Monday, January 19, 2015

WHAT TO SAY ON MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY

Icon of Dr King by Tobias Haller.

Today I'm sad that racism is still such a presence in our society. What would Dr King think if he looked around today? I expect he'd be rather sad, too. Though voters elected President Obama twice, the presence of an African-American in the Oval Office seems to have forced racism from the dark crevices and corners where it always lurked into the light of day in a way that surprised many of us. I don't know what else to say, for the few words I've written came very hard.

Collect for the Feast Day of Martin Luther King
Almighty God, by the hand of Moses your servant you led your people out of slavery, and made them free at last; Grant that your Church, following the example of your prophet Martin Luther King, may resist oppression in the name of your love, and may secure for all your children the blessed liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION

Since, I'm already on record, at least on Facebook, as one who does not make New Year's resolutions, I go on record now with a change of mind. Thanks to Tim Chesterton, for inspiring me to start a list of books read in 2015. Why haven't I done this before now? I hope I remember to keep the list current.

I have now finished rereading Marilynne Robinson’s Home for the third time. Late last year, I’d read Robinson’s newest novel, Lila, which includes a number of the same characters as her two previous works of fiction, so I wanted to check back with my friends. All three of her 21st century novels, the two mentioned above and Gilead, are masterworks, or so I believe. If there is a finer writer of fiction in this century, I don’t know who it would be.

I was only a few chapters into Lila when I knew I would read the book again. There is so much to savor in Robinson's exquisite writing, that it's impossible to fully appreciate her work in one reading...or two or three, for that matter. Jack Boughton, as portrayed in Home, is one of the great tragic characters in 21st century fiction, and Glory, Jack's sister, and their father, the Reverend Robert Boughton, follow close behind, not quite so tragic as Jack, though all too human and real and weighted with sadness. In testament to Robinson, all her principal characters come alive to me and seem like people I know.

Robinson's books are beautiful, but I would not say they are happy books....more like life with ups and downs...and more downs. I come away sad, but not without hope, and lifted out of present depressing realities. As a Facebook friend said, her writing always allows for the possibility of redemption for her characters.  The depth of Robinson's religious sensibility is quite evident in her writing, but she never preaches.  Even now, on the third time around for Home, I find myself going back to reread certain shining passages. I'll reread Gilead next, and then back again to Lila.  Note that all Robinson's titles are a single word.

I could probably make a list for 2014 without too much difficulty, but maybe it's better to make a new start.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

IT'S STILL CHRISTMAS - DAY 8 - FEAST OF THE CIRCUMCISION

ANGELICO, Fra
Circumcision
Museo di San Marco, Florence
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

 After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

(Luke 2:15-21)
Collect
Eternal Father, who gave to your incarnate Son the holy name of Jesus to be the sign of our salvation: Plant in every heart, we pray, the love of him who is the Savior of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
Fra Angelico's painting depicts quite clearly the circumcision of Jesus.  When I was growing up in the Roman Catholic Church, the church celebrated The Feast of the Circumcision, which was a holy day of obligation, meaning that we were required to attend mass.  As a child, I had no idea what circumcision meant, and, when I asked, I was told it meant Jesus' name day, which I suppose was less embarrassing for adults to explain to a child than the true meaning.  The feast is is now commemorated as the Holy Name of Jesus, at least in the Episcopal Church.  As the passage from Luke shows both names for the feast are correct.  In the title of the post, I used the old name from the Roman Catholic Church, because I believe the feast is better named for the circumcision of Jesus, which emphasizes his Jewishness, which seems to be played down in parts of the Christian Testament.  In fact, certain passages in the Gospels, especially John's Gospel, seem to be downright antisemitic, which puzzles me, since Jesus was a good Jew throughout his entire life.  Yes, I know: Context, context, context, but still...

Note: I missed Day 7 yesterday.

Image from the Web Gallery of Art.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

IT'S STILL CHRISTMAS - DAY 6 - WOMAN TAKEN IN ADULTERY

REMBRANDT Harmenszoon van Rijn
Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery
Then each of them went home, while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground.* When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, sir.’* And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’

(John 7:53-8:11)
The Gospel story is quite clear and stands on its own.

Image from Web Gallery of Art

OH NO!


Ladies and gentleman of the USA, this is what your Republican Majority Whip in the House of Representatives, Steve Scalise, was up to in 2002. Louisiana blogger Lamar White broke the story.
According to recently uncovered posts on Stormfront, the Internet’s oldest and most notorious white nationalist and neo-Nazi forum, the United States House Majority Whip, Steve Scalise (R- Louisiana), was allegedly an honored guest and speaker at an international conference of white supremacist leaders.
From the Washington Post:

In a statement, Scalise’s spokesperson Moira Bagley emphasized that the then-state lawmaker was unaware at the time of the group’s ideology and its association with racists and neo-Nazi activists.
....

She added, “He has never been affiliated with the abhorrent group in question. The hate-fueled ignorance and intolerance that group projects is in stark contradiction to what Mr. Scalise believes and practices as a father, a husband, and a devoted Catholic.”

I'd say giving a speech to a group is an association.  Also, I'm beyond weary of public figures hiding behind their devout religious practices when they are confronted with their own mistakes and misjudgments.

And it's not just Democrats who are questioning Scalise's story.  Here's Streiff at Red State:
Did he know who he was talking to? 

Louisiana isn’t a big state. State legislative districts aren’t particularly large. In Mr. Scalise’s case, when he spoke to this group he’d been serving in the Louisiana legislature since 1996. David Duke and his operation were not obscure. In 1991, Duke won the GOP gubernatorial nomination and faced known felon Edwin Edwards in the general election. This resulted in former governor Buddy Roemer who had campaigned, unsuccessfully, on the slogan “Anyone but Edwards” deciding that “Anyone” did not extend to a former KKK Grand Dragon.

For Mr. Scalise to creditably claim he was unaware of the nature of the group we all have to be idiots.
Exactly, it beggars belief that Scalise did not know he was speaking at an event sponsored by David Duke's organization.

Monday, December 29, 2014

IT'S STILL CHRISTMAS - DAY 5 - FEAST OF HOLY INNOCENTS

The Holy Innocents icon by Tobias Haller

The King's Apology

King Herod was a man who weighed things in
the scale of his own judgment, in
his selfish-ordered world,
in which his life out-weighed all other lives.


So in his eyes expediency demanded that
this infant rival king be dealt with ere
he came of age to threaten Herod’s throne.
The other children were collateral loss,
indeed somewhat to be regretted
(as the later letter put it) due
to over-zealous overkill
by members of the royal forces.
(Politicians wipe away their crimes
as handily as crimes wipe out their foes.)


What? Never saw that letter?
Search the archives and I’m sure you’ll find
it, signed with Herod’s hand and seal.
“Condolences to all bereaved in Bethlehem
of Judah. Please accept my sorrow for
your loss, occasioned by excesses on
the army’s part. Those found responsible
will face review and discipline. Sincerely,
Herod, King.”


(Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG)
Though it's the same year after year, I am always saddened and somewhat surprised that the feast days following the joyous celebration of the Nativity of Jesus include the feast of St Stephen, the first martyr, and the feast of The Holy Innocents.
When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
‘A voice was heard in Ramah,
   wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
   she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’

(Matthew 2:16-18)
Collect for The Holy Innocents and all innocents.
We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

IT'S STILL CHRISTMAS - DAY 4 - PRE-CHRISTMAS VIEW FROM THE SUPERMARKET



Not silver bells

Silver Knells
(don’t take it too seriously … really) Marthe G. Walsh

Hurry scurry, festive flurry,
 with a holiday flare,
extra effort to make all things pretty,
divine presence or just nonsense,
 we could all use a break,
and a pause from that app meant to sell …

scented cones, plum-ey scones,
   it’s profit time at the groc’ry,
jing-a-ling, cashiers sing,
   seasonal overtime pay.

In the kitchen, there’s fried chicken
   and twelve turkeys prepared
for the shoppers too stressed for home cooking;
see the carts roll, truffle tart stroll,
   toddlers making a scene,
and around all a myth mingling spell …

 scented cones, plum-ey scones,
   it’s profit time at the groc’ry,
jing-a-ling, cashiers sing,
   seasonal overtime pay.

On the flat roof, there’s no real proof,
 of an elvish night flight,
just a sale sign with icicles jolly;
the menorah’s in the lobby
   near the Kwanza display,
and the waft through packed aisles you might smell …

scented cones, plum-ey scones,
   it’s profit time at the groc’ry,
jing-a-ling, cashiers sing,
   seasonal overtime pay.
Time for a humor break.  Thanks, Marthe.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

IT'S STILL CHRISTMAS - DAY 3 - FEAST OF ST JOHN THE EVANGELIST

St John's Episcopal Church - Thibodaux, Louisiana

Today is Day 3 of the 12 Days of Christmas and the feast of St John the Evangelist, the patron of my church. The Fathers of the Church believed John the Evangelist was the author of the Gospel, three Epistles, and the Book of Revelation and the same person as John the Apostle and John of Patmos.  Later scholars suggest rather that a disciple of John the Apostle wrote the Gospel and three Epistles and that John of Patmos was a different person, because the writing style of the Book of Revelation is too different from the Gospel and Epistles.

Pictured above is the stained glass window at St. John's Episcopal Church in Thibodaux. The detail in the glass shows a snake coming out of the goblet in John's hand. According to legend, the emperor Domitian offered poisoned wine to John, but he blessed the wine and the poison came out of the goblet in the form of a snake.  A painting by El Greco illustrates the same legend.

Collect of the day
Shed upon your Church, O Lord, the brightness of your light; that we, being illumined by the teaching of your apostle and evangelist John, may so walk in the light of your truth, that at length we may attain to the fullness of eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(Book of Common Prayer)

Friday, December 26, 2014

IT'S STILL CHRISTMAS - DAY 2

Glade jul by Viggo Johansen
The Cultivation of Christmas Trees - T S Eliot

There are several attitudes towards Christmas,
Some of which we may disregard:
The social, the torpid, the patently commercial,
The rowdy (the pubs being open till midnight),
And the childish — which is not that of the child
For whom the candle is a star, and the gilded angel
Spreading its wings at the summit of the tree
Is not only a decoration, but an angel.

The child wonders at the Christmas Tree:
Let him continue in the spirit of wonder
At the Feast as an event not accepted as a pretext;
So that the glittering rapture, the amazement
Of the first-remembered Christmas Tree,
So that the surprises, delight in new possessions
(Each one with its peculiar and exciting smell),
The expectation of the goose or turkey
And the expected awe on its appearance,

So that the reverence and the gaiety
May not be forgotten in later experience,
In the bored habituation, the fatigue, the tedium,
The awareness of death, the consciousness of failure,
Or in the piety of the convert
Which may be tainted with a self-conceit
Displeasing to God and disrespectful to children
(And here I remember also with gratitude
St. Lucy, her carol, and her crown of fire):

So that before the end, the eightieth Christmas
(By “eightieth” meaning whichever is last)
The accumulated memories of annual emotion
May be concentrated into a great joy
Which shall be also a great fear, as on the occasion
When fear came upon every soul:
Because the beginning shall remind us of the end
And the first coming of the second coming.
The final verse especially resonates with me, since I turned 80 on my last birthday. One tends to ponder beginnings and ends and comings and goings.  Turning 70 was absolutely liberating for me, because I felt free to release my eccentric inner self.  Of course, some might say the eccentricity was freed long before, and I wouldn't quarrel with them.  Turning 75 was a landmark, reaching three quarters of a century (Amazing!), but marked no great change otherwise.  Turning 80 was momentous, awesome, a gift, three score and twenty, but also accompanied by the consciousness of limitations that increase, even if one ages well and remains in relatively good mental and physical health.
The days of our life are seventy years,
   or perhaps eighty, if we are strong;
even then their span is only toil and trouble;
   they are soon gone, and we fly away. 

(Psalm 90:10)
And that, my readers, made me laugh.

Note: Maria Popove at Brainpickings tells of her discovery of a copy of the first American edition of the last of Eliot's Ariel pamphlets, and posts pictures of the pamphlet.  A lovely edition it is, indeed.

Image from Wikipedia.