it.
First came bright Spirits, not the Spirits of men, who danced and scattered flowers- soundlessly falling, lightly drifting flowers, though by the standards of the ghost-world each petal would have weighed a hundred-weight and their fall would have been like the crashing of boulders. Then, on the left and right, at each side of the forest avenue, came youthful shapes, boys upon one hand and girls upon the other. If I could remember their singing and write down the notes, no man who read that score would ever grow sick or old. Between them went musicians, and after these a lady in whose honour all this was being done.
I cannot now remember whether she was naked or clothed. If she were naked, then it must have been the almost invisible penumbra of her courtesy and joy which produces in my memory the illusion of a great and shining train that followed her across the happy grass. If she were clothed, then the illusion of nakedness is doubtless due to the clarity with which her innermost spirit shone through the clothes. For clothes in that country are not a disguise: the spiritual body lives along each thread and turns them into living organs. A robe or a crown is there as much one of the wearer's features as a lip or an eye.
But I have forgotten. And only partly do I remember the unbearable beauty of her face.
"Is it?...Is it?" I whispered to my guide.
"Not at all," said he. "It's someone ye'll never have heard of. Her name on Earth was Sarah Smith and she lived at Golders Green."
"She seems to be...well, a person of particular importance?"
"Aye. She is one of the great ones. Ye have heard that fame in this country and fame on Earth are two different things."
"And who are these gigantic people...look! They're like emeralds...who are dancing and throwing flowers before her?"
"Haven't ye read your Milton? A thousand liveried angels lackey her."...
I looked at my Teacher in amazement.
"Yes," he said. "It is like when you throw a stone into a pool, and the concentric waves spread out further and further. Who knows where it will end? Redeemed humanity is still young, it has hardly come to its full strength. But already there is joy enough in the little finger of a great saint such as yonder lady to waken all the dead things of the universe into life."'
A great wound in the ground,
Whose entrance opens into black-
If one goes down, he comes not back,
Nor is he ever found.
As one draws near a stench exudes
Of rotting flesh and bone;
The darkness there is palpable,
Of courage none is capable
When passing by alone.
From thence there came, not six months gone,
Out of the depths of earth
A beast, a monster, Silene's bane,
A living fear that hath no name
A creature from the deepest pit-
Some demon had begotten it-
A wyrm of woe-inducing lust
That crawls along and eats the dust,
The murderer of our mirth.
It fell upon our little town,
It terrorised our homes and streets,
It spewed forth flames and baleful fire,
More destructive than desire,
More enduring than love's heat.
The furnace in its belly flowed,
Its hot breath burned our huts to ash,
Cruel claws closed on our little ones
With hatred like the desert sun's,
As shameless as the slaveman's lash.
With teeth sharp as Egyptian scythes
On which our men were cruelly gored,
And eyes that pierce a soul with fear,
Like a snake's, a sickly gold they were,
More fearful than the deplorable word.
Their gaze was terror concentrate;
No man could stand before that stare.
So few could find the will to fight;
Cowards we were that grisly night,
Yet, spite of shame, we cowered there.
Like virgins in a city sacked,
Silene was ravished that bleak day;
All smoke and ash and blood of men
Did stain the ground of Silene when
At last the creature went away.
Tuesday, 30 October 2007
Monday, 22 October 2007
All day and every day I go through life with a deep and constant thirst, to be known, to be loved, to be appreciated (To be known AND loved, note- there are few more terrifying prospects in the world than to be known - fully and genuinely known- and despised). I go up to receive Communion. And I come away with that thirst still unquenched, still unsatisfied. Why?
My intellect knows that here, in Christ, there is love greater than any I could receive from any created being. Here is He who knows me completely (for He made me) and loves me totally and without reservation. And the sign and proof of it, indeed the reality itself, is here in the Blessed Sacrament, in His Body and Blood which I receive into my own body. Here is the end of all my desires, the goal and fulfillment of all my earthly loves, all my noblest impulses. Whatever yearning or longing I have, lying buried deep within me, it finds its object here.
And there are points in life when one gets a glimpse of it. When suddenly the reality of it hits you with such force as to overpower you. But the rest of the time, nothing. One leaves Mass unsatisfied, still longing for the love and appreciation of one's family and peers. Why?
Because these latter are concrete. The love, knowledge and appreciation of people feels more real than that of God because they are concrete. I can see people. I can hear them. I can touch them. They can look me in the eye and I can look them in theirs. And though Christ is human, I cannot do that with Him in the same way. The Blessed Sacrament is concrete but feels much less relational than looking someone in the eye.
Then another thought took me. For this reality is by no means unprecedented. I thought back to the Old Covenant. An idol is concrete. I can look at an idol. I can kneel before it. It gives me something to focus on in my prayers. Indeed, an idol would feel much more real than a nameless invisible Presence in a tent or a temple. How do you worship something invisible?
Yet it is that invisible God who is the real one. The idols might feel more real. They might satisfy the religious impulse in man in a way even Solomon's temple was powerless to do. But in the end they are just wood and stone. They are not gods at all. They are figments, concrete figments. The LORD God is reality, invisible reality but inescapably, genuinely, magnificently real.
Luther used to speak of the hiddenness of God and how, through that very hiddenness, God reveals Himself. For all my disagreements with him, I think he was right about that.
Our earthly loves do exist (unlike the gods of the ancient world) but they are shadows. True love, love that is a burning flame, more earnest and passionate than the greatest earthly love, is both revealed and hidden in the Blessed Sacrament. Though He seems to leave us lacking, no other thing will satisfy the deep longings of our hearts. Our mudpies are insufficient. We do far better to allow Him to lead us to the feast, even if we cannot always discern the food.
Wednesday, 17 October 2007
Knew any touch of joy;
The gods now play a devil's game,
And we, their ill-used toy.
You do not know, O Roman man,
The horrors that we know.
The things we've seen no man must see
Nor meet with such a foe.
Our young men and our womenfolk
Have never known such fear;
You chose to seek a town of death
When you did venture here.
Six months have gone since first we saw
Persephone's deadly spawn,
Since first our sons were torn from us;
What gods we have, how treacherous
Was shown that bloody morn.
Ignorant are you, O man,
How ignorant and blind!
What have you known, what could you know
Of that which plagues our kind?"
The people wept, the soldier stood,
The chieftain grew more pale.
A dread air hung about the place
As the chief began their tale.
Thursday, 11 October 2007
Even though she's in jail, doesn't have a husband or the means to bring up a child. But in a consumerist culture, this is an acceptable sentiment. Because if I feel the urge to have children, then I darn well ought to be able to gratify it. And if nature hasn't equipped me with the means to do so, then I can enlist the aid of society. They understand my needs, after all. But of course, if I do enlist the aid of society to have children and thereby satisfy my maternal urges, society better only give me what I want, when I want and in exactly the quantity I want. Otherwise I'll sue the pants off them!
Am I the only one who weeps for the next generation?
Tuesday, 25 September 2007
The stalwart chieftain's face;
His furrowed brow drew tighter
In the manner of his race.
"Your peace is worthless, Roman!
I know your kind and kin.
I know you've men you buy and sell
And wars you always win;
I know of Gaul and German graves
And gods who love to sin.
I shun your peace, O Roman,
A peace that comes with war.
I've heard the tales of refugees
Who've seen the blood and gore
You spill upon the battlefield
From peoples you deplore.
Such peace this tribe can live without,
For though it keep us poor,
That is a little price to pay
To 'scape the Roman maw."
At this, the elder faltered.
His face grew dim and cold.
His eyes took on a distant look,
Like an ocean growing old.
His voice came out with raspy breath,
Unlike what it had been,
"Your emperors know nothing
Of the things that I have seen."
Monday, 24 September 2007
Monday, 17 September 2007
Friday, 14 September 2007
forwundod mid wommum. Geseah ic wuldres treow
wædum geweorðod wynnum scinan,
gegyred mid golde, gimmas hæfdon
bewrigen weorðlice Wealdendes treow.
Hwæðre ic þurh þæt gold ongytan meahte
earmra ærgewin, þæt hit ærest ongan
swætan on þa swiðran healfe.all ic wæs mid sorgum gedrefed,
forht ic wæs for þære fægran gesyhðe; geseah ic þæt fuse beacen
wendan wædum and bleom: hwilum hit wæs mid wætan bestemed,
besyled mid swates gange, hwilum mid since gegyrwed.
Hwæðre ic þær licgende lange hwile
beheold hreowcearig Hælendes treow,
oð þæt ic gehyrde þæt hit hleoðrode…
Wednesday, 5 September 2007
Bedraped with thatch and tar
For generations now had been
The place where chieftains are.
The soldier was expected,
For a man stood by the door.
Authority stood on his brow
But stiffness in his jaw.
His robes were wound about him
In shades of brown and cream;
With stony stare and piercing eye
A statue did he seem.
A beard of black and tousled hair
Clung furiously to his face;
The soldier stood, saluted him,
Then bowed with Roman grace.
A very contrast did they seem
To the folk who gathered round-
Th'imperial armed with soldiers' gear,
The village elder bowed with years-
Never had such a sight appeared
Within this little town.
At last the village elder spoke,
"Good sir, you've travelled far.
We are simple people here,
But we will welcome without fear
An honest traveller."
"You need not fear me, noble chief,
For it is peace I bring-
The peace of purpled emperors
And th'eagle on the wing;
A peace that reaches far and wide,
That roams o'er land and sea;
The peace that rules an empire
Is what I bring to thee."
Monday, 27 August 2007
Anyway, Sirach. I went into it having no idea what sort of book it was. As it turns out, it belongs in the Wisdom Literature, along with Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the rest. Quite long too. I'm up to ch25 and it shows no sign of letting up (just checked: it has 51 chapters. Gosh, its longer than Genesis! Hadn't realised that before). Quite enjoying it though. It has some admirable little tidbits and very quotable, such as "A slip on the pavement is better than a slip of the tongue" (Sir 20:18- I wonder if the pun exists in the original Hebrew as well) or "An ungracious man is like a story told at the wrong time." (Sir 20:19) Some are quite thought-provoking, like "The mind of fools is in their mouth, but the mouth of wise men is in their mind" (Sir 21:26) Still trying to work out exactly what that means.
One of the wonderful properties of Scripture, though, is to hold up a mirror to oneself and allow one to see oneself as one truly is. I had such an experience today.
One of my besetting sins is to tell tales out of school, as the expression goes. Coupled with this, given my inquisitive and curious nature, is the habitual desire to discover such tales in the first place, i.e. find out what is going on in people's lives (usually simply to satisfy my own curiosity) and pry into other people's affairs, often in subtle or manipulative ways (though probably not as subtle as I imagine).
So this morning, I read this: "He who controls his tongue will live without strife, and for one who hates gossip evil is lessened. Never repeat a conversation and you will lose nothing at all. With friend or foe do not report it, and unless it would be a sin for you, do not disclose it; for someone has heard you and watched you, and when the time comes he will hate you. Have you heard a word? Let it die with you. Be brave! It will not make you burst! With such a word a fool will suffer pangs like a woman in labour with a child. Like an arrow stuck in the flesh of the thigh, so is a word inside a fool." (Sir 19: 6-12)
This is pretty arresting stuff, I find. For oh, how well do I know those pangs when I want to say something given me in confidence (especially if I know the other person would really like to know) or share that really juicy anecdote. You've been complaining about so-and-so already, but listen, you don't know the half of it!
What does the Scripture say to me in that situation? It minces no words. You're a fool, it says (Ouch!). Hold your tongue. Be brave. It will not make you burst.
These are the words of Scripture to me. May I hear them and, by the grace of God, put them into practice. "O that a guard were set over my mouth, and a seal of prudence on my lips, that it may keep me from falling, so that my tongue may not destroy me." (Sir 22:27). To which I respond, Amen.
Sunday, 26 August 2007
Came riding into town
At the edge of Caesar's empire,
In desert-laden Libya
And children crowded round.
The sun beat down on brown-burned rocks
With blinding glare and keen.
The glare obscured the soldier's view
As regally he rode into
The town known as Silene.
A pale grey lizard sunned himself
Upon a stone nearby;
The sand kicked up and flies buzzed round
As proudly he passed by.
From sand-strewn steppes, from over dunes
And desert did he come
To seek this small embattled town
Girt round by sand and sun.
Entrusted by superiors
To seek this town he came,
For servants of great Caesar
Sought submission to his name.
But the machina of empire
And policies of Rome
Meant naught to these young girls and boys
Who laughed and leaped and made such noise
And marvelled at this soldier's poise,
A stranger in their home.
Nor children only came to see
From mudbrick doorways faces peered,
Young men grinned, women cheered,
In old men's faces fear appeared:
They knew a thing or three.
And a certain apprehension hung
In the dry air of the place,
Disguised behind the carefree air
And excitement in each face.
But soldier-like the man rode on
To one house in the square.
He'd been to towns like this before,
And prior knowledge told him sure
The chieftain would be there.
Friday, 24 August 2007
Wednesday, 15 August 2007
Friday, 10 August 2007
Wednesday, 8 August 2007
Tuesday, 7 August 2007
Besides, this guy seems to have a knack for prophecy. After all, he can describe actions taken by Pope John XXXIII!
Haven't heard anything on the news yet. But then, Italy is behind us by several hours. Best keep my ear to the ground.
Saturday, 4 August 2007
John Stott is one of the greats of Protestant Evangelicalism; a man at once eminently practical and solidly intellectual; a true and honest follower of Christ. I have heard him speak once, at EU Annual Conference some years back, where he spoke eloquently and passionately on the necessity of being intellectually engaged with our faith. He seemed a frail figure, with the kind of correct RP accent one associates with Oxford professors out of touch with the real world. Yet he spoke with such articulateness and determination, as though at pains to convey to his audience the importance to their souls of his message. One saw in him the passion of an American pulpit-pounder but without the guile, and a palpable love of Jesus Christ.
To see him retire is indeed a sad thing. I will be praying for him as his journey wends towards its close.
The other thing I find of interest here is the weird way in which the most honest of the sons of the Reformers somehow find their way leading back to the Universal Church without realising it. Luther would have been horrified to hear this speech from John Stott. 'Participation in the mystery of the Incarnation'? 'Christ-likeness is the will of God for the people of God'? None of this is entirely unprecedented within the ranks of Protestant Evangelicalism, but to see it said so explicitly from someone so influential is gratifying to say the least. And a far cry indeed from total depravity and 'sin boldly'.
It is an ironic thing that evangelism in many ways clears the head. The minute one starts sharing one's faith, the old Calvinist dregs that cling on so stubbornly to the Evangelical ship begin to lose their grip on the hull. It took two centuries before it occurred to Protestants to evangelise. Now, for those who took the very word as their own special label, the errors surrounding the whole justification issue seem to be very slowly melting away (though more often in practice than theory). It would be interesting to see what the consensus position is in another hundred years.
Thursday, 2 August 2007
The story is disturbing by any measure, but what I find most distressing about it is the madness of the charges. I have no idea what the legal intricacies are, but note- Ms Freeman "has been charged with first- and second-degree murder and manslaughter", yet "None of them were full-term", according to the police spokesman. Have I missed something here, or is Ms Freeman guilty of what under other circumstances would be classified as a late-term abortion?
Our culture's sentimentality is boundless, and nowhere is it so clear as in a case like this. There is no biological difference between an eight-month old baby and a four-month old foetus (note the euphemism). Yet somewhere between the two our culture draws an arbitrary line, based largely, as far as I can see, on how recognisably baby-like the entity in question is.
Nor is this usually questioned. I find it significant that many of the lines taken by the pro-life cause work within this mentality and, rather than challenging it, seek to harness it to further the cause. The methods that use imagery depicting babies in the womb, ultrasounds, the shocking videos of how the foetus reacts as it is being aborted, the little feet badges and so on- all of these are designed to encourage one to think, "Actually, even foetuses in quite early pregnancy look and act like babies- therefore abortion is wrong." This is an appeal to the sentimentality of our culture, rather than to reason. Indeed, this methodology has a lot to recommend it. And in a culture where there is little hard thinking but a tonne of emoting, it is certainly effective.
However, I wonder (and of course I submit this thought to those who are far more active and experienced in the pro-life cause than I) whether this does not ultimately play into the Enemy's hands. Would it ultimately be of more benefit to question the underlying assumption? Should we, judo-like, use our opponents' strength against them, or would it be wiser to choose the battlefield ourselves?
Still thinking about this myself. I submit it for reflection by other minds as well.
Tuesday, 31 July 2007
Saturday, 28 July 2007
|Glenn Bolas --|
A person of questionable sanity who starts their own cult
'How" will you be defined in the dictionary?' at QuizGalaxy.com
Monday, 23 July 2007
Alegionary did he serve;
The best of civilised military,
Great, noble men of nerve;
And pagan virtues still ran strong
In the blood of these good men,
But pagan virtues never could
Know the One Who alone is good-
Impossible, unless He would
Reveal it unto them.
A generation lost in space
Craves blindly for a sign;
And sometimes God, despite all odds,
Hears them that call out to the gods,
And grants sight to the blind.
And not always in words He speaks
For ears are sometimes slow;
As man will make a metaphor,
So God will, in His wisdom sure,
Be seen in ways one can't ignore
In one man's life below.
And so of George I deign to write,
The soldier of the Lord,
A Christian bearing Roman arms
Whose prayers are now his sword.
Of war and dragon's death I rhyme,
Of bloodied gladius,
Of willing martyrdom sublime-
O St George, pray for us.
On Progress' noble sons;
Too scared are they to look behind
Or look ahead, nor have they time
To ponder the plight that plagues their kind
Or, for that matter, anyone's.
In this great malaise of the soul
Now and again one sees
Unfurled that great and English flag
Fluttering in the breeze.
Its meaning now is long forgot,
As obsolete as thatch,
Yet ever and anon one sees it
At a football match.
And some there are who know its name,
That of theman who came
From Lydda- one can hear it screamed
Quite loudly at the game.
But names belong to men, and this
To quite a noble man
WHo never saw dear England's soil
Nor on its fields did stand.
And though we know he prays for them,
No Briton did he know,
And English were barbarians
When he lived long ago.
Then London was a Roman town,
But Rome was growing harder
And its borders over-sized.
And though its legions still held out
Against the German horde
The hearts of some were cold and dumb
And fought against the Lord.
Saturday, 21 July 2007
Here saints no longer sup;
The Grail gone from Glastonbury,
Replaced by a plastic cup.
While sin's protected by the law
And a druid runs a church,
The few who search for answers
Are urged to neglect the search.
And darkness hovers over them
That once were full of hope,
Who now forget their emptiness
By watching daytime soap.
The time has gone- we watched it go-
When women and men were real,
When earth was earth and trees were trees,
Life satisfied like a meal,
And before one's God and monarch
It was dignified to kneel.
For now men live in weary times
That plod along like death,
And existence is a heavy weight,
And all the wells of the world can't sate
The thirst of the sons of Seth.
In Faustus' footsteps England walks,
Down devilish depths to plumb;
Wisdom exchanged for information,
Joy exchanged for fun.
And few there are who now recall
The yesteryears and days of yore
When sins were sweet and penance hurt
And no denial could avert
The beauty virtue bore.
Friday, 20 July 2007
The book had interested me so I dutifully made my way to my local video store and borrowed a copy of Robinson Crusoe starring Pierce Brosnan. Yes, there's a reason you haven't heard of it either. It was made in 1997. I don't remember seeing it advertised at all, and am not even sure if it saw the cinema. If it did, it didn't really warrant it (not that a lot of the things that see the cinema these days do). What interested me most about it, however, was the elements of the plot the film had changed.
In the book, Robinson Crusoe sets out to sea to explore and see the world. It is his desire for new experiences and adventure that propels him towards a maritime career. And his being marooned on an island is only the most major of his many adventures (the book also includes, among other things, Crusoe and Friday fighting off wolves in the snow, for example). In the film, Crusoe is compelled to seek the sea because he has killed a man in a duel out of love (sic) for the newly-invented character Mary.
I am not so much of a purist that I was offended by the change simply because it was a change. Defoe certainly would not have been fazed by someone changing his story to make more money- he would have changed it himself if he had thought it would have that effect. I was far more interested in why the change was made and what it meant. I explored a couple of ideas in this connection in the essay I subsequently wrote.
Fast forward a couple of years. The film The Time Machine starring Guy Pearce is released. I am slightly but not overly intrigued by it- not enough to pay money to go and see it, at any rate. I had enjoyed the book by H.G. Wells in high school very much (my first introduction to Wells, actually), but the film looked a bit silly. When it came out on DVD, I had occasion to sit and watch it for free. So I did.
And here I detected the same pattern. In the book, the Time Traveller (for so he is called throughout) is obsessed and excited by the concept of time travel. The very idea is exhilirating. And the way Wells describes it, there's a certain exotic wonder about the idea of it and, subseqently, its execution. In this, it is a very nineteenth century book- entranced by the idea of Progress, coming on the tail-end of the Age of Discovery. This scientific impulse- to learn, know and see new things- this wanderlust, this thirst for discovery and to pioneer, was resurrected very briefly with the NASA programme, but didn't last more than 10 years after the Moon landings.
Exhibit A: The Time Machine starring Guy Pearce. In the film, the impulse to travel through time has nothing to do with science or discovery- it has to do with Guy travelling to the past to rescue his fiance who was tragically killed.
This pattern of film versions of books replacing the original motive of the protagonist with one based around romantic love got me thinking. We are probably aware that ours is the most eroticised culture in recent history. Generally, we may be accustomed to think of this in connection with its negative implications- the sexualisation of youth, for example, or the lowering standards of modesty, the increased availability of pornography, etc. Yet here we see quite different (and, in one sense, positive) implications of this viz. the summum bonum has become romantic love.
In our culture's mindset, the goal of human existence, and its highest good, has been sexualised. If we canvas any number of films, or even just imagine for a moment, and see what qualifies as a happy ending, it will inevitably involve a romantic relationship. The application of romance as summum bonum can be varied as well. For example, the redemption of a protagonist almost invariably involves him/her falling in love, often with a fair helping of self-sacrifice thrown in. The applications can be multiplied.
All of which leads me to suggest that JPII's Theology of the Body is brilliantly timely. It redeems the glasses through which our culture sees everything. It explains and heals not only the vices to which our culture is particularly prone, but also the goods for which it longs and the virtues that it elevates above any others. For this reason, I believe the Theology of the Body will be absolutely crucial for future evangelistic efforts. For those of us involved in evangelistic efforts ourselves, therefore, we need to take the Theology of the Body into account. These are the words our culture needs to hear and, indeed, is longing to hear. The harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few.
Red as the setting sun,
Two arms that met to form a cross
And, meeting, became one.
A cross, blood-red, as martyrs' blood,
As the Blood of Christ Himself;
Two arms which death and new life tell,
Accepted death, and life from Hell:
The Christian's hope and health.
This cross against a white base stood,
The white of a newborn soul
Who comes wet dripping from rebirth
And cannot quite hold back his mirth
To find his spirit whole.
And this great sign on battlements
Was found, o'er hill and dale,
In times long past, when hope held fast,
And England's faith was hale.
Thursday, 19 July 2007
In times gone by there used to fly
A standard stern and true
Whose shape above the battlements
Was old when guns were new.
Above green fields and weary stones
And towers did it fly,
Set high by long-forgotten folk
Against an English sky.
Its colouring was stark and clear-
One saw it from afar.
Indeed, one saw it any place,
To wit, where English are.
And sometimes it might flutter aloft
And sometimes it might fall,
Depending whether wind was high
Or there was no wind at all.
On countless tow'rs, in countless halls,
Th'insignia would appear;
On tabards or on tall ships' masts
To strike a foe with fear.
Having since done some casual cultural research (read: have googled the relevant words and seen what comes up), it appears I've come a bit late to this one. A number of people around the forum have already seen the dangers here and started sounding the horns. (Here's an old review of the books by Greg Krehbiel, for example) Yet , for all that, there are still relatively few. I've come in late, but how many others haven't come in at all? I haven't seen a mugshot of Phillip Pullman on the cover of ChristianityToday yet, as it happens. Most Christians I know, of whatever persuasion, haven't heard of these books.
The other night, my brother Shaun and I enjoyed a night on the town with the declared aim of seeing Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (an aim which, happily, we fulfilled). During the course of waiting for the film proper to begin, we saw a preview for a film called The Golden Compass. It looked good. In fact, it looked like the kind of film I would enjoy seeing. Excellent effects. Some recognisable actors. An overall air of mystery and adventure. It was the kind of preview that promises an exciting and fulfilling film-going experience. If I had known nothing else about it, I would have been first in line (well, maybe twenty-seventh, given my poor record of arriving early for anything). However, I also happened to know it is based on the first book of His Dark Materials.
The film is set to be released in a couple of months' time. It will desseminate the poison of these books much more widely than it has been disseminated hitherto. Hopefully, the Christians will sit up and start planning a response BEFORE the fallout from the film is felt. In any case, we can expect the books, which have so far largely slipped under the collective Christian radar, to become much better known soon enough.
That being the case, some explanation is perhaps in order. Specifically, about the title. Of the blog.
Hwaet is an Anglo-Saxon word. It is, in fact, the first word in the great English poem Beowulf (I tossed up whether to use the last word of that poem as the title since that would be even quirkier. However the last word in Beowulf is lof-geornost, meaning 'one most eager for fame', so I decided against it- seemed a bit self-indulgent and evocative of the wrong kind of mindset for a blog of this sort). According to Clark Hall's Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, hwaet is ordinarily an exclamation, like 'Oh!' or 'Behold!' or 'Lo!', etc. It can also be used in a sentence to mean why or wherefore. And, as if that wasn't enough, it can also be an adjective meaning brisk, active or brave. So, a very versatile word. Variously translatable.
And evocative of just the kind of spirit that this blog is intended to incarnate. Surprising and sudden. Driving at hidden meanings and significances. And doing so in a pro-active and bold manner. At least some of the time.