Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Let There Be Brokenness

A Milkweed

Anonymous as cherubs
Over the crib of God,
White seeds are floating
Out of my burst pod.
What power had I
Before I learned to yield?
Shatter me, great wind:
I shall possess the field.
From "Two Voices in a Meadow"by Richard Wilbur1

Richard Wilbur combines simplicity with fluency to produce some of the most profound poetry in the English language. This voice (the other one is a stone) reminds us of the power of yielding our will to the greater will. Wilbur doesn't capitalize great wind, but I can't help reading it that way: Shatter me, Great Wind. It is in the choir with Donne's Batter my heart, three-person'd God. The choir master is: My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. 2 Cor 12:9.

Let us pray for the strength to be weak. Shatter me, Great Wind.

Here's Donne's great Holy Sonnet XIV:

Batter my heart, three-person'd God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me. 2

1 Wilbur, Richard, Collected Poems 1943-2004, New York, Harcourt, Inc. 2004, 257
Donne, John. Poems of John Donne. vol I. E. K. Chambers, ed.London: Lawrence & Bullen, 1896. 165.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Dives Agonistes

“'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.'"
I can’t add to the many things that have been said about the final conditions of the wretched Lazarus and the rich Dives. But I think these final words of Jesus bear examination.
Abraham, of course, was the father of both men, in covenant as well as in flesh. So when he called Dives “my son”, his hearers understood immediately and intimately. It was the core of their corporate life. They likewise understood that Dives was living in scorn of the covenants of both Abraham and Moses by refusing help to Lazarus. That is why Jesus has Abraham saying, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.”
Jesus, I think, was being a bit sly in this parable. Remember that he was on his way to Jerusalem and the cross. He knew he would consummate the fulfillment of the law and the prophets by his passion and death. And he also knew (and would say many more times) that he would rise from the dead as the supreme persuasion of that fulfillment.
Yet how many times have we seen his parable fulfilled in that respect also? How many have risen to deny the Resurrection? And if we declare our faith in it, we are subjected to pop psychoanalysis – we’re deluded, hysterical and fundamentalist (a synonym for crazy). In all the Muslim lands, as well as in Africa, in India and in Asia, we are persecuted for it. The stiff-necked contumacy of men defies belief, but Jesus promised it and promised help in enduring it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Invective Against Trees

You prodigal trees!
Raucous in spring,
Drinking so deep,
Amassing such green,
Spending it all,
On one winter’s sleep!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Page Design

I had to change the page design because I saw that Webster Bull and friends over at Why I Am Catholic are using the same design. No wonder I liked it! Anyhow, I hope you like the new one.

That They May Be One

Pope Benedict's visit to the United Kingdom reminded me of St. John's account of the Last Supper. It begins with the breathtaking phrase
... having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. (ch13, v1)
This finds its culmination in chapter 17, that majestic high priestly prayer in which Jesus commends the apostles to His Father's care, asking Him to keep them while He's busy dying on the cross. I find it a stunningly tender passage. Of course, He had already given them the lesson of washing one another's feet and the most precious Eucharist. He could have stopped there. But not Jesus. He loved them to the end. He wanted to seal them in the very unity of the Godhead.
Look at verses 21 through 23.
20."I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;
21."that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.
22."And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one:
23."I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”
Jesus exhausts the possibilities of "in-ness", of who is in whom. Just as important is the "as" of His dedication. Read "in the identical manner". In the identical manner that the Father is in Jesus, He desires that the apostles (and all those who believe in Him through their word - that's us!) be in Them also. It makes me tremble to understand what He is asking, and what we know the Father will not refuse - that we be in Them and They in us - that the same Godhead that was fully in Jesus' clay be in our clay. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it. (Ps 139:6)

Which returns me to the pope's visit to Britain. The Eucharist is certainly the premier sign of the unity Jesus entreated for that night, but it is not the only sign. The supremacy of Peter and his successors is another. He is the emblem of the very authority Jesus entrusted to the apostles that night, the Magisterium of the Church.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Requiem for 9/11

I have labored to think of something worthy of the occasion. Angry denunciations would come so easily. It is just too sad. In such circumstances, not knowing what to do, I throw myself on the Lord and pray for mercy. I said the Office for the Dead this morning.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Friday, September 10, 2010

What a Mighty God We Serve

I have always been fascinated by clouds. Lately, it occurred to me that the amount of power needed to put a cloud into the sky is easily calculated with some elementary school math. (I did promise no deep thinking in these precincts.)
Here’s the question: How much power (measured in horsepower, HP) is needed to raise a cloud 1 by 1 by 1 kilometers in dimensions to an elevation of 1500 feet in one hour? (I’ll straighten out the metric to English measures as we go.)
Horsepower is a measure of weight over distance in a unit time. So we need to know how much a cloud 1 billion (yes, 1000 x 1000 x 1000 meters!) cubic meters weighs in pounds. Happily, the US Geological Service provides that answer: the density of a fluffy cumulus cloud is 1.003 kilograms per cubic meter. That means an astounding 1.003 billion kilograms or 2.211 billion pounds! (It floats up there because the air is even denser.)
The formula for horsepower is
1HP = 550 ft-lb per sec

(550 x 1500 ft x 2,211,000,000 lb) / (60sec x 60 min) = 506,687,500,000 HP
The Space Shuttle engines develop 37,000,000 HP. So If I wanted to raise a single cloud according to specifications, I would have to produce enough power to launch 13,333 Space Shuttles. I have read that there is no precise measure of horsepower above 5000, but that’s still a prodigious amount of power. Yet the sun does it multiplied times every day and has done for billions of years.
Just one further calculation: how much power (in any measure you like) is required to do that and to create a being capable of pondering how much power it would take? I don’t know how to calculate it but I don’t think the power is available in the whole world. It has to come from outside this world. Pretty neat, huh?

Lavacrum Interrumpum

Careless me on the garden path
Surprised a robin in her bath.
Her indignation made me laugh.

I never meant to cause offense
Or have a laugh at her expense
And so I haven't gone back since.