Collect for Candlemas

Almighty and ever-living God, we humbly beseech thy majesty: that, as thine Only-Begotten Son was this day presented in the temple in the substance of our flesh; so we may be presented unto thee with pure and clean hearts, by the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Five Quick Takes


My longsuffering editor/publisher/factotum Ben Y. Faroe is finishing up my next book, a collection of poems titled Wells of Night. And on that subject, I have a new book about to come out! It’s called Wells of Night, and it’s a collection of poetry. (I don’t have a definite release date, because those are for commies.)

To whet your appetites, and since it’s seasonally appropriate, here is one of the poems from that collection, Crown Celestial.

The world was in its winter; in the lands
Burnt by sunrise, east of the inner sea,
The angel-haunted Holy City lay
Upon its starlit, olive-woven peaks.
There an unlikely forted palace housed
The heir of Solomon’s regalia:
Though of uncertain birth to bear the crown,
He came in golden clouds of frankincense;
He ruled his people with an iron rod,
And crafted a new Temple to the Lord,
For which he was reviled by Israel.
Weeping for loss, he cried, ‘I am your king,
I and no other’; but they did not heed,
Though many shed their blood on his account,
Purpling the streets of Zion, Bethlehem,
Yea, all Judæa and the lands about,
Massy with lilies dropping nectared tears
That coldly shone in the crescented night.
This royal shape, heir of the ancient glory,
Remembered yearly these two thousand years
By holy Church, was named Herod the Great.

There also, in a cave beneath the earth,
Warmed by cows’ breath and rested in their trough,
Straw puncturing his foster-father’s hands
As his young Mother, white against the soil,
Lay back to catch her breath and loose her breast,
Lay God: the God who, by his pure command,
Brought forth those skies, burning with infant stars;
He who brought Jewry from Egyptian might
To this glade ‘twixt the River and the Sea;
Yea, he who roared from his myrrhed Temple’s seat.
For from this point, creation drew its breath:
He entered it, and, by his entering, made
The door-posts and the lintel, wet with blood,
The feast within, the broad desert without,
The cave, the cows, the donkeys, ewes, and lambs,
The kindly earth, the wild, singing heavens,
And all the ranks of minds invisible
That bear them all upon their glassy wings.
Here past and future flowed, from this bright point,
Being created by the birth of Meaning;
Now space threw forth fold after generous fold,
Given a center after centuries
Of aching void.

And God opened his eyes
And murmured to his Mother as he drank
Of that sweet milk. The heavens clustered close,
Transfigured into earthly charities,
And earth shone back, bright with divinity.

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I recently watched the film Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party. It was uncanny. I suspect anybody raised among evangelicals of the ‘90s and ‘00s would, on seeing the first twenty minutes or so, start having uncontrollable flashbacks of DC Talk albums and weird attempts at evangelizing secular friends and uncomfortably attractive youth pastors. I won’t say it was flawless—there’s a very oddly chosen song (sorry, but the Protestants who have that pool party don’t play Gregorian chant at it), one conversation where the protagonist’s mother’s lines feel unnecessarily preachy, and the handful of secular characters seem just a little too always-right—but it’s a magnificent film. (Warning: there is a pretty graphic scene of cutting, and a couple of briefer and more discreet sex scenes.) I want to watch it again, but it may be a little while before I do; it’s intense.

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Apparently NSA has a twitter. I have to assume that that’s some kind of brilliant reverse psychology maneuver.

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The need for rest, for Sabbath, has been much on my mind lately. We’re not good at it as a culture. We push ourselves, and each other, to keep up—as though life will get away from us if we aren’t quick enough; and by our thinking we make it so. If the need for rest were acknowledged, and taking steps to meet it were accepted, we’d have a very different society, and probably a different economy, too. When you can’t take off work on account of illness because you’ll get reprimanded if you do, that’s a deeply sick system. And even pagan societies had more guaranteed holidays than we do (if you work for an hourly wage, the idea of federal holidays is pretty much a bad joke).

I’m not totally sure what to do about this; but I do think it’s part of the clash between capitalism and Christianity. Any society in which work is valued primarily for the money it gets us, instead of the goods it produces, has put the cart before the horse about as emphatically as possible—it’s literally putting means above ends. The Sabbath, which refocuses both work and leisure toward the well-being of man as an image of God, radically contradicts the capitalist approach. And the orthodox Marxist approach, too, since Marxism simply takes over the economic reductionism of the capitalist and tries to restore equality by economic force.

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This coming Christmas may be the quietest I can remember. The putative war on Christmas has barely been talked about (I think everybody’s still tired from the election, which frankly I am fine with); shopping’s mostly been easy on me this year, and I actually got it all done sooner than usual; my parish will have one Solemn High Mass for Christmas Eve, and one Low Mass on Christmas morning, and then be done, and since Christmas is on a Sunday it’ll be a still simpler week; and I’ve studiously avoided most Christmas events. The bustle and harassment of so many Christmases seems to have been skipped this year, and the relaxation seems far better. I dig.

I’ll admit, it would’ve been nice to have a white Christmas. But, living in Baltimore, the hysteria over any and every kind of weather makes me content to accept even a grey Christmas instead.

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