Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Murder in the Cathedral (continued)

At 4:07 of the video (T.S. Eliot):

We praise thee, O God, for thy glory displayed in all the creatures of the earth.
In the snow, in the rain, in the wind, in the storm;
in all of thy creatures, both the hunters and the hunted.
For all things exist only as seen by thee, only as known by thee, all things exist
Only in thy light, and thy glory is declared even in that which denies thee;
the darkness declares the glory of light.
Those who deny thee could not deny, if thou didst not exist;
and their denial is never complete, for if it were so, they would not exist.
They affirm thee in living; all things affirm thee in living;
the bird in the air, both the hawk and the finch;
the beast on the earth, both the wolf and the lamb;
the worm in the soil and the worm in the belly.
Therefore man, whom thou hast made to be conscious of thee,
must consciously praise thee, in thought and in word and in deed.

Murder in the Cathedral

One of my favorite authors is T.S. Eliot (perhaps most famous for Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, the basis for the musical Cats). I was introduced to him in junior high and have been intriqued by his poetry ever since. Several years ago I had the pleasure of reading his play, Murder in the Cathedral, based upon the life and death of Thomas Becket.

I had been introduced to Thomas Becket by my English history professor in college and I was also intriqued by him. As a friend of the King of England (Henry II), he was elevated to the position of Archbishop of Canterbury as a way for Henry to have more control over the Church. However, Thomas took his position seriously and seems to have grown in his discipleship and prince and bishop were frequently at odds. He was assasinated on this day (December 29th) by one of Henry's knights, while praying Vespers at the Cathedral.

The following is from T.S. Eliot's play, "Murder in the Cathedral," and is a wonderful example of  the price and privelage of dicipleship. (The words are Eliot's, of course, and not Thomas.)
"The Archbishop preaches in the Cathedral on Christmas morning, 1170...

Dear children of God, my sermon this morning will be a very short one. I wish only that you should ponder and meditate on the deep meaning and mystery of our masses of Christmas Day. For whenever Mass is said, we re-enact the Passion and Death of Our Lord; and on this Christmas Day we do this in celebration of His Birth. So that at the same moment we rejoice in His coming for the salvation of men, and offer again to God His Body and Blood in sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. It was in this same night that has just passed, that a multitude of the heavenly host appeared before the shepherds at Bethlehem, saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men"; at this same time of all the year that we celebrate at once the Birth of Our Lord and His Passion and Death upon the Cross. Beloved, as the World sees, this is to behave in a strange fashion. For who in the World will both mourn and rejoice at once and for the same reason? For either joy will be overcome by mourning or mourning will be cast out by joy; so that it is only in these our Christian mysteries that we can rejoice and mourn at once for the same reason. But think for a while on the meaning of this word "peace." Does it seem strange to you that the angels should have announced Peace, when ceaselessly the world has been stricken with War and the fear of War? Does it seem to you that the angelic voices were mistaken, and that the promise was a disappointment and a cheat?

Reflect now, how Our Lord Himself spoke of Peace. He said to His disciples: "My peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you." Did He mean peace as we think of it: the kingdom of England at peace with its neighbors, the barons at peace with the King, the householder counting over his peaceful gains, the swept hearth, his best wine for a friend at the table, his wife singing to the children? Those men His disciples knew no such things: they went forth to journey afar, to suffer by land and sea, to know torture, imprisonment, disappointment, to suffer death by martyrdom. What then did He mean? If you ask that, remember that He said also, "Not as the world giveth, give I unto you." So then, He gave to his disciples peace, but not peace as the world gives.

Consider also one thing of which you have probably never thought. Not only do we at the feast of Christmas celebrate at once Our Lord's Birth and His Death: but on the next day we celebrate the martyrdom of his first martyr, the blessed Stephen. Is it an accident, do you think, that the day of the first martyr follows immediately the day of the Birth of Christ? By no means. Just as we rejoice and mourn at once, in the Birth and Passion of Our Lord; so also, in a smaller figure, we both rejoice and mourn in the death of martyrs. We mourn, for the sins of the world that has martyred them; we rejoice, that another soul is numbered among the Saints in Heaven, for the glory of God and for the salvation of men.

Beloved, we do not think of a martyr simply as a good Christian who has been killed because he is a Christian: for that would be solely to mourn. We do not think of him simply as a good Christian who has been elevated to the company of the Saints: for that would be simply to rejoice: and neither our mourning nor our rejoicing is as the world's is. A Christian martyrdom is no accident. Saints are not made by accident. Still less is a Christian martyrdom the effect of a man's will to become a Saint, as a man by willing and contriving may become a ruler of men. Ambition fortifies the will of man to become ruler over other men: it operates with deception, cajolery, and violence, it is the action of impurity upon impurity. Not so in Heaven. A martyr, a saint, is always made by the design of God, for His love of men, to warn them and to lead them, to bring them back to His ways. A martyrdom is never the design of man; for the true martyr is he who has become the instrument of God, who has lost his will in the will of God, not lost it but found it, for he has found freedom in submission to God. The martyr no longer desires anything for himself, not even the glory of martyrdom. So thus as on earth the Church mourns and rejoices at once, in a fashion that the world cannot understand; so in Heaven the Saints are most high, having made themselves most low, seeing themselves not as we see them, but in the light of the Godhead from which they draw their being.

I have spoken to you today, dear children of God, of the martyrs of the past, asking you to remember especially our martyr of Canterbury, the blessed Archbishop Elphege; because it is fitting, on Christ's birthday, to remember what is that peace which he brought; and because, dear children, I do not think that I shall ever preach to you again; and because it is possible that in a short time you may have yet another martyr, and that one perhaps not the last. I would have you keep in your hearts these words that I say, and think of them at another time. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."

O God, our strength and our salvation, who didst call thy servant Thomas Becket to be a shepherd of thy people and a defender of thy Church: Keep thy household from all evil and raise up among us faithful pastors and leaders who are wise in the ways of the Gospel; through Jesus Christ the shepherd of our souls, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

A Blessed Christmastide

We continue to sing with joy, as our Christmas celebration is not even haf way through! Today is the 5th Day of Christmas, with those famous 5 golden rings from the song. Since I cannot afford five gold rings at this time, I think I'll enjoy 5 golden onion rings for lunch! Anyway, here's a classic from 30 years ago:

Monday, December 28, 2009

Holy Innocents

How can one continue to say Merry Christmas on a day that remembers the Holy Innocents? We remember today the baby boys that were slaughtered by King Herod in his attempt to eliminate the Christ child. It is the fourth day of Christmas, but it feels more like a day for penitence.

There are so many wonderful stories in the Christmas saga that we love to hear. We love the story about the sheep, the shepherds, and the angels above them, singing “Glory to God in the highest.” We love the story of the shepherds going to the stable and visiting the baby Jesus who is lying in a manger. We love the story of the wise men with their gold and frankincense and myrrh. These are wonderful Christmas stories that bring joy to our hearts

But so quickly the story turns ugly and evil. Christmas Eve is such an idyllic, holy night, but it is followed so quickly by chaotic, profane evil. Herod the beast, Herod the murderer, became insanely jealous for his own reign, and he decided to murder all the baby boys two years and under. The mothers began to wail in pain. In one moment, we hear the beauty of the songs of the angels from heaven, and before the week is out, we hear the wailing sounds of mothers whose children had been slaughtered by soldiers. And so Mary and Joseph need to flee from the murdering soldiers to Egypt, into hiding for two years. By then, the cruel and insane Herod finally died. But King Archelaus rose to power in the southern region of Jerusalem, and so Mary and Joseph traveled up north and settled in Nazareth. The whole story of the first Christmas starts off so beautifully but it quickly takes an ugly detour.

The Holy Innocents intrudes upon these joyous days to remind us that God came to confront the reality of evil and sin. Jesus was not born into an idyllic, peaceful world, but into a very real world of sin and death. The good news for us, however, is that the “light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” For that reason, we can continue to say, “Merry Christmas.”

We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by order of 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, now and forever. (Lutheran Book of Worship)


Christmas Re-gift

From a very funny blog, That is Priceless, comes this picture with the caption below. Enjoy!

Baby Jesus Accusing Wise Men of Re-Gifting the Frankincense

The Coventry Carol

I never realized the Coventry Carol, frequently sung at Christmas, refers to the Holy Innocents. I was doing looking through an old church year handbook and discovered the following:

This beautiful English lulaby carol originated in the Coventry Corpus Christi Mystery Plays performed in the 15th century. In a play called The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors, the women of Bethlehem sing this song just before Herod's soldiers come to slaughter their children. It tells the story of the murder of the Holy Innocents, and is sung on December 28, the feast of those tiny martyrs.

Lully, Lullay, thou little tiny child.
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
Lullay thou little tiny child
Bye, bye, lully, lullay

O sisters, too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day;
This poor Youngling for whom we sing
Bye, bye lully, lullay

Herod the King, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day;
His men of might, in his own sight,
All young children to slay.

Then woe is me, poor child, for thee,
And ever mourn and say;
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
Bye, bye lully, lullay.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Sherlock Holmes

Katy and I saw a fun movie tonight, and I was going to write my own review, but came across a better one on Christianity Today.

The movie is smart, funny, and well worth watching. I loved the scenes of 19th century Victorian London. Looking forward to the sequel!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Here's a quote from Dickens to complement last night's sermon (looking at A Christmas Carol):

"I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys." ~Charles Dickens

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

O King of the Gentiles and the Desired of them, Thou Cornerstone that dost make both one, come and deliver man, whom Thou didst form out of the dust of the earth.

Antiphon for December 22

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Advent Quotes: Cornelison

"Advent is a time for taking stock of our lives and actions in light of the kingdom of God which entered human history with Christ, but still awaits completion."
--Robert T. Cornelison

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dog Quotes: Rooney

"The average dog is a nicer person than the average person."

-- Andrew A. Rooney

Advent Quotes: Hays

Advent, like its cousin Lent, is a season for prayer and reformation of our hearts.

Edward Hays

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Boston Tea Party

This comes courtesy of one of my favorite blogs, Flintlock and Tomahawk

It's the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, so here's Disney's Johhny Tremain*

* Disney's Johnny Tremain is not the same as the book. The book is so much better. Find the book. Read it and enjoy. (It was the first book I ever bought with my own money.)

Dog Quotes: Eliot

I've enjoyed finding and posting Advent quotes, so I thought I would post a few dog quotes. Our greyhounds bring us so much joy and love that they truly are a blessing of God.

"We long for an affection altogether ignorant of our faults. Heaven has accorded this to us in the uncritical canine attachment." ~George Eliot

Advent Quotes: Norris

"Mary's story … tell[s] us that if the Scriptures don't sometimes pierce us like a sword, we're not paying close enough attention."

--Kathleen Norris, The Cloister Walk

Monday, December 14, 2009

Creator of the Stars of Night

A favorite Advent hymn, frequently sung at Vespers.

"CREATOR of the stars of night,
Thy people's everlasting light,
Jesu, Redeemer, save us all,
and hear Thy servants when they call.

Thou, grieving that the ancient curse
should doom to death a universe,
hast found the medicine, full of grace,
to save and heal a ruined race...."


O Mary,
In awe we come to you:
(Perhaps cajoling);
Sancta Maria. . .Ora pronobis,
Holy Mary. . .Pray for Us,
Mater Dei, Theotokos,
Mother of God, Bearer of God.

Yet when you sing
You seem not so distant,
Not so Lofty.
In your song we hear no hint
Of Latin piety,
Or Greek abstraction
Or mystical echoes.
In your song we hear the
Raw, Exuberant, Beautiful
Passion of a Hebrew woman,
Just weeks,
Maybe just days,
Beyond being a child.

O Daughter of David,
Your song is as grand
As your ancestor's best.
Of all the great Prophets only Isaiah,
Mighty seer,
Saw as clearly as you
The Light to come.

O Mary,
Sister of all in Christ,
Break out of the marble,
Come down from the canvas,
Teach us hope
In the midst
Of despair.

O Mary,
Our Lady of Inversion,
Teach us to sing
Of the proud cast down
And the lowly raised high.

O Mary,
Perpetual catechist,
Teach us to trust
The Promise
And the One who promises.

(From my good friend, Fr. Gregory Singleton)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Advent Quotes: Wangerin

God is coming! God is coming!
All the element we swim in, this existence,
Echoes ahead the advent. God is coming! Can't you feel it?

--Walter Wangerin Jr., "The Signs of the Times" in The Manger Is Empty

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Born in a Barn

The feet of the humblest may walk in the field
Where the feet of the Holiest trod,
This, then, is the marvel to mortals revealed.
- Phillips Brooks

Advent Quotes: Moltmann

The context for understanding the meaning of Advent is to be found in the expectation of the second coming of Christ. For Christians, Christ’s (first) coming only makes sense in light of his promise to come again.
--Jurgen Moltmann

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

Advent Quotes: Book of Common Prayer

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and put on the armour of light,
now in the time of this life, in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; So
that, at the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge the living and the
dead, we may rise to the life immortal.

The Book of Common Prayer, published in 1662

Monday, December 7, 2009

Veni, Veni, Emmanuel

Advent Quotes: Isaiah

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

Isaiah 9:6-7

Advent Quotes: Lewis

"He came down from heaven" can almost be transposed into "Heaven drew earth up into it," and
locality, limitation, sleep, sweat, footsore weariness, frustration, pain, doubt, and death are, from
before all worlds, known by God from within. The pure light walks the earth; the darkness, received
into the heart of Deity, is there swallowed up. Where, except in uncreated light, can the darkness
be drowned?

C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Advent Quotes: Auden

He is the Way.
Follow Him through the Land of Unlikeness;
You will see rare beasts, and have unique adventures.

He is the Truth.
Seek Him in the Kingdom of Anxiety;
You will come to a great city that has expected your return for years.

He is the Life.
Love Him in the World of the Flesh;
And at your marriage all its occasions shall dance for joy.

(Christmas Oratorio)

(W H Auden – 1907-1973)

Advent Quotes: Bonhoeffer

A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes...and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1943