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Moving

I have decided to move over to ponticianus.com

The content will be more/less the same, with an emphasis on original writing. I encourage you to follow me over there, as well as on twitter : @ponticianus

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Si quis autem vestrum indiget sapientiam postulet a Deo qui dat omnibus affluenter et non inproperat et dabitur ei; postulet autem in fide nihil haesitans qui enim haesitat similis est fluctui maris qui a vento movetur et circumfertur.

Chastity without Charity

For Iames the gentele iugeth in his bokes
That fayth withouten feet is feblore than naught
And as ded as a dore-nayl but yf the dedes folowe:
Fides sine operibus mortua est.
Chastite withouten charite worth cheyned in hell;
Hit is as lewed as a laumpe that no liht is ynne. (I.181-185)

For gentle James judges in his book
That faith without works is a feeble thing,
Dead as a doornail unless deeds follow:
Faith without works is dead
Chastity less charity will be chained in hell;
It is as useless as a lamp that bears no light. (Trans. Pearsall)

William Langlang, Piers Plowman

As we draw closer to Lent, these words haunt me.

Two weeks ago I was on the bus, as is often, and most folks were quiet and enjoying the dark rainy ride home from a long day at work, save one woman on her phone. She had her newborn snuggled up to her in a Moby-wrap, and was talking to her partner(?) about their rent due and another issue involving a lawyer and more money going out of their pockets. It was likely uncomfortable to most because her business had instantly become their business. I imagine most people might have been upset as this one phone call was now their unsolicited phone call.

I knew I had a five-dollar bill in my billfold. It wasn’t a twenty or a fifty or even a ten. And it was more than just a crumpled single or a bit of change. It was enough to offer mercy, but hopefully not enough to make her feel uncomfortable to take it. “It’s not much,” I though over in my head, “but this may help you and your child more than I will help me.” The words were with me and well rehearsed. I even felt back in my wallet to make sure the bill was still there. It was, but as we drew nearer to the busstop, I grew tense. I worried that the gesture might embarrass her in front of so many people on the full bus. “I don’t want/need your charity,” I imagined her saying. She might even resent me and my offer, and give me a few words in reply for sticking my nose in her family’s financial business.

The bus stopped. The crowds and I exited as the mother and her son sat quietly to move on to the next terminal.

Langland’s words haunt me.

Langland is writing a poem about the world he sees around him, drenched in commerce and commodification. The Church, evinced its priests, monks, and friars are  everywhere in his society, but so too vice; the virtues are latent.

The poem’s main protagonist, Will, is all too often concerned with how he might save his soul (I.80).

Me too, Good Will.

Candlemas

Nunc dimittis servum tuum Domine secundum verbum tuum in pace quia viderunt oculi mei salutare tuum
quod parasti ante faciem omnium populorum lumen ad revelationem gentium et gloriam plebis tuae Israhel. (Lk 2.29-32)

Lord, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light to the revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.

Presentation

Giotto, The Presentation in the Temple (1304-06)

Running to the window, he opened it and put out his head. No fog, no mist; clear, bright, jovial, stirring, cold; cold, piping for the blood to dance to; Golden sunlight; Heavenly sky; sweet fresh air; merry bells. Oh, glorious! Glorious!”

“What’s to-day!” cried Scrooge, calling downward to a boy in Sunday clothes, who perhaps had loitered in to look about him.

“Eh?” returned the boy, with all his might of wonder.

“What’s to-day, my fine fellow?” said Scrooge.

“To-day!” replied the boy. “Why, CHRISTMAS DAY.”

“It’s Christmas Day!” said Scrooge to himself. “I haven’t missed it. The Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like. Of course they can. Of course they can. Hallo, my fine fellow!”

“Hallo!” returned the boy.

“Do you know the Poulterer’s, in the next street but one, at the corner?” Scrooge inquired.

“I should hope I did,” replied the lad.

“An intelligent boy!” said Scrooge. “A remarkable boy! Do you know whether they’ve sold the prize Turkey that was hanging up there? Not the little prize Turkey: the big one?”

“What, the one as big as me?” returned the boy.

“What a delightful boy!” said Scrooge. “It’s a pleasure to talk to him. Yes, my buck!”

“It’s hanging there now,” replied the boy.”

“Is it?” said Scrooge. “Go and buy it.”

“Walk-ER!” exclaimed the boy.

“No, no,” said Scrooge, “I am in earnest. Go and buy it, and tell ’em to bring it here, that I may give them the direction where to take it. Come back with the man, and I’ll give you a shilling. Come back with him in less than five minutes and I’ll give you half a crown!”

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Scrooge and Cratchit

John Leech, “Scrooge and Bob Cratchit” (1843) (link)

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Lk 15.8-10 NRSV)

Parable of the Lost Drachma

Domenico Fetti, “The Parable of the Lost Drachma” (1618-22)

John Hampden

We passed a considerable period at Oxford, rambling among its environs and endeavouring to identify every spot which might relate to the most animating epoch of English history. Our little voyages of discovery were often prolonged by the successive objects that presented themselves. We visited the tomb of the illustrious Hampden and the field on which that patriot fell. For a moment my soul was elevated from its debasing and miserable fears to contemplate the divine ideas of liberty and self sacrifice of which these sights were the monuments and the remembrancers. For an instant I dared to shake off my chains and look around me with a free and lofty spirit, but the iron had eaten into my flesh, and I sank again, trembling and hopeless into my miserable self.

Mary Shelley. Frankenstein.

From the recent David Brooks’ column in the New York Times (3 Jan 2013):

I don’t give myself high marks on suffering fools. I’m not rude to those I consider foolish, but I strenuously and lamentably evade them. But I do see people who handle fools well. Many members of the clergy do, as do many great teachers. In my experience, Midwesterners are more likely to treat fools well. Natural politicians do so, too. Joe Biden is effective because he loves humanity in all its shapes and sizes.

G. K. Chesterton had the best advice on suffering fools gladly. He put emphasis on the gladly. When you’re with fools, laugh with them and at them simultaneously: “An obvious instance is that of ordinary and happy marriage. A man and a woman cannot live together without having against each other a kind of everlasting joke. Each has discovered that the other is a fool, but a great fool. This largeness, this grossness and gorgeousness of folly is the thing which we all find about those with whom we are in intimate contact; and it is the one enduring basis of affection, and even of respect.”

Libenter enim suffertis insipientes cum sitis ipsi sapientes. (II Cor 11.19)

For you freely suffer the foolish, even though you yourself are wise. (Translation mine)

The shepherds hurried away to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds had to say. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen; it was exactly as they had been told.

When the eighth day came and the child was to be circumcised, they gave him the name Jesus, the name the angel had given him before his conception. (2:16-21)

The Gospel of St Luke

Feast of the Circumcision

Giovanni Bellini, “The Circumcision” (c. 1500)

Today is New Year’s Day on the secular calendar, a day when you take down the Christmas decorations, put the tree by the roadside, and clean the house of any leftovers — wrapping paper and shirt boxes, a place for all the different soaps and shampoos you received, through out the candies you received in your stocking — because after all, it is the new year: a time for turning over new leaves, making grand resolution about weight-loss, diet, and exercise.

Most folks have today off from work, as they did Christmas day, and will spend more time with family and friends eating pork, black-eyed peas in their Hoppin’ John, and a healthy dose of collared greens.

The Christian calendar, however, reads slightly different. Today is the eighth day of the eight-day Christmas octave. The Christmas feast began the 25th of December, as it does every year, and rushes through the New Year’s celebration, and concludes on the first of January, formerly the Feast of the Circumcision (see Holy Scripture above), now the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. Octaves include and follow the major feasts on the Christian year (Easter, Pentecost).

Of course, Christmastide, or the Twelve Days of Christmas, is still moving towards its own conclusion, the celebration of Twelfth Night, the night before Epiphany, when the Magi (or Three Kings, if you prefer) visit the Christ-Child and his divinity shown to the world. Twelfth Night, since it anticipates the gifts of the Magi, is the day when many Catholic families in Italy, Spain, and the Hispanic word give out their presents to children.

Bottom-line: you’ve still got more celebratin’ to do. Remember that Lent is only seven weeks away.

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