Still Naught For Our Comfort

One of the things that I love about my partner here, Jessica, is that she has rekindled my love for poetry, and you have seen each of us use it to reinforce our points. It is hardly a new method but, it is one used rarely these days. I suspect because most of us are so ill-educated that we are unaware of its richness, and ability to reinforce our point.

If you read much of Lincoln’s writings and speeches, for instance, you will see it used to great effect. For instance his famous, “of the people, for the people, and by the people’ was not original, nor did he claim it was, and his listeners knew it was not. The original is this: “This Bible is for the government of the people, for the people and by the people.” it is by John Wycliffe and it is from 1384.

She has greatly enriched my life, but more importantly, she has enabled me to make my points much more clearly. I wrote most of this post while she was just starting to recover from her illness, and it spoke deeply to me then, and in fact, looking at the world today, it still does.

A sea-folk blinder than the sea
Broke all about his land,
But Alfred up against them bare
And gripped the ground and grasped the air,
Staggered, and strove to stand.

For earthquake swallowing earthquake
Uprent the Wessex tree;
The whirlpool of the pagan sway
Had swirled his sires as sticks away
When a flood smites the sea.

Our towns were shaken of tall kings
With scarlet beards like blood:
The world turned empty where they trod,
They took the kindly cross of God
And cut it up for wood.

He bent them back with spear and spade,
With desperate dyke and wall,
With foemen leaning on his shield
And roaring on him when he reeled;
And no help came at all.

There was not English armor left,
Nor any English thing,
When Alfred came to Athelney
To be an English king.

It was a very bad time to be King Alfred of Wessex, and I think it holds parallels to where we are now, in America.

“Mother of God” the wanderer said
“I am but a common king,
Nor will I ask what saints may ask,
To see a secret thing.

“But for this earth most pitiful.
This little land I know,
If that which is forever is,
Or if our hearts shall break with bliss
Seeing the stranger go?”

And here we come to my introduction to this epic by Jess, when she quoted it to me when by deceit, Obamacare was ruled constitutional. That defeat continues to unfold to the detriment of the country, as do many others.

I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher

“And this is the word of Mary,
The word of the world’s desire
`No more of comfort shall ye get,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.’

Naught for your  comfort has become a catchphrase for us when things go awry, which has been often these last few years for us, personally, and for us as Americans, and for Britons as well.

We are living through a failed presidency (or at least trying to) and one of the reasons it has failed is that many of our countrymen have confused Obama with God, and I suspect he has as well. That never turns out well, and it is not here either. Nor does the next four years look exactly like ‘Morning in America’. But then neither did 1976.

I’m reminded that first class leaders hire the best men they can find to help them, and second class leaders hire third class helpers, and worst of all, third class leaders hire lackeys who will tell them what they want to hear. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Makes me wonder at who we are considering hiring to run ‘America, Inc.’

We will have to simply use our intelligence to try to select the best person. We have many things to fix. It’s going to be an epically hard battle, and we could do worse than to emulate King Alfred.

But remember, we remember King Alfred because he won. Let’s finish with the rest of the poem.

And this was the might of Alfred,
At the ending of the way;
That of such smiters, wise or wild,
He was least distant from the child,
Piling the stones all day.

The King looked up, and what he saw

Was a great light like death,
For Our Lady stood on the standards rent,
As lonely and as innocent
As when between white walls she went
And the lilies of Nazareth.

That may well happen again, but if we look around, the landscape does rather look as the poet describes here, doesn’t it?

They shall not come in warships,
They shall not waste with brands,
But books be all their eating,
And ink be on their hands.

Yea, this shall be the sign of them,
The sign of the dying fire;
And man made like a half-wit,
That knows not of his sire.

What though they come with
scroll and pen,
And grave as a shaven clerk,
By this sign you shall know them
That they ruin and make dark;

By all men bond to nothing
Being slaves without a lord,
By one blind idiot world obeyed
Too blind to be abhorred.

By thought a crawling ruin,
By life a leaping mire,
By a broken heart in the breast
of the world
And the end of the world’s desire.

By God and man dishonored
By death and life made vain
Know ye, the old barbarian,
The barbarian come again

Did that interest you enough to wonder about the poem and its author? I hope so. It was written by G.K. Chesterton (and its much longer than the excerpts here) it’s called The Ballad of the White Horse. You can find it at Project Gutenberg.

There is, of course, another lesson implicit in the poem. King Alfred succeeded because he was true to his vision and his faith. If we are not, we will fail.

By the way, Jess and I also often quote Mother Julian of Norwich to each other as well, especially as reported by T.S. Elliot in Little Gidding.

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

The Visitation: a reflection

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It was a long journey to the hill country. She’d heard that there were women who, when pregnant, put their feet up and were waited upon, as though their condition was some sort of illness. Her own pregnancy had been – shall we say – unusual. Joseph was a good man. Other men would just have sent her back home – covered in shame; some would have had her stoned. Joseph had been sad, but not bitter. Then the dream had brought him into the world she had entered when the angel came to talk to her; that had made things good again. He looked after her – he always had. But he understood things – the way older men just did. He knew she had to go to visit Elizabeth.

Who would have believed that old, barren Elizabeth, could have a child – and at her age? It was a sorrow known only to women – the pain of being barren. Who but a woman so afflicted could know the pain of watching sisters and cousins grow fruitful and give birth, holding that messy but lovely little baby to your breast? Mary had seen it so often, When she was betrothed, she knew this would be her fate; but what had she really known? God’s plan for her was beyond her power to appreciate – but she had been happy to be the handmaid of the Lord. She’s wanted to be that in the Temple, she’d wanted to serve God – but who could have known this was her service?

So she wanted to see Elizabeth. Her own quickening seemed to increase as she got closer. She wondered how it would be with her cousin?  How she wanted to share her own joy, and how she wanted to congratulate and embrace Elizabeth.

In the quiet of the evening she reflected. It was a moment filled with God’s Spirit. Elizabeth had spoken like a prophet inspired, and that, in turn had inspired her to praise God – she could remember every word they had both said, and above all, she remembered the babe in her womb reacting. She knew that the rabbis wrote such things down, but she had no need. She knew her scriptures as well as any man. She loved to listen to the word of God. Yet she felt as though, earlier, she had been the vessel of that Word.

What had she done when he said she would be the handmaid of the Lord? Who could know? It was best to throw yourself at God’s feet and to trust, as she had when she was a little girl. Elizabeth had known, known who it was lay in her womb, and that could only have been by the workings of the same Spirit through whom she had become with child herself. What was this great mystery, how could she bear the Messiah? Surely he would come to one of those high-born women who would treat pregnancy as an illness? But her Son would treat the illness of the whole world. Her Son? How could it be? That, at least, was easy to answer – God willed it.

Now it was late evening, and she was tired. She would go upstairs and sleep under the stars – with the blessed fruit of her womb. She would wait. Her time was coming.

Feast Day of Our Lady of Walsingham

pic_old-mapSo, today is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Walsingham. Seems strange, even to me, that a hard-headed old Protestant like me would care. Like many of you, I was raised that the veneration of Saints and such tended very close to idolatry. And it can, Martin Luther, himself, warned of it but, he also venerated Mary, the Theotokos, all his life.

In truth, many of us venerate soldiers, sports heroes, even politicians, in much the same way. In essence, it strikes me as little more than a desire to emulate an exemplary person. The Christian overlay provides an opportunity for us to ask them to intercede with God for us, is all.

But, being raised when and how I was, none of this penetrated my thick skull, and I know I was hardly alone. But if we are wise we learn, and we grow as we age. At least for me this is true.

I was introduced to Our Lady of Walsingham by my coauthor, Jess, not long after we met, she made the pilgrimage to Walsingham a few years ago, not long after we were brought together.

With my love of history, I was fascinated by the history and have written some about it, as has Jess. But that is not the point, today, while she was there, she lit a candle and prayed for me (yes, I know, not the kind of thing we Lutherans, or in truth most Anglicans) do. The thing is, I felt a peace go through me at almost the moment she lit it, and sundry other effects as well.

Today, Jess’ coauthor on her blog is commemorating Jess’ writing on Walsingham (in truth, so am I), with a repeat of her first post on her pilgrimage to Walsingham a few years ago, and links to the rest. We both think it a fine occasion to acquaint some of you newer friends with her writing, and it’s power. The story moved us then, and it moves us now. Jess has a knack for persuasive writing, in truth much of the basis of our friendship, and yes love, will be found in the series of posts, he links. It’s called Our Lady of Walsingham, so go there already, I’ll wait.

It fired our friendship, and it especially did so in three areas, our love of God, a shared passion for history, and my renewed love of poetry. How can one not be moved by Eliot’s

And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
They can tell you, being dead: the communication
Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.
Here, the intersection of the timeless moment
Is England and nowhere. Never and always.

For here, at Walsingham is one of the places they are made very true.

Jess also tells us about the sprinkling service, and how moved she was, and I’ll add how moved I was by her telling of it. And now I will also always remember that shortly before she received last rites last fall, before her miracle cure, she was again sprinkled with Walsingham water.

There may be other explanations, I suppose, but I haven’t stumbled across them, and it is from that moment that she became my dearest friend, a moment shared across the ocean and half a continent. There are more chapters to tell of this story, but not today, they will have to wait.

An interesting note is that the first Roman Catholic service at the shrine since the Reformation was performed by US Military personnel on 17 may 1945, just after VE day. They certainly had something to commemorate.

But in general, as Jess has always said, as you draw closer to Christ, His Mother has a very great appeal, and why wouldn’t She.

In truth, I think there is definitely simply Something about Maryas the linked article will tell you.

Although not really linked in history, this was the period when we adopted some of Julian of Norwich’s words as related by Eliot as a catchphrase, for me, for Jess, and for our blogs, and our lives:

WhOur_Lady_of_Walsinghamatever we inherit from the fortunate
We have taken from the defeated
What they had to leave us – a symbol:
A symbol perfected in death.
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
By the purification of the motive
In the ground of our beseeching.

Today is the day that I will merely note and ask Our Lady of Walsingham to continue to watch over us, and those we love.

O Mary, recall the solemn moment when Jesus, your divine son, dying on the cross, confided us to your maternal care. You are our mother, we desire ever to remain your devout children. let us therefore feel the effects of your powerful intercession with Jesus Christ. make your name again glorious in the shrine once renowned throughout England by your visits, favours, and many miracles.

Pray, O holy mother of God, for the conversion of England, restoration of the sick, consolation for the afflicted, repentance of sinners, peace to the departed.

O blessed Mary, mother of God, our Lady of Walsingham, intercede for us.
Amen.

Catholic Scot: Mary & the Birthdays of Jesus

Yes, dear reader, I’m coasting a bit, calling your attention to some great work being done by others. Like this post, which I love.

Part of what I like here is that the author talks some about St. Joseph, Jesus’ foster father, and I think the most shortchanged of the saints. it takes quite a man, especially in their culture to go ahead and marry a pregnant girl, on the word of an angel, no less, and knowing that he would never be with his betrothed. But he did, and then proceeded to carry on, and care for and protect his little family, as long as he lived.

A model many of us guys would be well advised to emulate.

Christ Appearing to the Virgin by Follower of Rogier van der Weyden 1475

[…]

It is easy for Christians and sometimes even the Church to overlook St Joseph and his part in the Nativity seeing him as some kind of bit part player, an extra in the scene. We can be sure that this is a fault of which our Lady was never guilty. To her Joseph was a tower of strength, a friend, a faithful loving companion, the first man to hold her Jesus in his arms, to look tenderly at Him, to love Him wholeheartedly. To recall the first Christmas for Mary would also be to recall Joseph’s steadfastness in marrying her despite her pregnancy, his support and care for her and the unborn child on the journey to Bethlehem and for mother and newborn during the flight into Egypt. They shared the agony of the hunt for the lost boy Jesus through the streets and Temple courts of Jerusalem. Most of all, perhaps, they shared year after year the hidden life of working, living in a community, raising a child to manhood being lovers of God and lovers of neighbour in that greatest of all trials the seeming triviality and mediocrity of the everyday. No doubt also his presence at this intense moment of life would bring to mind the time when this just man departed from it going to his eternal rest enfolded in the love of the Virgin and the Saviour the two most important people in his life. And this points us to an essential truth about Christmas. It is a family celebration, Mary would not recall the child without recalling too the foster-father. We who are adults seldom pass a Christmas season without revisiting our childhood feasts, the parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents, uncles, aunts and others who welcome or not trailed through our seasonal rejoicing and accompany us still in our fondest memories. Welcoming a child into the world is a time for bringing families together and in Jesus we welcome the universal child, our destinies and the destinies of all who are dear to us are bound up in His. If our adult selves have dispensed with the large family gatherings of the not-so-distant past we should at least bring together in our prayers those we will not or cannot bring together in the flesh.

If St Joseph is backgrounded in our Nativity scenes and cribs the shepherds and Magi are not. Whilst our Lady may have held these things in reverse order in her heart her Christmas memories would certainly not have neglected them. Most of all, I think, it would have been the shepherds whose memory she treasured. Partly because they were present on that wonderful world transforming night as the Magi were not. Partly also because the Mary who sang-
He has shown might with his arm,
dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones
but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things;
the rich he has sent away empty.

Read more at: Catholic Scot: Mary & the Birthdays of Jesus.

Naught For Our Comfort

I doubt that it is news to any of you but, one of the great joys of mine in writing this blog for the last two years has been the help and friendship of Jessica, and her co-author Chalcedon. I admire them both greatly, and one of the reasons for that is that they have rekindled my love for poetry, and you have seen all of us use it to reinforce our points. It is hardly a new method but, it is one used rarely these days. I suspect because most of us are so ill-educated that we are unaware of its richness, and ability to reinforce our point.

If you read much of Lincoln’ writings and speeches, for instance, you will see it used to great effect. For instance his famous, “of the people, for the people, and by the people’ was not original, nor did he claim it was, and his listeners knew it was not. The original is this: “This Bible is for the government of the people, for the people and by the people.” it is by John Wycliffe and it is from 1384.

And so they have enriched my life, and will continue to do so, God willing, and yours as well because it is reflected in my posts for you. And so

A sea-folk blinder than the sea
Broke all about his land,
But Alfred up against them bare
And gripped the ground and grasped the air,
Staggered, and strove to stand.

For earthquake swallowing earthquake
Uprent the Wessex tree;
The whirlpool of the pagan sway
Had swirled his sires as sticks away
When a flood smites the sea.

Our towns were shaken of tall kings
With scarlet beards like blood:
The world turned empty where they trod,
They took the kindly cross of God
And cut it up for wood.

He bent them back with spear and spade,
With desperate dyke and wall,
With foemen leaning on his shield
And roaring on him when he reeled;
And no help came at all.

There was not English armor left,
Nor any English thing,
When Alfred came to Athelney
To be an English king.

It was a very bad time to be King Alfred of Wessex, and I think it holds parallels to our time as well. to continue

“Mother of God” the wanderer said
“I am but a common king,
Nor will I ask what saints may ask,
To see a secret thing.

“But for this earth most pitiful.
This little land I know,
If that which is forever is,
Or if our hearts shall break with bliss
Seeing the stranger go?”

And here we come to my introduction to this epic by Jess, when she quoted to me on one of our political defeats

I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher

“And this is the word of Mary,
The word of the world’s desire
`No more of comfort shall ye get,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.’

Naught for your  comfort has become a catchphrase for us when things go awry, which has been often these last few years for us Americans, and for Britons as well.

We are living through a failed presidency (or at least trying to) and one of the reasons it has failed is that many of our countrymen have confused Obama with God, and I suspect he has as well. That never turns out well, and it is not here either.

I’m reminded that first class leaders hire the best men they can find to help them, and second class leaders hire third class helpers, and worst of all, third class leaders hire lackeys who will tell them what they want to hear. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

But we are going to have to soldier until after the next election, and hope we find a man (not a god) to help us lead in the rebuilding western civilization, for without our leadership it will fall. It’s going to be an epically hard battle, and we could do worse than to emulate King Alfred.

But remember, we remember King Alfred because he won. Let’s finish with the rest of the poem.

And this was the might of Alfred,
At the ending of the way;
That of such smiters, wise or wild,
He was least distant from the child,
Piling the stones all day.

The King looked up, and what he saw

Was a great light like death,
For Our Lady stood on the standards rent,
As lonely and as innocent
As when between white walls she went
And the lilies of Nazareth.

[…]

They shall not come in warships,
They shall not waste with brands,
But books be all their eating,
And ink be on their hands.

Yea, this shall be the sign of them,
The sign of the dying fire;
And man made like a half-wit,
That knows not of his sire.

What though they come with
scroll and pen,
And grave as a shaven clerk,
By this sign you shall know them
That they ruin and make dark;

By all men bond to nothing
Being slaves without a lord,
By one blind idiot world obeyed
Too blind to be abhorred.

By thought a crawling ruin,
By life a leaping mire,
By a broken heart in the breast
of the world
And the end of the world’s desire.

By God and man dishonored
By death and life made vain
Know ye, the old barbarian,
The barbarian come again

The eternal battle against barbarism is ours to win for our generation or to lose for generations to come. It has taken us a thousand years to get where we are, and it might take longer to recover. So, Stand Fast, my friends.

Did that interest you enough to wonder about the poem and its author? I hope so. It was written by G.K. Chesterton (and its much longer than the excerpts here) it’s called The Ballad of the White Horse. You can find it at Project Gutenberg.

Feast Day of Our Lady of Walsingham

pic_old-mapSo, today is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Walsingham. Seems strange, even to me, that a hard-headed old Protestant like me would care. Like many of you, I was raised that the veneration of Saints and such tended very close to idolatry. And it can, Martin Luther, himself, warned of it but, he also venerated Mary, the Theotokos, all his life.

In truth, many of us venerate soldiers, sports heroes, even politicians, in much the same way. In essence it strikes me as little more than a desire to emulate an exemplary person. The Christian overlay provides an opportunity for us to ask them to intercede with God for us, is all.

But, being raised when and how I was, none of this penetrated my thick skull, and I know I was hardly alone. But if we are wise we learn, and we grow as we age. At least for me this is true.

I was introduced to Our Lady of Walsingham by my coauthor, Jess, not long after we met, she made the pilgrimage to Walsingham a few years ago, not long after we were brought together.

With my love of history, I was fascinated by the history, and have written some about it, as has Jess. But that is not the point, today, while she was there, she lit a candle, and prayed for me (yes, I know, not the kind of thing we Lutherans, or in truth most Anglicans) do. Thing is, I felt a peace go through me at almost the moment she lit it, and sundry other effects as well.

There may be other explanations, I suppose, but I haven’t stumbled across them, and it is from that moment that she became my dearest friend, a moment shared across the ocean and half a continent. There are more chapters to tell of this story, but not today, they will have to wait.

Today is the day that I will merely note and ask Our Lady of Walsingham to continue to watch over us, and those we love.

O Mary, recall the solemn moment when Jesus, your divine son, dying on the cross, confided us to your maternal care. You are our mother, we desire ever to remain your devout children. let us therefore feel the effects of your powerful intercession with Jesus Christ. make your name again glorious in the shrine once renowned throughout England by your visits, favours, and many miracles.

Pray, O holy mother of God, for the conversion of England, restoration of the sick, consolation for the afflicted, repentance of sinners, peace to the departed.

O blessed Mary, mother of God, our Lady of Walsingham, intercede for us.
Amen.

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