Daily Archives: December 10, 2016

(Economist) The fall of Aleppo to Bashar al-Assad’s soldiers seems imminent

When rebel forces surged into the city of Aleppo, then Syria’s largest, in the summer of 2012, they hoped to establish an alternative seat of power that could rival the government’s in the capital, Damascus. But those hopes quickly faded as the operation to seize the city stalled. The rebels could only capture half of Aleppo, splitting the city in two. A lethal stalemate ensued.

The rebel’s hopes of ever breaking the deadlock are now dead. In July, forces loyal to the Syrian government cut the last remaining road into the east, imposing a siege that has slowly strangled life there. Russian and Syrian warplanes have relentlessly bombed hospitals, schools and marketplaces, crippling civilian infrastructure. With the east on its knees, the regime launched a devastating ground offensive on November 15th to drive rebel forces out of the city.

Since then, the rebels have lost about three-quarters of their enclave, their last big urban stronghold anywhere in the country. Their defence of the city has crumbled faster than many expected. The Old City, whose winding alleyways were supposed to be well defended, fell quickly this week as pro-Syrian forces, including Shia militias from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, crashed through rebel lines on December 7th. Cornered by pro-government forces, defeat is inevitable.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anthropology, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Middle East, Syria, Theology, Violence

(Spectator) The muddy, bloody origins of a treasured Christmas Eve ritual

…the reality is quite different. The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols was celebrated at King’s for the first time in 1918, not a historic service at all but an invented tradition ”” modern and man-made. And tempting though it is to imagine that this delicate fusion of words and music was created in the exquisite interior of King’s Chapel, the product of contemplation and beauty, its origins were in fact far less exalted: born in a wooden hut in Truro and conceived in the muddy, bloody trenches of the first world war, a child of horror and suffering, not peace and goodwill.

The story of Nine Lessons and Carols begins with an Anglican clergyman. Eric Milner-White was the ”˜very shy, but tremendously kind’ young man appointed chaplain of King’s in 1912. Quick to volunteer when war broke out in 1914, he traded the quiet life of Cambridge for the squalor and violence of the French front line. Most of his letters home are gone, destroyed by Milner-White himself. But the few that remain paint a vivid picture of his experience, caught between banality (”˜On days when too many tragedies aren’t happening there are many elements of the picnic about it’) and horror (”˜Most of life is at night, and the nights are filled with prolonged terror ”” a horrid, weird, furtive existence’).

Returning to Cambridge in 1918 after ”˜a battle of special horror’, Milner-White was appointed dean of King’s and immediately set about reforming a liturgy his experience convinced him was not just inadequate but irrelevant to the needs of a community so damaged and disillusioned. ”˜Colour, warmth and delight’ were to be the focus, offering aesthetic as well as spiritual consolation in only the simplest and most direct language. Wanting to create a special service for Christmas, Milner-White took inspiration from Edward White Benson ”” the first bishop of the new diocese of Truro.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Advent, Christmas, Church History, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, England / UK, History, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theology

A Middle English carol for Advent: 'Behold and see how that nature / Changeth her law'

Perhaps the carol’s simple language only enhances its beauty, conveying complex theological ideas without obscuring them; it becomes transparent, you might say. The image in the last verse, of Christ entering the world through Mary like the sunbeam passing through the glass, is a very common simile in medieval literature, and one that I’m fond of (compare this carol, and this poem). The attribution to St Anselm is not strictly accurate, in that the image doesn’t appear in his works, but it was ‘a simile much used in the school of Anselm’, according to R. W. Southern.

Read it all from Eleanor Parker.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Advent, Christology, Church History, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Theology, Theology: Scripture

PBS ' Religion and Ethics Newsweekly–Thomas Merton on his Feast Day

Brother QUENON: He loved being in the midst of nature, you know. The birds were his friends.

VALENTE: What do you think he did out here?

Brother QUENON: Well, read a lot and wrote. For him, praying was just to abide in the presence””the presence of the Lord.

(touring cottage): There’s the kitchen and then a bedroom. And then, a chapel was added later on.

VALENTE: Merton wrote this in his journal:

Mr. ATKINSON (reading from Merton’s journal): For myself I have only one desire and that is the desire for solitude: to disappear into God; to be submerged in His peace; to be lost in the secret of His space. I have gone to the hermitage not because I hate the world. I go to the hermitage to deepen my consciousness, to be more in communion with the world.

Read or watch it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Thomas Merton

Gracious God, who didst call thy monk Thomas Merton to proclaim thy justice out of silence, and moved him in his contemplative writings to perceive and value Christ at work in the faiths of others: Keep us, like him, steadfast in the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ; who with thee and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer of Thomas Merton to Begin the Day

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

–Thomas Merton (1915-1968)

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, we did not eat any one’s bread without paying, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not burden any of you. It was not because we have not that right, but to give you in our conduct an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: If any one will not work, let him not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work in quietness and to earn their own living. Brethren, do not be weary in well-doing.

–2 Thessalonians 3:6-13

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Nice Succinct Creed for Use in Daily Morning Prayer

Found here:

To whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life,
and we have believed and have come to know
that You are the Holy One of God.

Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ,
King of endless glory.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Theology

(Spectator) Answered prayers, by Justin Welby, Amber Rudd, James Dyson and 12 others

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Archbishop of Canterbury, England / UK, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology

(NHPR) New Hampshire Supreme Court Ruling: Church's Parking Profits Are Taxable

Churches are generally tax-exempt, but New Hampshire’s highest court ruled the parking spaces are taxable because they were rented to students for “their own private and secular purpose.”

Todd Selig, Town Administrator of Durham, said “this was not in any way an effort on the part of the town to bring in more revenue. It was simply an issue of equity and fairness.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, City Government, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Taxes, Theology