Category : * Culture-Watch

Salus Mundi

I saw a stable, low and very bare,
A little child in a manger.
The oxen knew him, had Him in their care,
To men He was a stranger.
The safety of the world was lying there,
And the world’s danger.

–Mary Coleridge (1861-1907)

Posted in Christmas, Poetry & Literature

Christus Natus Est

In Bethlehem
On Christmas Morn
The lowly gem
Of love was born
Hosannah! Christus natus est.

Bright in her crown
Of fiery star
Judea’s town
Shone from afar
Hosannah! Christus natus est.

For bird and beast
He did not come
But for the least
Of mortal scum
Hosannah! Christus natus est.

While beasts in stall
On bended knee
Did carol all
Most joyously
Hosannah! Christus natus est.

Who lies in ditch?
Who begs his bread
Who has no stitch
For back or head
Hosannah! Christus natus est.

Who wakes to weep,
Lies down to mourn?
Who in his sleep
Withdraws from scorn?
Hosannah! Christus natus est.

Ye outraged dust
On field and plain
To feed the lust
Of madmen slain
Hosannah! Christus natus est.

The manger still
Outshines the throne
Christ must and will
Come to his own
Hosannah! Christus natus est.

–Countee Cullen (1903-1946)

Posted in Christmas, Poetry & Literature

Flannery O’Connor on the idea of the Need for Redemption being Squashed

My own feeling is that writers who see by the light of their Christian faith will have, in these times, the sharpest eyes for the grotesque, for the perverse, and for the unacceptable. In some cases, these writers may be unconsciously infected with the Manichaean spirit of the times and suffer the much-discussed disjunction between sensibility and belief, but I think that more often the reason for this attention to the perverse is the difference between their beliefs and the beliefs of their audience. Redemption is meaningless unless there is case for it in the actual life we live, and for the last few centuries there has been operating in our culture the secular belief that there is no such cause.

The novelist with Christian concerns will find in modern life distortions which are repugnant to him, and his problem will be to make these appear as distortions to an audience which is used to seeing them as natural; and he may well be forced to take ever more violent means to get his vision across to this hostile audience. When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs as you do, you can relax a little and use more normal means of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock, to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind, you draw large and startling figures.

Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1969) pp. 33-34 [my emphasis]

Posted in Anthropology, Christmas, Christology, Church History, Poetry & Literature, Soteriology, Theology

Ring out, Wild Bells

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

–Lord Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892)

Posted in Christmas, Poetry & Literature

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s New Year Message 2022

When it comes to climate change, it is tempting to despair, but there are real reasons to hope.

Last year, faith leaders representing three-quarters of the world’s population stood together at the Vatican and called for definitive action on climate change.

People of every background are campaigning and working for justice.

Important steps were taken at the COP26 summit. World leaders recognise the problem. Now they must agree and implement a fair solution for everyone.

When we plant a seed, we don’t see the fruit immediately. But under the surface, God is working with what we have planted.

In the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I see that God turns all endings into new beginnings, and death into life. God invites us to be part of this story – to be people who bring hope, healing and renewal to our world.

This year, let’s keep planting those seeds – let’s keep moving forward in hope.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Globalization, Science & Technology

George Washington’s January 1 1795 Proclamation

Deeply penetrated with this sentiment I George Washington President of the United States do recommend to all Religious Societies and Denominations and to all persons whomsoever within the United States to set apart and observe thursday the nineteenth day of February next as a day of public Thanksgiving and prayer; and on that day to meet together and render their sincere and hearty thanks to the great ruler of Nations for the manifold and signal mercies, which distinguish our lot as a Nation; particularly for the possession of Constitutions of Government which unite and by their union establish liberty with order, for the preservation of our peace foreign and domestic, for the seasonable controul which has been given to a spirit of disorder in the suppression of the late insurrection, and generally for the prosperous course of our affairs public and private…

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Office of the President

Poetry for New Years Day–‘To the New Year’ by W S Merwin

so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are

Read it all.

Posted in Poetry & Literature

TS Eliot for New Year’s Day

These things have served their purpose: let them be.
So with your own, and pray they be forgiven
By others, as I pray you to forgive
Both bad and good. Last season’s fruit is eaten
And the fullfed beast shall kick the empty pail.
For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.

–Little Gidding

Posted in Language, Poetry & Literature

A Prayer for the Feast of the Holy Name from the Church of England

Almighty God,
whose blessed Son was circumcised
in obedience to the law for our sake
and given the Name that is above every name:
give us grace faithfully to bear his Name,
to worship him in the freedom of the Spirit,
and to proclaim him as the Saviour of the world;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Amen.

Posted in Christmas, Church of England (CoE), Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Language, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer for the Feast of the Holy Name

O almighty God, who hast given unto thy Son Jesus Christ the name which is above every name, and hast taught us that there is none other whereby we may be saved: Mercifully grant that as thy faithful people have comfort and peace in his name, so they may ever labour to publish it unto all nations; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Scottish Prayer Book

Posted in Christmas, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Language, Spirituality/Prayer

Christmas Morning

On Christmas day I weep
Good Friday to rejoice.
I watch the Child asleep.
Does he half-dream the choice
The Man must make and keep?
At Christmastime I sigh
For my good Friday hope
Outflung the Child’s arms lie
To span in their brief scope
The death the Man must die.
Come Christmastide I groan
To hear Good Friday’s pealing.
The Man, racked to the bone,
Has made His hurt my healing,
Has made my ache His own.
Slay me, pierced to the core
With Christmas penitence
So I who, new-born, soar
To that Child’s innocence,
May wound the Man no more.

–Vassar Miller (1924-1998)

Posted in Christmas, Poetry & Literature

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Frances Joseph-Gaudet

Merciful God, who didst raise up thy servant Frances Joseph-Gaudet to work for prison reform and the education of her people: Grant that we, encouraged by the example of her life, may work for those who are denied the fullness of life by reasons of incarceration and lack of access to education ; through Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in Church History, Prison/Prison Ministry, Spirituality/Prayer

(Guardian) Robyn Vinter–A Christmas Carol is not cosy, and its angry message should still haunt us

“A Christmas Carol isn’t just a cheery, uplifting tale that we can mimic in various modern ways,” says Mayhew. “It’s a very seriously intended work of moral fiction and, perhaps because we tend to pigeonhole it as a Christmas story, we don’t read just how serious it is.”

The message that Dickens had for Victorian Britain is increasingly pertinent, even though we may use different words to describe similar problems, [Professor Robert] Mayhew believes.

“It’s interesting because we’re living right now with unprecedented levels of homelessness and individuals needing the support of food banks. We have the binary between extreme wealth on one hand and those inured to poverty on the other.” You feel the resonance of A Christmas Carol seems to get stronger every year.”

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Christmas, England / UK, History, Poverty, Religion & Culture

(NC Register) St. Thomas Becket — A Saint for This Season?

What was the most surprising thing you discovered in your research of St. Thomas?

That Thomas is a much more complicated man than often portrayed in secular and religious histories – infuriating, reckless, and yet calculating and even wise. In terms of his personality, he could be distant, officious. I was surprised at how few people loved him in life. Many respected and admired him, but it is said that only three people were known to have loved him: his mother, Henry II and Archbishop Theobald of Canterbury, his mentor. Thomas is known to have loved his mother, Henry II and Henry’s son, Henry, whom he educated in his house and considered a son. Thanks to the devotion which has built up in the centuries, Thomas was and is much loved by so many, but it is heart-breaking to think that he may not have had the experience of warm human relationships and may have meant he experienced great loneliness. But then, that may have been another reason for him to find refuge in God.

What do you think is the particular holiness of this saint?

If we had known Thomas in his time, we probably would not speak of his holiness. Those who knew him would not have considered him a Saint at all; it was his death that changed people’s view of him. But he had been growing in holiness, little by little. We could say that he was a man who, for all his public persona, was “hidden with Christ in God”, as he struggled to become a better man and a good bishop. He persisted, quietly and often painfully, giving himself to God in prayer and penance, consciously aware of his mistakes and pride.

His desire to be a good bishop came from his sense of duty; in the end, that sense of duty led him to realize that only the sacrifice of his life could bring peace. And he was prepared to offer that sacrifice. Thomas’ particular holiness was the hidden, daily struggle to be what Christ wanted him to be, and that drama was at the heart of the long journey from a man of ambition, an ordinary, decent Catholic, to a man prepared to die for Christ and the Church.

Read it all.

Posted in Archbishop of Canterbury, Books, Church History

Eleanor Parker on Childermas Day, the feast of the Holy Innocents

I wonder if the popularity of the Coventry Carol today indicates that it expresses something people don’t find in the usual run of joyful Christmas carols – this song of grief, of innocence cruelly destroyed. The Feast of the Holy Innocents (Childermas, as it was known in the Middle Ages) is not an easy subject for a modern audience to understand, and the images which often accompany it in medieval manuscripts, of children impaled on spears, are truly horrible. But they are meant to be; they are intended to disgust and horrify, and they’re horrible because they’re not fantasy violence but all too close to the reality of the world we live in. Children do die; the innocent and vulnerable do suffer at the hands of the powerful; and as this carol says, every single form of human love, one way or another, will ultimately end in parting and grief. Every child born into the world – every tiny, innocent, adorable little baby – however loved, however cared for, will grow up to face some kind of sorrow, and the inevitability of death. Of course no one wants to think about such things, especially when they look at a newborn baby; but pretending otherwise, not wanting to think otherwise, doesn’t make it any less true.

Medieval writers were honest and clear-eyed about such uncomfortable truths. The idea that thoughts like these are incongruous with the Christmas season (as you often hear people say about the Holy Innocents) is largely a modern scruple, encouraged by the comparatively recent idea that Christmas is primarily a cheery festival for happy children and families.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Christmas, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals

The Coventry Carol for the Feast of the Holy Innocents

Lyrics:

Lullay, thou little tiny child
Sleep well, lully, lullay
And smile in dreaming, little one
Sleep well, lully, lullay
Oh sisters two, what may we do
To preserve on this day
This poor youngling for whom we sing
Sleep well, lully, lullay
Farewell, lully, lullay
Herod the king in his raging
Set forth upon this day
By his decree, no life spare thee
All children young to slay
All children young to slay
Then woe is me, poor child, for thee
And ever mourn and say
For thy parting, neither say nor sing
Farewell, lully, lullay
Farewell, lully, lullay
And when the stars fill darkened skies
In their far venture, stay
And smile as dreaming, little one
Farewell, lully, lullay
Dream now, lully, lullay

Posted in Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Liturgy, Music, Worship

A sermon of St Quodvultdeus on the Holy Innocents–Even Before They Learn to Speak, They Proclaim Christ

From here:

A tiny child is born, who is a great king. Wise men are led to him from afar. They come to adore one who lies in a manger and yet reigns in heaven and on earth. When they tell of one who is born a king, Herod is disturbed. To save his kingdom he resolves to kill him, though if he would have faith in the child, he himself would reign in peace in this life and for ever in the life to come.
Why are you afraid, Herod, when you hear of the birth of a king? He does not come to drive you out, but to conquer the devil. But because you do not understand this you are disturbed and in a rage, and to destroy one child whom you seek, you show your cruelty in the death of so many children.
You are not restrained by the love of weeping mothers or fathers mourning the deaths of their sons, nor by the cries and sobs of the children. You destroy those who are tiny in body because fear is destroying your heart. You imagine that if you accomplish your desire you can prolong your own life, though you are seeking to kill Life himself.
Yet your throne is threatened by the source of grace, so small, yet so great, who is lying in the manger. He is using you, all unaware of it, to work out his own purposes freeing souls from captivity to the devil. He has taken up the sons of the enemy into the ranks of God’s adopted children.
The children die for Christ, though they do not know it. The parents mourn for the death of martyrs. The child makes of those as yet unable to speak fit witnesses to himself. See the kind of kingdom that is his, coming as he did in order to be this kind of king. See how the deliverer is already working deliverance, the saviour already working salvation.
But you, Herod, do not know this and are disturbed and furious. While you vent your fury against the child, you are already paying him homage, and do not know it.
How great a gift of grace is here! To what merits of their own do the children owe this kind of victory? They cannot speak, yet they bear witness to Christ. They cannot use their limbs to engage in battle, yet already they bear off the palm of victory.

Posted in Children, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Preaching / Homiletics

A Prayer for the Feast Day of the Holy Innocents

We remember this day, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by the order of King Herod. Receive, we beseech thee, into the arms of thy mercy all innocent victims; and by thy great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish thy rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in Children, Church History, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Death / Burial / Funerals, Spirituality/Prayer

TS Eliot for Christmas–A moment in time and of time

Then came, at a predetermined moment, a moment in time
and of time,
A moment not out of time, but in time, in what we call history:
transecting, bisecting the world of time,
a moment in time but not like a moment of time,
A moment in time but time was made through that moment:
for without the meaning there is no time,
and that moment of time gave the meaning.

—T.S. Eliot, Choruses from “The Rock”, VII, as found for example there (page 107).

Posted in Christmas, Poetry & Literature

A story from a School in Michigan for Christmas

I have a friend who teaches in the upper peninsula in Michigan. He has one of those schools that run from kindergarten all the way up through eighth grade, including special ed. One of his students was intellectually slow, couldn’t do very well in classes. And when Christmas Pageant time came he wanted to have a part in the Pageant. What’s more, he wanted a speaking part. He wouldn’t settle for anything less.

So they made into the innkeeper. They figured he could handle that because all he had to do was say, “No room,” twice: once before Mary spoke, once after she spoke. The night of the Pageant, Mary knocks on the door he opens the door, and he says in a brusque fashion, “No room!” Mary says, “But I’m sick, and I’m cold, and I’m going to have a baby, and if you don’t give me a place to sleep, my baby will be born in the cold, cold night.”

He just stood there. The boy behind him nudged him and said, “No room, No room, say, “No room.’” And finally, he turned and he said, “I know what I’m supposed to say, but she can have my room.”

–Anthony Campolo in William H. Willimon Ed, Sermons from Duke Chapel: Voices from “A Great Towering Church” (Durham: Duke University Press, 2005), p.294; used by yours truly in the Christmas Eve sermon

Posted in Children, Christmas, Education, Preaching / Homiletics

John Donne–Christmas was and is Much More

Twas much,
that man was
made like God before,
But that God should
be like man
much more

–John Donne (1572-1631)

Posted in Adult Education, Christmas, Church History, Church of England (CoE), Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Poetry & Literature, Theology

Happy Boxing Day to all Blog Readers!

Posted in Blogging & the Internet, England / UK, Globalization

Sharon’s Christmas Prayer

She was five,
sure of the facts,
and recited them
with slow solemnity
convinced every word
was revelation.

She said
they were so poor
they had only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
to eat
and they went a long way from home
without getting lost. The lady rode
a donkey, the man walked, and the baby
was inside the lady.
They had to stay in a stable
with an ox and an ass (hee-hee)
but the Three Rich Men found them
because a star lited the roof.
Shepherds came and you could
pet the sheep but not feed them.
Then the baby was borned.
And do you know who he was?
Her quarter eyes inflated
to silver dollars.
The baby was God.

And she jumped in the air
whirled around, dove into the sofa
and buried her head under the cushion
which is the only proper response
to the Good News of the Incarnation.

–John Shea, The Hour of the Unexpected; one of my favourite Christmas poems, it was used in my Christmas Eve sermon

Posted in Christmas, Poetry & Literature

(BBC) In pictures: the World celebrates Christmas in 2021

People across the world are celebrating Christmas – one of the holiest times in the Christian calendar. However, for the second year in a row, there are smaller crowds at church services and other events because of the continuing coronavirus outbreak. Here’s our snapshot of global festivities….

Take the time to go though them all.

Posted in Christmas, Globalization, Photos/Photography, Religion & Culture

The Queen’s Christmas message for 2021

And for me and my family, even with one familiar laugh missing this year, there will be joy in Christmas, as we have the chance to reminisce, and see anew the wonder of the festive season through the eyes of our young children, of whom we were delighted to welcome four more this year.

They teach us all a lesson – just as the Christmas story does – that in the birth of a child, there is a new dawn with endless potential.

It is this simplicity of the Christmas story that makes it so universally appealing: simple happenings that formed the starting point of the life of Jesus — a man whose teachings have been handed down from generation to generation, and have been the bedrock of my faith. His birth marked a new beginning. As the carol says, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight”.

I wish you all a very happy Christmas.

Read it all.

Posted in Christmas, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Sharon’s Christmas Prayer

She was five,
sure of the facts,
and recited them
with slow solemnity
convinced every word
was revelation.

She said
they were so poor
they had only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
to eat
and they went a long way from home
without getting lost. The lady rode
a donkey, the man walked, and the baby
was inside the lady.
They had to stay in a stable
with an ox and an ass (hee-hee)
but the Three Rich Men found them
because a star lited the roof.
Shepherds came and you could
pet the sheep but not feed them.
Then the baby was borned.
And do you know who he was?
Her quarter eyes inflated
to silver dollars.
The baby was God.

And she jumped in the air
whirled around, dove into the sofa
and buried her head under the cushion
which is the only proper response
to the Good News of the Incarnation.

–John Shea, The Hour of the Unexpected

Posted in Christmas, Poetry & Literature

Making a Blog Transition for Christmas 2021

We are going to take a break from the Anglican, Religious, Financial, Cultural, and other news until later in the Christmas season to focus from this evening forward on the great miracle of the Incarnation–KSH.

Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Christmas

(SMH) Philip Huggins–The Christmas story evokes a warm-heartedness the world needs

As the Dalai Lama says and as the Christmas story conveys, there is a lot of warm-hearted understanding and forgiveness needed. A lot of more honest conversations which acknowledge our mistakes and offer new beginnings. A lot of choosing to heal and of choosing not to do any further harm.

May this Christmas lift our spirits for this important work that lies ahead.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Australia / NZ, Christmas, Religion & Culture

Laura Lorson with a Hilarious and much needed Thread on a NY Times Headline this week

Make sure to read all the replies.

Posted in Language, Media, Movies & Television

A Must not Miss Story for Today from NBC–Challenges Facing Foster Kids Aging Out Of The System

‘Dimitri Dunn is one of the nearly 25,000 kids poised to age out of the foster care system. NBC News’ Cynthia McFadden has an in-depth look at the challenges they face and speaks with Franco Vega, the founder and CEO of the Right Way Foundation, about his mission to support those in need of assistance.’ Watch it all–great reporting.

Posted in Children