Saturday, November 12, 2011

au revoir

it has been six and a half years since i started this blog, and i think it's time for a last post.  when i started it, i was all new to the blogosphere, and i hung out with a lot of 'emergent types' and people for whom the da vinci code was not the fifth gospel but the gospel.  i still hang out with a lot of types of people, but i am no longer a stranger in the world of blogs:  i have two others that are 'finished' and two others that are active.

so, i'm keeping this one around as an archive for the many linked blogs and other sites that seem to participate in the discussion in which i was interested when i started it, but will make my posts either to  peregrinations with st. chad or to the orthodox pagan.

au revoir.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

some thoughts on the world trade center

Genesis 11:  'And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.

2And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.

3And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter.

4And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.

5And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.

6And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

7Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one anothers speech.

8So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.

9Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.'

Saturday, July 30, 2011

29 july: translation of william laud, archbishop of canterbury, sometime bishop of st.david's, sometime chancellor of oxford

although charged with several crimes again and again, laud was always found innocent by the courts.  the puritan parliament had to pass a special bill to have him executed.  let us hope the long parliament will not soon return.

laud pretty much embodied everything the puritans opposed, and he did it insistently.  it was i suspect his determination most of all that led to his death.  tyranny can more easily overlook principled opposition of the quiet, scholarly type than it can embarrassment of those who simply do not recognize its authority.

i wonder what we would say about laud today.  i am not going to speculate on what he might have to say about contemporary politics, if for no other reason than that they probably could not have been imagined by him, although i suspect he would have been horrified.  i suspect we would see him as someone who was trying to impose his opinions on a diverse culture.  he did not himself see what he was doing as any such thing.  he saw himself, i believe, as one who was trying to preserve an old and wise culture from the fifty-one per-cent approval rating of the day.

it is fascinating that if he were alive today, laud would be considered a homosexual.  he was not so-called in his own time; then there was no such term.  it would have to wait for the more clinical nineteenth century, when sexuality began to replace love as the object of desire.  (i always wonder how our discussion might change if we used a term i prefer, homophilia, rather than homosexuality.)  he was well known to have 'male favourites,' one of whom was buckingham, also a favourite of the king.  so far as i know, no one wanted to behead james for his 'sodomy.'  and charles, who would lose his head, was one of the most chaste and faithful husbands to have worn the english crown.  (the present monarch seems also faithful, but then she is literally a queen.)

of course one could make a sort of jest that it was laud's fondness for decoration and dress-up that got him in trouble.  then of course we are left with a number of embarassments, one of which is what must we say about benedict and st. peter's.  but then of course we know what some already say about them, and the most vicious charge against laud, from the viewpoint of the puritans, was that he was a papist.  again, he saw himself as no such thing.  he saw the church of rome as discontinuous with the medieval church, and sought to assure the continuity of the church of england.

laud has been called bigoted, but in his defence it must be said that he opposed again and again the harsh sentencing of prominent puritans.  they would not oppose a harsh sentence for him.

the american episcopal church's lesser feasts and fasts 2006  has this to say about laud:

'Laud's reputation has remained controversial to this day.   Honored as a martyr and condemned as an intolerant bigot, he was compassionate in his defense of the rights of the common people against the landowners.  H was honest, devout, loyal to the king and to the rights and privileges of the Church of England.  He tried to reform and protect the Church in accordance with his sincere convictions.   But in many ways he was out of step with the views of the majority of his countrymen . . . .'

Lord forbid that anyone be out of step with the views of the majority.  parliament seems particularly unable to deal with one who notices that the parliament is naked.

 lesser feasts and fasts continues:

'He made a noble end, praying on the scaffold:  "the Lord receive my soul, and have mercy upon me, and bless this kingdom with peace and charity, that there may not be this effusion of Christian blood amongst them."' (p. 124)

he is buried under the high altar at st. john's college, oxford.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

my apocalyptic summer: note one, the two kingdoms

last summer, i was walking about downtown victoria and in a little esoteric bookstore found zachary f. landsdowne's the revelation of saint john:  the path to soul initiation (san francisco, ca/newburyport, ma:  weiser books, 2006).  it was the shape and format of its pages, actually, that made me handle it for a few minutes.  it felt good.  i thought to myself, hmmm, self.  you're about old enough to try to read john's vision with perhaps some understanding. why don't you buy this book, and spend the fall reading the apocalypse?  besides, it was only about $3.98 canadian, two doonies and some change.  but i didn't read it last fall.  instead, over the fall and winter i gathered translations and commentaries of the last book in the bible, and have been working through them this summer.

it's been a wowser experience.  i've avoided as much as possible the obvious lunatic fringe stuff (please read 'lunatic' with the accent on the second syllable, and consider that by it i mean those folks whose understanding is limited by the lunar sphere in the classical understanding of the cosmos.); so, no left behind or late great planet earth.  what i have read has been very interesting.  much of it has mostly brought together some vague understandings i had had over the years but never considered together.  one of the first is that john of the revelation is a prophet.  by that i mean, as walter harrelson, in whose seminar i studied old testament prophets, would always insist, that john describes what will be because it what always is.  when he says these are ' the things which must shortly come to pass', they are the things which always must shortly come to pass.  the interpreters who say that john is writing about his own generation and the mysterious beast whose number is 666 is nero, the interpreters who say that john is writing about some specific time in the future and the mysterious beast whose number is 666 was napoleon or is whoever, and those who say that the situations john described are always coming to pass and the beast is within each of us, are all correct.

the kingdom of our god and of his christ is, as jesus said, at hand, here among us.  it is not out there in the future, only.  like the lord whose presence creates that kingdom, it is and was and is to come.  but the other kingdom, the one in which only those who serve the beast can trade in the great city of babylon, is also here.  and it was.  but it is not, in john's vision, to come.  the knowledge that it cannot last is what makes its citizens most desperate.  we must drill, drill, drill, because we know that in a day, it will all be gone.

i have been impressed how much contemporary art is influenced by the imagery of john's vision.  i knew of course that it had had a huge influence over the years.  some of the most beautiful illuminated manuscripts from the middle ages are of the apocalypse,  and especially of manuscripts of the commentaries of beatus of liebana, an eighth century spanish monk.  but the images remain influential.  one of the more interesting one i found was a work by the rock band aphrodite's child, called 666.  lead by vangelis parathanssiou, it is a fairly straightforward representation of the revelation in song and word.   track 13, 'do it', as good a theme song for the kingdom of the beast as one might find.

Monday, July 25, 2011

la fiesta del santiago

el fumiero at the cathedral of saint james, compostela

'i am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.'  (jesus of nazareth)
life is more abundant at the edges, and more various, and more nourishing.  there one finds the live that is low on the food chain, that sustains the other life that sometimes seems much more 'important.'  (we were reminded of this often-over looked fact, over looked by us who think we find life in saran-wrapped packages at trader joe's, by last summer's oil spill in the gulf of mexico, one of the world's productive edges.)  i knew this well when i was a hunter.  the fence rows were where the game was.  now the fence rows have been cut to make room for more wheat fields, but those wheat fields that fill the bags at trader joe's are at the edges of 'civilization' and beyond.

the same thing is true of life in the spirit.  the lives that sustain the rest of us, or the portions of each of our lives that are sustaining, are at most often, most abundantly, at the edges.  the shamans of the world live at the edges of their villages.  moses, in the reading for the vigil of the feast of st. james, finds the holy one revealed not in egypt but in the wilds of midian, in a burning bush.  the desert fathers follow the same tradition.  and on the edges of the empire are to be found the places and practices that sustain us.

those who would 'rule' from the centers of the empire  either don't understand the true nature of abundant life or try to ignore it.  the irony of the eternal smoke that rises from babylon in the revelation to st. john (19:3) was lost on those who tried to build the roman papacy into a replacement for the roman caesaeracy.  no matter.  on the edges, in edessa and the thebiad, on the isles of glastonbury and lerins, there were places where the abundant life jesus had brought flourished.  such a place, i suspect, was compostela, the pilgrimage site for st. james, at la finisterra, the end of the world.

spain would by the time of the 'renaissance' become more and more encumbered with papal relationships in her struggles against england and france, but for centuries she enjoyed being at   the end of the earth.  i suspect that she offered a european alternative to romanism, an alternative whose remainders are still visible today.  mozarabic chant, the gallican rite, and the popularity of the pilgrimage to santiago, the cockle shell pilgrimage, all remind us of the abundance of life that flourished in the spanish church.

there is a tendency to explain some of the varied life of the spanish church by the long period of islamic rule.  but the variations predate the islamic invasion, and are connected to many other strands of the life of the church outside the roman tapestry.  the legend of st.james, with its complicated story of the voyage of the relics of the apostle to a creek at the end of the world, covers as much as it uncovers.  the celtic church made much of  being the church of st. john.  what we easily forget is that st. james the brother, the other of the three who were constantly with jesus, also probably carried the same traditions to spain that the irish cherished in britain.

this year, therefore, i suggest we look at the feast of st. james the greater as a celebration of life in its abundance, of the practices of the church that include the acts not just of the apostles and their successors (and of those who would claim to be their successors), but all the wonderful folk acts, the acts of the abuelas, the acts of the rustic pilgrims who made and still make the pilgrimage to the end of the world, where the largest dispenser of smoke in the world, the great  botafumiero at the end of the journey, and remember that the holy one is most often found not in blazing lights, but in clouds of streaming glory.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

mary magdalene, apostle to apostles

the relics of the woman with the alabaster jar,
at the  basilica of s. mary magdalene, vezeley

long before she had been the basis for an industry, i found mary magdalene important, even if my devotion to her was based on feelings i did not quite understand.  so over the past two decades i have read much of what has been written about her.  even when it has been historically nonsense, it has been fascinating, because it seems that many others of her devotees are as non-linear in their approach to the apostle to the apostles as i am.

but i was particularly annoyed by what i found on the back of cynthia bourgeault's new book   the meaning of mary magdalene:  'was jesus' most important disciple a woman?--a thorough and provocative analysis of the evidence by one of today's most respected contemplative teachers.'  now let me say, first of all, that i realize that author's are not responsible for what publishers put on the backsides of their books to boost sales, and that from what i can tell from perusing the book, it is not what ms. bourgeault was really analysing.  more than that i will not say until i read the book, except that she does not seem to be particularly interested in the sort of understanding of the apostolic office as a competitive sport that so fills the pages of writers like marvin meyers.  rather she seems to be interested in exploring the role of love in the relationship of mary magdalene to the messiah, and the nature of that love.

much more helpful to understanding why there is no one disciple 'most important' is this passage from s. bernard of clairvaux' sermons on the song of songs,  '23, in the rooms of the king."  bernard seems particularly helpful to our understanding mary magdalene's relation to jesus, because although he is primarily discussing the anointing which the king grants his beloved, mary magdalene of course is the one who anointed the king.  'in speaking of the ointments i mentioned that many varieties of them are to be found in the bridgegroom's presence, that all of them are not for everybody's use, but that each one's share differs according to his merits; so, too, i feel that the king has not one bedroom only, but several.  for he has more than one queen, his concubines are many, his maids beyond counting.  and each has his own secret rendezvous with the bridegroom and says, :my secret to myself, my secret to myself."  all do not experience the delight of the bridegroom's private visit in the same room, the father has different arrangements for each.  for we did not choose him but he chose us and appointed places for us; and in the place of each one's appointment there he is too.  thus one repentant woman was  allotted a place at the feet of the lord jesus, another--if she really is another--found fulfillment for her devotions at the head.  thomas attained to his mystery of grace in the savior's side, john on his breast, peter in the father's bosom, paul in the third heaven.' (23,9)

i would, however, like to point out one particularly beautiful part of the mystery of mary magdalene.  we speak of jesus as the christ, the anointed one.  and it was mary magdalene who anointed him.  it was she who chrismated our lord.  this role has continued to be central to the apostles in succession ever since, as each new christian is encorporated into the body of the royal priest and king by the application of oil on our heads and breasts and hands and feet.  mary truly is an apostle to the apostles. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

a little more about sin, it's being so popular

catastrophically, it seems to me, much of the west that calls itself christian has lost any concept of the holy one who self-reveals as the holy trinity.  i walk around my little town of eureka springs, and find there a big 'christian store' devoted to jesus.  one of the historic 'churches' is the unitarians--there is no jewish synagogue--devoted to the one god, although the unitarians these days are not so sure it's the god of abraham.  out on the highway there are several 'charismatic churches'--we don't have a quaker meeting--devoted to 'the spirit.'  most of the protestants i know are historical jesus appreciators, including the episcopalians.  only the roman catholics and the nine remaining presbyterians, all around 80 years old, seem to hold to some understanding of the trinity, and for the presbyterians, it's an idea they mean and not the person of the holy one.  what has this to do with sin, i hope you're asking.

my summer with the apocalypse of st. john and its images led me to richard of st. victor's book of the twelve patriarchs, which in the edition i found (trans. & intro. grover a. zinn.  (new york/ramsey/toronto:  paulist press, 1979)) is included with book three of the trinity.  i found it a very insightful work, even though i am only beginning to plumb its depths.  to quote zinn's introduction, 'in reflecting on the nature of divine perfection and the presence of charity, [richard] shows that not only are two persons necessary for love, but three are necessary for the fullest of all loves, charity.  unless love is not only given and received but also shared in community it cannot be called true charity.' (p.9)

now if man is created in the image of god, and if sin is falling short of the glory of god, then we see that the original sin, the origin of all sin, is the breaking of communion with the rest of creation and its creator which the first parents choose in order to 'know.'  they make clothes because they have become ashamed to be seen by the animals in the garden.  they hide from the holy one in the evening rather than walk with him as they have done previously.  they have become the community of two which is the basis for the modern nuclear family, a smaller community than even the extended family from the time we dismiss as 'patriarchal' or 'tribal.'  at least those communities were more inclusive than those in which we find ourselves today.

it is ironic that one of the most popular readings for weddings is paul's paeon to charity in the 13th chapter of the first letter to the corinthians, a passage part of which reads, 'whether there be knowledge, it shall pass away.   for we know in part . . . .  but when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall pass away.  . . . for now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face:  now i know in part' but then shall i know even as also i am known.  and now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."  (vv. 8-10, 12-13) 

it seems that a recognition of the essential community of the holy trinity is necessary if the church is going to be a bearer of the good news of the kingdom of god.  otherwise she will never recognize the kingdom, even though it is at hand, it is near, it is within us.  our recognition that we are created to be the image of the holy one can be the beginning of our 'being perfect as our father in heaven is perfect.'  without that recognition, we will continue to live against the world and against its creator.