Have yourself a Merry Christmas

savior-of-the-world_t_nt

As I look back on the year, and the years, many of them are marked by Christmas, as indeed this one is. I find myself missing my sisters and brothers in law. That’s what happens as we get older. Well, I’ll see them again, in the next world, and that day isn’t so far off, and as for my old partner and dearest friend, well never say never. I have my memories and a few pictures, and yes, some tears will be shed. But this day brings that promise, that I shall see them again, and it provides a good excuse to read Jessica’s words once again because she wrote it so beautifully. And so the Christmas post that has become traditional here. I will again be with my nieces, as I prefer to be, and so you will be mostly on your own.

And so we come to the day when the world opens its presents – and we do the same, but we celebrate the greatest present ever – the gift of ever-lasting life. Paul is right, our minds cannot encompass what it means, or what it will be like, but we can know what it is to be covered by the blood of the Lamb and to know that our sins are forgiven, and that our souls are being healed; that’s what Christmas means for us all – it’s just that only some of us ‘get it’.

The most (in the proper meaning of the word) awesome aspect of what we celebrate today is that the eternal Word, who was with God from the beginning, who created the world, came into it in human form, assuming our flesh and healing it. We say these things so easily, but how marvelous that the Lord of all things should have condescended to be one of us, to share our fate, to live among us, as one of us. It isn’t surprising that early heresies centred around trying to explain that away, because the ancient world was used enough to gods who took on human form, but it was just that – an act, an appearance, a guise for some purpose (often amorous) which was later dropped. The notion of God as one of us (cue the song) – note that contra the song there is no ‘if’ – he was one of us – was and remains revolutionary. At a stroke, in the twinkling of an eye, we poor sinners are rich beyond our deserts – all that was ruined, all that was broken is made whole.

That is why Christians celebrate this day. It is the day God’s love was incarnate, and the Apostles saw Him, they touched Him, they lived with Him – the Word made flesh dwelt with men and though the world saw Him not, enough did that two thousand years on, we celebrate it. This is something we can share with Jesus.

The Lord’s first miracle was at a celebration – a wedding – and it was something which helped the celebration along – good wine at that stage of the proceedings must have been greatly welcomed – and there might have been a few sore heads in the morning. If anyone here has been to a Jewish wedding, you’ll know how joyous it can be, and how the dancing and the eating fuse together into a celebration of life itself. That’s a reminder to us all that the new life we have in Christ is a cause for huge celebration. It is good to go to Church and to give thanks to God for all our blessings – and then to go home and be with some of them – our family and friends.

If you get bored enough, I’ll likely be around some today, I’ll be with some friends, but will probably be in and out some. Going to be rather quiet here today, I expect.

A very holy and Merry Christmas from me! Neo.

Last Saturday in Advent

As usual, I will be heading back east for Christmas, and so this will be the last post that I am live on comments. I will have posts while I’m gone, some new, and some favorites, although they are unlikely to be as timely as usual. I’m not sure that isn’t a good thing, for me and for you. I intend to uncouple to a large extent and consider just how lucky we are, not only as freemen but as the people whom God has sent his Son to save.

For today, my friends (especially Margaret Ashworth) at A Conservative Woman have been writing on the story and presenting of our favorite carols all through Advent. The series starts here, and you can click on Margaret’s name to find the rest. I highly recommend it. The music of Christianity in the English speaking world is beyond magnificent, and much of the best of it proclaims our Savior’s birth. Most of the music here is from that series.

Like everybody else, it is simply not Christmas without this. Margaret reminds us

[F]or many of us, the ultimate Christmas movie is Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life from 1946. Its affirmation of the triumph of good over evil must have been a tonic in those uncertain days after the war which had shaken the West to its foundations. The uplifting final scene with the soundtrack of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing is a guaranteed tearjerker.

But there is also this, that Jess introduced me to years ago. It too has come to be required for Christmas, and in truth, it makes a good companion to A Wonderful Life.

And my favorite carol, as it was my Mom’s and so many of ours, from King’s last year.

None of you will be surprised to learn that I love the English cathedral choirs, especially King’s. But so often our choirs sound a bit weak, perhaps a bit effeminate, as does Christianity, itself. But it’s nothing of the sort, as this version will remind you.

Since I’ll be celebrating Christmas in my sister’s Dutch Reformed Church, I think I’ll end with this.

I’ll be with you sporadically for the next week, and be thinking of you all, as we celebrate this joyful season, and then we will resume normal service.

Happy Christmas!!!

Week in Pictures: Christmas Leftovers

Well, a lot of stuff has accumulated for week in pictures, that doesn’t really fit a category, so here are some leftovers.

In the X Ring – as always

From all over the place this week and I lost track. Have a good weekend and a Happy New Year.

Have yourself a Merry Christmas

savior-of-the-world_t_nt

As I look back on the year, and the years, many of them are marked by Christmas, as indeed this one is. I find myself missing  my sisters and Brothers in Law. Well, I’ll see them again, in the next world, and that day isn’t so far off, and my old partner and dearest friend, well never say never. I have my memories, and a few pictures, and yes, some tears will be shed. But this day brings that promise, that I shall see them again, and it provides a good excuse to read Jessica’s words once again because she wrote it so beautifully. But first, a song that she introduced me to that has come to symbolize Christmas for me. Jessica’s post is after the Pogues with Kristy MacColl. A side note: Kristy died in December 2000 while saving her son from being struck by a speeding boat in Mexico. Doing her maternal duty, but a sad end to a great talent. Merry Christmas to you all!

And so we come to the day when the world opens its presents – and we do the same, but we celebrate the greatest present ever – the gift of ever-lasting life. Paul is right, our minds cannot encompass what it means, or what it will be like, but we can know what it is to be covered by the blood of the Lamb and to know that our sins are forgiven, and that our souls are being healed; that’s what Christmas means for us all – it’s just that only some of us ‘get it’.

The most (in the proper meaning of the word) awesome aspect of what we celebrate today is that the eternal Word, who was with God from the beginning, who created the world, came into it in human form, assuming our flesh and healing it. We say these things so easily, but how marvellous that the Lord of all things should have condescended to be one of us, to share our fate, to live among us, as one of us. It isn’t surprising that early heresies centred around trying to explain that away, because the ancient world was used enough to gods who took on human form, but it was just that – an act, an appearance, a guise for some purpose (often amorous) which was later dropped. The notion of God as one of us (cue the song) – note that contra the song there is no ‘if’ – he was one of us – was and remains revolutionary. At a stroke, in the twinkling of an eye, we poor sinners are rich beyond our deserts – all that was ruined, all that was broken is made whole.

That is why Christians celebrate this day. It is the day God’s love was incarnate, and the Apostles saw Him, they touched Him, they lived with Him – the Word made flesh dwelt with men and though the world saw Him not, enough did that two thousand yaears on, we celebrate it. This is something we can share with Jesus.

The Lord’s first miracle was at a celebration – a wedding – and it was something which helped the celebration along – good wine at that stage of the proceedings must have been greatly welcomed – and there might have been a few sore heads in the morning. If anyone here has been to a Jewish wedding, you’ll know how joyous it can be, and how the dancing and the eating fuse together into a celebration of life itself. That’s a reminder to us all that the new life we have in Christ is a cause for huge celebration. It is good to go to Church and to give thanks to God for all our blessings – and then to go home and be with some of them – our family and friends.

If you get bored enough, I’ll likely be around some today, I’ll be with some friends, but will probably be in and out some. Going to be rather quiet here today, I expect.

A very holy and happy Christmas from me! Neo.

More of the O Antiphons

Wisdom depicted as a female figure enthroned (BL Cotton MS Cleopatra C VIII, f.36)

More from A Clerk of Oxford on the O Antiphons, traditional to Advent, since Saxon times. This time:

O mundi domina, regio ex semine orta,
ex tuo iam Christus processit alvo tamquam sponsus de thalamo;

hic iacet in praesepio qui et sidera regit.

So, if you were an Anglo-Saxon monk what would you make of that? This? It’s fairly long so I skipped the Old English since most of us colonials can’t read it anyway, but it is in her post.

O glory of the world,
the purest queen of all those
who have ever existed across the earth!
How rightly all speech-bearing ones
throughout the world address you and say,
joyous in heart, that you should be the bride
of the best Gift-giver of the skies.
And so too those highest in the heavens,
thegns of Christ, proclaim and sing
that you should be the lady, by holy powers,
of the heavenly host and of all the earthly kinds
of orders under the heavens, and of hell-dwellers.
For you, alone of all mankind,
gloriously resolved, courageous in purpose,
that you would bring your maidenhead to the Measurer,
give it without sin. There has never come another such
among all mankind, any other bride adorned with rings,
who since with shining spirit has sent the bright gift
to heaven-home. For the Lord of Victory commanded
his high messenger to fly here
from his glorious majesty and swiftly make known to you
the abundance of might, that you should bear the Lord’s Son by a pure birth
as mercy to mankind, and you, Mary,
from henceforth would remain ever undefiled.
We have also heard this, what long ago
a truth-bearing prophet said of you
in ancient days, Isaiah:
that he was led to where he beheld
life’s dwelling-place in the eternal home.
The wise prophet gazed across all that country
until he saw a spot where a noble entrance-way
had been established. That immense door
was bound about with precious treasure,
fastened with wondrous clasps.
He was sure that no man
could ever, in all eternity,
lift up those bars so firmly fastened,
or unlock the barriers of the city gates;
until an angel of God unraveled the matter,
glad in thoughts, and spoke these words:
‘I can tell you what will come true:
that God himself, by the power of the Spirit,
intends to pass through these golden gates
at a time yet to come, the Father Almighty,
and to visit the earth through these fastened locks,
and after him they will then stand forever
closed, always and eternally,
so that no other, except the Saviour God,
will ever be able to unlock them again.’
Now it is fulfilled, that which the wise one
there beheld with his own eyes.
You are the door in the wall; through you the All-wielding Lord
once only journeyed out into this world,
and even as he found you, adorned with powers,
chaste and chosen, Almighty Christ,
so the Lord of Angels closed you behind him again
with his limb-key, the Giver of Life,
immaculate in every way.
Show forth to us now the grace which the angel,
God’s word-bearer Gabriel, brought to you.
O, this we city-dwellers pray:
that you reveal that comfort to the people,
your own Son. Then may we all
rejoice in hope, united in mind,
when we gaze at the baby upon your breast.
Intercede for us now, bold in your words,
that he may not allow us any longer
to go astray in this deadly valley,
but that he may bring us into his Father’s kingdom,
where we, free from sorrow, may afterwards
dwell in glory with the God of hosts.

I’m a lousy poet, although I love poetry, this is an impressive job. The Clerk comments on a few things.

This section of the poem offers two images of Mary, each extraordinary in its own way. Elsewhere among the Advent Lyrics, Mary is the subject of ‘O virgo virginum‘ and of the dialogue which begins ‘O Joseph‘; the latter brings to life the tension and pain in the story of her child-bearing, dramatising the anguished thoughts of a couple who have had a world-changing miracle erupt in the middle of their marriage. That’s an emotional, intimate conversation – the Incarnation as personal human drama.

This poem gives us a very different view of Mary. Here she is a queen, and on a cosmic scale – ruler of the forces of heaven, earth, and hell. God and Mary are described in language and tropes drawn from Anglo-Saxon heroic poetry: they are the brytta and his bryd, the generous ring-giving lord and his resolute queen. Described thus, they might easily be Hrothgar and Wealhtheow in Beowulf, or even Cnut and Emma. Like many another woman in Anglo-Saxon poetry, Mary is a bride ‘adorned with rings’ (beaga hroden), but this bride is far from a passive figure: she is courageous and determined (þristhycgende, ‘steadfast in mind’). This poem frames her situation in a distinctive way, presenting it as if she has decided to undertake a diplomatic mission from earth to heaven. Though literally this decision is made when she accepts Gabriel’s message to her, the poem describes it as if she set out to travel on a journey to unite herself with God:[.]

This kind of mission calls to mind the idea found in Anglo-Saxon literature of a royal bride as a ‘peave-weaver‘, whose marriage makes a truce between two warring tribes; in this case the tribes Mary unites are heaven and earth, which are brought together in peace through her actions. The beorhtan lac she brings to God as a wedding-gift (lac means both ‘gift’ and ‘offering, sacrifice’) probably refers to her virginity, but it would also be an apt epithet for Christ, and it’s a reminder that gift-giving too was part of a medieval queen’s royal duty – Wealhtheow, the most famous peace-weaving queen in Anglo-Saxon poetry, rewards Beowulf for his services to her people with generous gifts of arkenstone-like treasure.

Keep reading her article.

Yes, I know, to our sensibilities this overstates Mary’s role, Theotokis fine, but Queen of Heaven is too much. I pretty much agree, but our ancestors didn’t. This is the Christianity that converted the Vikings after all, and likely some of the Anglo-Saxons as well. Comparing Mary to Wealhtheow let alone Emma is quite something.

A bit of an aside, it also tells us much about the place of wives in their society. Think they were downtrodden, almost slaves? Doesn’t sound much like it to me here, sounds much more like a partner, almost an equal partner. In Northern European sagas they are important, indeed. So, of course, Mary is even more important.

I like the comparison of Mary to the gate in the wall, such that God and only God, may enter, and as far as we can tell, only once. It’s up to us after that, to believe the unbelievably Good News.

We hear some people talking about ‘muscular Christianity’, well here it is, beyond those who talk about it wildest dreams. Muscular enough to convert the heathens all over Europe. Maybe they knew something that we in our comfort have forgotten.

Remember tonight is that Night of Nights, when we celebrate the birth of the Savior of the World, have a Happy Christmas Eve and remember it really is:

Something New, for Pagans, from C.S. Lewis

CS Lewis, is there anyone better in the twentieth century? How about a Christmas sermon from him? How about a newly discovered one? Yeah, me too. From Gene Veith.

In an article for Christianity Today entitled Christmas and Cricket: Rediscovering Two Lost C. S. Lewis Articles After 70 Yearsshe summarizes the two articles that were published in The Strand in the late 1940s.  Because that magazine was not indexed until 1983, which was after the standard Lewis bibliographies had been compiled, they were not included in bibliographies or collections of his works.

Dr. Derrick says of the Christmas essay that the editor of The Strand gave Lewis the topic of preaching about Christmas to modern “pagans.”  But Lewis, as he does elsewhere, pointed out the difference between modern day secularists and actual pagans.

Lewis proceeded to use his Christmas “sermon” as an occasion to draw distinctions between the true Pagans or Heathens of old—“the backward people in the remote districts who had not yet been converted, who were still pre-Christian”—and modern people in Britain who have ceased to be Christians, who are sometimes referred to as “pagans.” To confuse these categories, Lewis says, is “like thinking … a street where the houses have been knocked down is the same as a field where no house has yet been built. … Rubble, dust, broken bottles, old bedsteads and stray cats are very different from grass, thyme, clover, buttercups and a lark singing overhead.”

Real Pagans differ from post-Christians, Lewis continued, firstly in that they were actually religious: “To [the Pagan] the earth was holy, the woods and waters were alive.” Secondly, they “believed in what we now call an ‘Objective’ Right or Wrong,” that is, that “the distinction between pious and impious acts was something which existed independently of human opinions.” Finally, Pagans, unlike “post-Christian man,” had “deep sadness” because of their knowledge that they did not obey the moral code perfectly. To compensate for this shortcoming, the Pagan developed a wealth of ceremonies to “take away guilt.”

Harris talks about the difference between the enchanted worldview of pagans and “universe of colorless electrons.” Yeah, I find the world of Thor, Odin, Freya, and Loki (never forget Loki!) a far more natural belief set than what modern secularists believe. How anyone can believe everything came from nothing is beyond me. It requires too much stupidity for me to get there. From the conclusion:

It looks to me, neighbours, as though we shall have to set about becoming true Pagans if only as a preliminary to becoming Christians. … For (in a sense) all that Christianity adds to Paganism is the cure. It confirms the old belief that in this universe we are up against Living Power: that there is a real Right and that we have failed to obey it: that existence is beautiful and terrifying. It adds a wonder of which Paganism had not distinctly heard—that the Mighty One has come down to help us, to remove our guilt, to reconcile us.

Indeed, a remedy has been provided for the “deep sadness” brought onto the world by sin. The very Pagan thing we do on December 25 of “singing and feasting because a God has been born” just may be, Lewis suggests, our “way back not only to Heaven, but to Earth too.”

This essay, “A Christmas Sermon for Pagans,” which had also been discovered by Christopher Marsh in 2015, will be published in its entirety in VII: Journal of the Marion E. Wade Center in January 2018.

Indeed it does, and even to rationality, which has been so lacking in our societies the last few years. What could be better this Christmas week, than some new C.S. Lewis to challenge and delight us?

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