April 29, 2011

Quick Takes (Now 25% Quicker!)

Read an interesting line from a Peter Daly column about giving up things for Lent and how that can discipline you but it doesn’t change your attitudes, the internal things that make us unclean like anger, lust, envy etc... Of course the two aren’t mutually exclusive as Heather King pointed out in a post; the discipline of fasting carried over into the discipline of not engaging in gossip or judgmental talk.

* * *

I hunger now for some Donald Hall lyricism as a rare stretch of sun gleams in the bookroom window. I look at the great diversity of trees out front and think how I underrate the front porch; the back patio overlooks a maple, a peach tree and thirty evergreens. The front yard overlooks a panoply of trees of every description and, blessedly, only one evergreen. I like pine but one there’s a uniformity to them that eventually bores. In spring one wants to see the excitement of change, and the pines change not.

I was on the front porch earlier and a fine rain sent white petals drifting in the wet wind. A few land on my face and arms, sent from a neighbor’s dogwood.

* * *

Lent is over, which feels shocking. It comes to such an abrupt halt. Our early lives are like a long Lent; we may look back and say, “I could’ve done more, been more charitable, prayed more, …” and I look back with similar sentiments on Lent when Lent ebbs.

I devoted some time to Fr. Groeschel’s book about the history of devotion to Christ in the Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox variations. Was dubious about the value of the book for me, but it’s full of little histories of the only thing that matters: faith. And I feel I have a better feel for some of the issues of, say, Russian spirituality. What makes the Russians who they are? (The quote goes that Russians are like everybody else, except more so.) Why has their beautiful liturgies not availed? The short story is that liturgy got linked to the state and cruel tsars and the Faith never does well when linked to state. (Perhaps we see a bit of that with Ireland, which seemed to be the exception until the recent freefall.) Also there’s no substitute for a more personal, mystical relationship with Christ.

* * *

I’m surprisingly sanguine about the Noah-ic rains and storms. I feel like I have the whip-hand on nature; the relentless march of the calendar is on my side this time. The tide has turned, the calendar can’t lie much longer and the cold and gloomy weather will be as temporary as crayon tattoos. Perhaps I’ll even miss it when it’s gone.

The gentle, ceaseless rains make for good sleeping weather. I drink gallons of sleep! I have an ocean of it, and it’s full of dreams and soothing restfulness, my limbs like tree-trunks.

I rather like the inclement weather. It makes me feel grounded. Sometimes I sit out on the front porch and smell the wet wind and enjoy the somber air. I feel no pull to travel when the sky is grey and cloudy. There’s nowhere I’d rather be than at home, on the porch or in the comfort of the recliner, the reading light on.

* * *

A few weeks ago I'd won free tickets to the foreign film Of Gods and Men. It was, proper to its subject matter, suitably intense.

Reminiscent of Into Great Silence - right down to the lingering on the faces of the monks - only this time the film had a plot.

The monks themselves, or actors playing the monks, did a good job in showing sanctity doesn't result in copy-cutter saints.

There were a few gut-wrenching lines delivered when they discussed whether to become martyrs. "No servant is greater than his master," quotes one monk, ominously. Another said,"A wildflower moves not to the sunshine...but remains where it is." "We are nothing but birds on a branch here," said one monk and one of the villagers replied, "we are the birds and you are the branches."

The film opens with a quotation from the Book of Psalms, Psalm 82:6-7: "I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes."

One of the monks wrote in a farewell letter, “Here it is mayhem and violence. We are in a high-risk situation, but we persist in our faith and our confidence in God. It is through poverty, failure and death that we advance towards him...May we meet again, happy thieves in Paradise, if it pleases God, the Father of us both. Amen.”

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