Collect for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity

O God, the protector of all that trust in thee, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: increase and multiply upon us thy mercy; that, thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal; grant this, O heavenly Father, for the sake of Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Five Quick Takes

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It has been a bear of a week: five shifts at one job, two at another, plus ordinary housekeeping. In a way, though, the exhaustion was kind of a gift, because I also received some bitterly saddening news, and being tired helped keep my emotions from going totally haywire. (The physical medium of emotion is, mercifully, limited; bless the body.)

A dear friend of mine, who left the Catholic Church last year, has left the Side B community as well. I treasured (and treasure) her writing, which is brilliant and engaging and vulnerable, and I’m grieved that we’ve lost two of the things that brought us together as friends in the beginning. Of course, we wouldn’t have become friends if we had nothing else in common—vitally, we are the same type of weird. But it always hurts when somebody that you’ve been journeying with leaves the path you were sharing, whatever the reason.

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Work continues on my second novel, The Book of Salt, a sequel to Death’s Dream Kingdom. No spoilers, but I will share with fans that this second novel features Catholic vampire hunters, Francis Thompson, Enochian angelic magic, and just possibly Jack the Ripper.


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The Epiphany season is unusually long this year, since Easter is so late (21st April, which is nearly as late as it gets in the Gregorian computus). Candlemas, or the Feast of the Presentation, rounds out the Christmas cycle as oriented to the Nativity. The earliest part of the Paschal cycle begins on Septuagesima Sunday, about seventy days before Easter, which ushers in Shrovetide—a period of a bit less than three weeks during which people prepare for Lent, culminating in Mardi Gras, also known as Shrove Tuesday. (Shrove comes from the archaic word shrive meaning ‘to hear confession, absolve,’ or by extension ‘to receive absolution’; hence the expression short shrift, which originally referred to a rushed administering of sacramental forgiveness before a condemned man was executed). But, about as often as not, there is a gap between Candlemas and Shrovetide, during which the Epiphany season continues.

I’ve long been inclined to think that there are no accidents in the Church’s liturgical cycle. Especially in its older and more complicated forms, since they were crafted when there was less to do, and making something with many layers of meaning would have been the more appealing as a way to stave off boredom while waiting for YouTube to be invented. The fact that Shrovetide sometimes begins before Candlemas and sometimes after, leading to an overlap between the Nativity and Paschal cycles or a breach between them, seems to me to harmonize with a truth about the Incarnation itself—a truth that, appropriately, is expressed in Candlemas itself, which serves as a sort of hinge between the two seasons.

Christ is sometimes referred to as ‘the man born to die.’ This is, in one sense, perfectly true, and not just in the ordinary sense that everybody is born with the known fate of death ahead of them, but in the sense that he was born with a purpose that was wound up with death, as cords are wound up with each other to make rope. The overlap between Christmastide and Shrovetide thus makes sense, and we see it in Christmas imagery: the Baby laid in a trough like a lamb, the myrrh brought by the Magi, the tragedy of the Holy Innocents, the use of red in decorations both sacred and profane. Candlemas has this in spades in St Simeon’s prophecy to the Virgin: Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also).

Yet there is reason to believe (pace St Anselm and his variegated successors, from St Thomas Aquinas to Jack Chick) that the Incarnation was, so to speak, Plan A for humanity. On this view, redeeming man by means of the Incarnation was God’s response to sin, but, even if man had never sinned, God would still have chosen to glorify humanity by personally taking on a human nature born of a woman. The image of God in man was not accidental, nor final in itself, but a foreshadowing of what man was made for: to be the point at which deity united Itself with creation and with matter.

Whatever God’s original purposes, it is certainly the case that the Incarnation has done more than save us from sin; it deifies us. Epiphany, the disclosure of the glory, is thus a Christian mystery almost independently of the Passion, and so the separation makes as much ├Žsthetic sense as the overlap.
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I recently read that the Archbishop of Denver, one Samuel Aquila, is supporting not only Courage (which after all is a pontifically sanctioned organization), but Desert Stream Ministries, an ex-gay group. Andy Comiskey, a self-professed ex-homosexual and a convert to Catholicism, founded Desert Stream in 1980 and still runs it; Archbishop Aquila has, I gather, begun sending the priests of his archdiocese to be trained by Desert Stream.

I’m livid. Or I would be if I weren't exhausted. I do not know what it is going to take to get Catholics to quit falling for this bullshit. There is no revealed teaching that we have any obligation to become straight if we aren’t. There is no scientific evidence and no theological support for the idea that sexual orientation can be changed by psychotherapeutic means. There is plenty of scientific and anecdotal evidence that ex-gay groups and therapies do substantial harm, and that alone is an adequate theological reason to be deeply suspicious of them.

Maybe I’ll write more about this later, but not right now. I am so sick of this needless, stupid pattern of homophobic abuse.
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On a lighter note, while I already knew about Lindsay Ellis thanks to her magical ‘Thanks, I Hate It!’ video about 2017’s live action Beauty and the Beast (yuck), I more recently discovered a whole world of clever, engaging literary criticism on YouTube. Ellis herself has done more than one series (‘Loose Canon,’ a series discussing different versions of characters through history, may be my favorite); in addition, there’s The Dom, Overly Sarcastic Productions (which does summaries on historical as well as artistic subjects), Earthling Cinema, and Hello Future Me. I’ve linked some fun, exemplary videos here. Enjoy!

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  1. Omg coincidence! I (independently) discovered Lindsay recently too! I watched her critique of the phantom of the opera movie while researching the musical after seeing it in London and being entirely baffled by what message the whole story is trying to send. Her video is hilarious and informative (though it doesn’t get into critiquing the musical as such, merely the movie version).

  2. Big fan of "Death's Dream Kingdom", and glad to hear the sequel is on it's way! Miss Glastenning's unique weirdness made me suspect angelic shenanigans, so it's very cool to hear that will be a factor.

    Horrified to read St Thomas mentioned in the same sentence as Jack Chick, but basically agree about the Incarnation - and even St Thomas discusses it in a way that doesn't quite fit his "official" line. For example, his explanation of the Incarnation's fittingness as the most perfect union between God and humanity, which doesn't reference sin.