Song of the Day

Beethoven? Scottish folk songs? Who knew?

Dim, dim is my eye,
As the dew-drop once clear,
Pale, pale is my cheek,
Ever wet with the tear
And heavily heaves
This soft breast, once so gay,
For William, my true love,
My William away!

Sad, sad was the hour,
When he bade me adieu,
While he hung on my bosom,
And vow’d to be true;
My heart it seem’d bursting
On that fatal day,
When the fast less’ning sail
Bore my William away.

For honour my William
Braved danger and toil,
And he fought and he fell
With the Lord of the Nile.
To die for his country
In glory’s bright day,
My valiant sweet William
Count never dismay.

Lament him, ye fair,
And lament him, ye brave,
Though unshrouded he lies,
And the sea is his grave;
For the kind and true hearted,
The gallant and gay,
Lament, for my William’s
For ever away!


Random quotes

I’m reading Fr. George Rutler, He Spoke to Us: Discerning God in People and Events, a book of essays which I’m enjoying very much. From the essay titled “Why We Need Lent”:

Fasting is meant to teach humility: If I cannot do without a few sandwiches, I should speak with reserve about being a soldier of Christ.

From “The Awkwardness of Advent”:

Our culture is enduring a severe test of itself. If Christ does not
govern minds and hearts, mere humans will volunteer to do it, and they
will do it badly. When the Judges of Israel could think about their
own existence only with reference to how other people existed apart
from divine regiment, they wanted a human king. Samuel warned them:
“He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards
and give them to his servants. . . . He will take the tenth of your
flocks,and you shall be his slaves” (I Sam. 8:14, 17). These days, he
will take a lot more than 10 percent.

And one from Chesterton:

Cobbett said about Cranmer that the very thought that such a being had
walked the earth on two legs was enough to make the reeling brain
doubt the existence of God; but that peace and faith flow back again
into the soul when we remember that he was burned alive.

G.K. Chesterton, William Cobbett (1910).


The imperfect will be done away with

Charity never fails, whereas prophecies will disappear, and tongues will cease, and knowledge will be destroyed. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when that which is perfect has come, that which is imperfect will be done away with. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child. Now that I have become a man, I have put away the things of a child. We see now through a mirror in an obscure manner, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know even as I have been known. So there abide faith, hope and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.  (1 Cor. 13:8-13.)

This is another one of those passages that I have read a hundred times, but this past Sunday during Mass its meaning struck me in a new way. What I had never noticed before, was that the reading is a series of contrasts between the perfect and the imperfect (with “perfect” having the connotation of “complete” or “fulfilled”):

When I was a child, I spoke, felt, thought as a child (imperfect); now that I have grown up, I have put away the things of a child (perfect).

We see now through a mirror in an obscure manner (imperfect); but then face to face (perfect).

Now I know in part (imperfect), but then I shall know even as I am known (perfect) (since God knows us perfectly).

We all know about faith, hope, and love, and how the greatest of these is love. But why is it the greatest? Because love is perfect, whereas faith and hope are imperfect. “[W]hen that which is perfect has come, that which is imperfect will be done away with.”

“For we know in part and we prophesy in part” illustrates the imperfection of faith and hope: They are both forms of partial knowledge: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1.) It’s what we have when we can’t see the object of faith directly; we know “as through a mirror, in an obscure manner.” Charity is the real deal, right here and now, and will remain so even in eternity; whereas faith and hope will have lost their usefulness.

This is a teaching about love, but it’s also a teaching about eternity, the afterlife, heaven, which will be a state of perfection, again, in the sense of completeness. What we wonder about, hope and strive for, will no longer be matter for hoping and striving since it will all be fulfilled. Everything imperfect will be done away with, including the virtues of faith and hope; but if even faith and hope will be useless, what will be the point of worrying and working and striving?

Thus, heaven will not be a state of striving to achieve, but a state of rest; not a state of imperfection, but a state of perfection; with nothing yet to be achieved, but all things fulfilled.

(This last point is further to my post “Does Mormonism offer more (after death) than mainstream Christianity?“)

So run that you may obtain

Brethren, know you not that they that run in the race, all run indeed, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that you may obtain. And every one that striveth for the mastery, refraineth himself from all things: and they indeed that they may receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible one. I therefore so run, not as at an uncertainty; I so fight, not as one beating the air: but I chastise my body, and bring it into subjection: lest perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway. For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all in Moses were baptized; in the cloud and in the sea; and all did eat the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink; (and they drank of the same spiritual rock that followed them; and the rock was Christ). But with the most of them God was not well pleased.

Epistle for Septuagesima Sunday, 1 Cor. 9:24-27; 10:1-5; quoted from The Roman Missal (Fr. Lasance).

I have heard this reading a hundred times but its meaning finally became clear to me today at Mass. In short, St. Paul is saying that although we’re all members of Christ’s Church, that’s not enough. All of the Israelites walked through the Red Sea when it parted, nevertheless most of them were not pleasing to God. They were grumblers and complainers and turned to idolatry at the first opportunity. Most of us Catholics do not please God. We need to be not merely “in the race,” but run as if to win it. Not merely be in the Church, but be among the few in the Church with whom God is well pleased.

And how do we run as if to win the race? By chastising our bodies and bringing them into submission, just as an athlete disciplines his body by training hard and restricting his diet.

Modern, First World problems

From a commercial I’ve seen many times on TV lately:

[A young woman in a job interview, with regard to her problem-solving skills:] “I got through high school without a car, a phone, or a computer.”

I too got through high school without any of those things. In all likelihood, the grey-haired man interviewing her also lacked a phone and a computer in high school. The same could be said of virtually everyone born in the United States before 1970 or so (not even mentioning those from countries less fortunate).

Of Christmas: Max Beerbohm’s parody of Belloc

I think this is hilarious, especially if you’ve read The Path to Rome (H/T to Thomas Cordatus):


There was a man came to an Inn by night, and after he had called three times they should open him the door—though why three times, and not three times three, nor thirty times thirty, which is the number of the little stone devils that make mows at St. Aloesius of Ledera over against the marshes Gué-la-Nuce to this day, nor three hundred times three hundred (which is a bestial number), nor three thousand times three-and-thirty, upon my soul I know not, and nor do you—when, then, this jolly fellow had three times cried out, shouted, yelled, holloa’d, loudly besought, caterwauled, brayed, sung out, and roared, he did by the same token set himself to beat, hammer, bang, pummel, and knock at the door. Now the door was Oak. It had been grown in the forest of Boulevoise, hewn in Barre-le-Neuf, seasoned in South Hoxton, hinged nowhere in particular, and panelled—and that most abominably well—in Arque, where the peasants sell their souls for skill in such handicraft. But our man knew nothing of all this, which, had he known it, would have mattered little enough to him, for a reason which I propose to tell in the next sentence. The door was opened. As to the reasons why it was not opened sooner, these are most tediously set forth in Professor Sir T.K. Slibby’s “Half-Hours With Historic Doors,” as also in a fragment at one time attributed to Oleaginus Silo but now proven a forgery by Miss Evans. Enough for our purpose, merry reader of mine, that the door was opened.

The man, as men will, went in. And there, for God’s sake and by the grace of Mary Mother, let us leave him; for the truth of it is that his strength was all in his lungs, and himself a poor, weak, clout-faced, wizen-bellied, pin-shanked bloke anyway, who at Trinity Hall had spent the most of his time in reading Hume (that was Satan’s lackey) and after taking his degree did a little in the way of Imperial Finance. Of him it was that Lord Abraham Hart, that far-seeing statesman, said, “This young man has the root of the matter in him.” I quote the epigram rather for its perfect form than for its truth. For once, Lord Abraham was deceived. But it must be remembered that he was at this time being plagued almost out of his wits by the vile (though cleverly engineered) agitation for the compulsory winding-up of the Rondoosdop Development Company. Afterwards, in Wormwood Scrubbs, his Lordship admitted that his estimate of his young friend had perhaps been pitched too high. In Dartmoor he has since revoked it altogether, with that manliness for which the Empire so loved him when he was at large.

Now the young man’s name was Dimby—”Trot” Dimby—and his mother had been a Clupton, so that—but had I not already dismissed him? Indeed I only mentioned him because it seemed that his going to that Inn might put me on track of that One Great Ultimate and Final True Thing I am purposed to say about Christmas. Don’t ask me yet what that Thing is. Truth dwells in no man, but is a shy beast you must hunt as you may in the forests that are round about the Walls of Heaven. And I do hereby curse, gibbet, and denounce in execrationem perpetuam atque aeternam the man who hunts in a crafty or calculating way—as, lying low, nosing for scents, squinting for trails, crawling noiselessly till he shall come near to his quarry and then taking careful aim. Here’s to him who hunts Truth in the honest fashion of men, which is, going blindly at it, following his first scent (if such there be) or (if none) none, scrambling over boulders, fording torrents, winding his horn, plunging into thickets, skipping, firing off his gun in the air continually, and then ramming in some more ammunition anyhow, with a laugh and a curse if the charge explode in his own jolly face. The chances are he will bring home in his bag nothing but a field-mouse he trod on by accident. Not the less his is the true sport and the essential stuff of holiness.

As touching Christmas—but there is nothing like verse to clear the mind, heat the blood, and make very humble the heart. Rouse thee, Muse!

One Christmas Night in Pontgibaud
(Pom-pom, rub-a-dub-dub)
A man with a drum went to and fro
(Two merry eyes, two cheeks chub)
Nor not a citril within, without,
But heard the racket and heard the rout
And marvelled what it was all about
(And who shall shrive Beelzebub?)

He whacked so hard the drum was split
(Pom-pom, rub-a-dub-dum)
Out lept Saint Gabriel from it
(Praeclarissimus Omnium)
Who spread his wings and up he went
Nor ever paused in his ascent
Till he had reached the firmament
(Benedicamus Dominum).

That’s what I shall sing (please God) at dawn to-morrow, standing on the high, green barrow at Storrington, where the bones of Athelstan’s men are. Yea,

At dawn to-morrow
On Storrington Barrow
I’ll beg or borrow
A bow and arrow
And shoot sleek sorrow
Through the marrow.
The floods are out and the ford is narrow,
The stars hang dead and my limbs are lead,
But ale is gold
And there’s good foot-hold
On the Cuckfield side of Storrington Barrow.

This too I shall sing, and other songs that are yet to write. In Pagham I shall sing them again, and again in Little Dewstead. In Hornside I shall rewrite them, and at the Scythe and Turtle in Liphook (if I have patience) annotate them. At Selsey they will be very damnably in the way, and I don’t at all know what I shall do with them at Selsey.

Such then, as I see it, is the whole pith, mystery, outer form, common acceptation, purpose, usage usual, meaning and inner meaning, beauty intrinsic and extrinsic, and right character of Christmas Feast. Habent urbs atque orbis revelationem. Pray for my soul.