Monday, 8 December 2008

Che Vivesse in Italia Peregrina

I came across a beautiful exchange in the Purgatorio today. Throughout Inferno, Dante often asks after or seeks out Italians (naturally because of the common language), especially Florentines, since he was from Florence (and was exiled from it at the time of writing). The people he speaks to are only too happy to volunteer their local origins, and this results in several interesting and (in different ways) illuminating conversations. As he reaches the second section of Mount Purgatory, he again uses the same tack but this time gets a decidedly different reply:

We are, dear brother, now all citizens
Of one true place. But you must mean
"Who winged his pilgrim life through Italy".

One senses that Dante must feel slightly put out to have his question (hitherto perfectly natural) dismissed so effortlessly. But after much of the factionalism in Inferno (the intricacies of thirteenth century Italian politics are never far from the narrative there), it is decidedly refreshing to meet a soul who, though not having forgotten his earthly roots, calls Dante's (and our) attention to a far deeper and more abiding reality and a more primeval and ultimate homeland.

It is a good reminder for Advent as well (and a reminder for me personally to hearken back to the lessons God taught me in England a year ago)- we are all pilgrims, all exiles. Here we have no lasting abode. That homesickness we intrinsically feel, that Sehnsucht, that longing for ultimate joy will be fulfilled. He is coming. But we must be ready. And we must not mistake our earthly dwellings for home. We may love them deeply (for patriotism is a virtue, even if a pagan one) but they are waypoints, inns on the journey. Our destination is somewhere different. To quote T.S. Eliot, "the end of all our journeying will be to arrive back where we started, but to know the place for the first time." Eden shall be remade and returned to and, indeed, a better than Eden, for He Who walked there of old shall then walk among us in our own flesh. There is our final destination. There is the end of our pilgrimage. There is home.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Nixon for Nine Year-Olds

Mark Shea yesterday posted a link to this article, decrying the sexualisation of children. I, on the other hand, was far less disturbed by the subject matter of this 9-year-old's first book than I was when I read this sentence.

Alec - who just finished a children's book on the Watergate scandal - said he wants to be a full-time writer when he grows up.

He just finished a WHAT?!

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Pope Benedict on Sola Fide

I have long been of the opinion that the doctrine of justification by faith alone is and always has been a 'red herring'. The real crux of the Reformation, and the real disagreement between Catholics and Protestants, lay (and lies) elsewhere entirely.

I first came upon such a theory a long time ago in a letter J.R.R. Tolkien wrote to his son during the War, and was sceptical to say the least. That scepticism took a blow when I read the Council of Trent's statements on justification as a Protestant Evangelical and found, to my great surprise, that there was almost nothing that I (and every other Evangelical I know) did not already agree with. With continued study and thinking, I have eventually come around to the same opinion as Tolkien.

And, it must be said that, once in a while, it is nice to be vindicated in an unfashionable opinion. And it is particularly nice when the person by whom one is vindicated happens to be one of the most scholarly and interesting theologians of our time, and the successor of Peter to boot!

Witness, then, Pope Benedict demonstrating....well, look, just read it, its brilliant!