Monday, 21 April 2014

Two Ronnies...


I thought something light-hearted for Bright Monday would hit the spot. This is, without the shadow of a doubt, the funniest Two Ronnies sketch I have ever seen. I laugh out loud every time I watch it. Enjoy!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Alleluia!

From the Hours of Alice de Reydon of Wherstead in Suffolk, circa 1324.

In the spirit of Spenser's poem, may I wish you all the temporal and spiritual blessings in the Risen Lord on this most sacred solemnity of Pascha. Happy Eoster everyone!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Of the first fruits...


Most glorious Lord of lyfe, that on this day,
Didst make thy triumph over death and sin:
And having harrowd hell, didst bring away
Captivity thence captive us to win:
This joyous day, deare Lord, with joy begin,
And grant that we, for whom thou diddest dye,
Being with thy deare blood clene washt from sin,
May live for ever in felicity.
And that thy love we weighing worthily,
May likewise love thee for the same againe:
And for thy sake that all lyke deare didst buy,
With love may one another entertayne.
So let us love, deare love, lyke as we ought,
Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.
Edmund Spenser 1552-1599, Eoster.

Friday, 18 April 2014

My talent...

I have several talents. As a boy, it was Irish dancing and when I was 10 years old I won the World Championship for the Under 11's. Having mastered Irish dancing, I had wanted to take up ballet but my father decided that I was already too much of a "pansy" for it to be safe for me to go down that road. When I was asked to leave the Irish dancing academy (you see, I was a pariah even then) I devoted myself wholly to Tolkien, at which I have always considered myself, next to Christopher, the world's leading authority. But there has always been another talent, slightly less gratifying, namely my talent for attracting publick ridicule. This has been with me since my earliest days; from my first trip to the post box at the end of the road with an A4 brown envelope (I spent approximately ten minutes trying to fit the thing in the hole, eventually going home with it and asking my mother what to do; she took it, folded it, and then told me that she despaired of my woeful lack of "common sense") to walking into a pub in Farningham with my mother some years ago and a table of young men erupting with laughter at my appearance. To-day an otherwise very patient woman sighed and had to stamp a set of documents I was carrying for me because I couldn't work out how to do so or where to stamp, then pointed out that it was "perfectly simple" to fill out an envelope, that I had put cellotape over the wrong side of the envelope (to be fair, I was by this point sweating with stress and there was a slight tear at the top right-hand side which I mistook for a fold), then when I went back down to the other office to retrieve the cellotape I managed to cellotape over the address, which I had in any case written on the wrong side. It was a good day.

Then I came home and read this! Perhaps I ought to have said that when I read the works of Joseph Pearce, while I found his style banal, I agreed with the general thrust of his arguments because I was still then a Roman Catholick. Some time ago I began to re-read many of the old books in my library in order to reappraise their value in the light of my views now. I never bothered with Pearce for the reason I have just given, but that's clearly funny!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

What happened?


You know, these days there are only three liturgical services in the Roman Rite to which I would go gladly. They are the ceremonies of Palm Sunday, the ceremonies of the Paschal Vigil on the morning of Holy Saturday, and Pontifical Mattins and Lauds of the Resurrection (the latter simply because it no longer exists and not out of especial preference). I find the rest of the Roman Rite rather grotesque, to be frank, and so irretrievably riddled with popery as to be not worth one's trouble. Still, I suppose it is fitting to compare the "achievements" of Pius XII to the lands about Mordor:

"Before them dark in the dawn the great mountains reached up to roofs of smoke and cloud. Out from their feet were flung huge buttresses and broken hills that were now at the nearest scarce a dozen miles away. Frodo looked round in horror. Dreadful as the Dead Marshes had been, and the arid moors of the Noman-lands, more loathsome far was the country that the crawling day now slowly unveiled to his shrinking eyes. Even to the Mere of Dead Faces some haggard phantom of green spring would come; but here neither spring nor summer would ever come again. Here nothing lived, not even the leprous growths that feed on rottenness. The gasping pools were choked with ash and crawling muds, sickly white and grey, as if the mountains had vomited the filth of their entrails upon the lands about. High mounds of crushed and powdered rock, great cones of earth fire-blasted and poison-stained, stood like an obscene graveyard in endless rows, slowly revealed in the reluctant light.

"They had come to the desolation that lay before Mordor: the lasting monument to the dark labour of its slaves that should endure when all their purposes were made void; a land defiled, diseased beyond all healing - unless the Great Sea should enter in and wash it with oblivion. 'I feel sick,' said Sam. Frodo did not speak." (The Lord of the Rings, Book IV, Chapter II).

C.S Lewis, upon reading this passage, remarked that no one could have conceived of this landscape had he not seen the battlefields of the Western Front. When first I made this comparison, however, I still loved and revered the Roman Rite. Now I would say that Pius XII changed the situation, not the landscape. If we're conditioned to believe that the Tridentine innovations in Holy Week (brought in, I suppose, to drag the antient ceremonies of this solemn and serious time down to the level of the rest of the Roman Rite), for example, are essentially beautiful and necessary when in fact they are ruthless grotesqueries forced upon us by the tyranny of bad theology, then really we were already in the graceless wilderness to begin with. A rose by any other name, but in reverse, if you like. On Spy Wednesday of 1956 Tolkien bemoaned the senseless violence wrought against Palm Sunday (I have deduced that since nobody had yet experienced Good Friday (in my opinion the worst of the lot)), and I share his frustration. I really do. But I think now that defence of the Roman Rite, in whatever form, is tantamount to defence of the Papacy since the two are so inextricably linked over centuries of misery. I suppose what I am trying to say is that there is a fundamental cognitive dissonance between accepting the Filioque and all subsequent liturgical and doctrinal developments in the West and objecting to Urban VIII's hymns or the Pius X breviary or Palm Sunday in red, whatever you like.

Besides, by going to church you risk having a conversation with someone.

Art: Ted Nasmith. I couldn't find anything else. Ithilien is too pretty and would not illustrate the point.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Spy Wednesday...


"When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death; and when they had bound him, they led him away and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor. Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, what is that to us? See thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself." Matthew 27:1-6.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Valiant for Truth...

Who would true Valour see
Let him come hither;
One here will Constant be,
Come Wind, come Weather.
There's no Discouragement,
Shall make him once Relent,
His first avow'd Intent,
To be a Pilgrim.

Who so beset him round,
With dismal Storys,
Do but themselves Confound;
His Strength the more is.
No Lyon can him fright,
He'l with a Gyant Fight,
But he will have a right,
To be a Pilgrim.

Hobgoblin, nor foul Fiend,
Can daunt his Spirit:
He knows, he at the end,
Shall Life Inherit.
Then Fancies fly away,
He'l fear not what men say,
He'l labour Night and Day,
To be a Pilgrim.

The original rendering by Bunyan is much nicer than that of the 1906 English Hymnal. It's one of my favourite hymns.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Solitude...


Turning back the clock on this world by deleting social networking accounts, avoiding television and not renewing one's mobile phone contract is a good way of culling unwanted people from your life. It also eliminates conversation. When people ask, "are you on Facebook?" You say, "no..." They then ask if you saw the latest on...whatever is latest in the news, and you say, "I don't watch television." Then they ask what your plans are for the weekend, and you say, "nothing." You can't really proceed from there and your annoying questioner has no choice but to walk away. This is because most people have an active Facebook account; if you have no part in that then that closes off one avenue of useless talk. Everybody spends their evenings by letting the television wash all over them; if you don't watch television, you have nothing to talk about. Finally, if you're perfectly frank about keeping your activities to the absolute minimum this too will eliminate any possibility of forming a connexion with your ungodly questioner. People will then see you as a terrible bore and want nothing whatever to do with you. Then the work is done! Solitude is the elixir of life.

Towards the end of the First Age the remnant of the Sindar and the Gnomes were constrained to fly to the Isle of Balar to seek refuge from the soldiery of Morgoth. Would that there were an island to which I could fly! We are a small island already but I sometimes wish that God would shew forth his power and destroy it for an example to the eyes of posterity.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Palm branches...


"As I walk'd through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place, where was a Denn; And I laid me down in that place to sleep: And as I slept I dreamed a Dream."

I had quite forgotten that it was Palm Sunday to-day. This morning I awoke at just after seven o'clock with the sensation that I had drunk too much gin the night before, so I went back to sleep again and got up after ten. I trust you all had your palms blessed and received them from the hand of the celebrant and didn't rather pick them up at the back of the church? I actually find it odd that we use dried palm branches in England at all. Why not make use of local foliage instead? I shan't repeat any anathemas for the malefit of those of you who did not bother celebrating Christ's going into Jerusalem in violet. Who am I to judge? I sat at home this morning. As I think that celebrating Palm Sunday in violet is as much an act of hypocrisy under the aegis of Summorum Pontificum as wearing bright red dalmatics and tunicles, what would be the point? It is a nice day for a procession, though.

Diversity...


Publick perception bewilders me. For example:

Adam: "I figured you for an atheist."
Me (slightly amused): "Why?"
Adam: "Because you're very clever."

I am not "clever." I narrated this incident to my mother and she rolled her eyes. Adam, as you might expect, is an atheist. He is four years younger than me (with younger people I am always careful to state this quite clearly) and we had a discussion over lunch about the existence of the Soul relative to "brute beasts that have no understanding." We chose this subject because he had studied Zoology at St Andrew's. His contention was that the Soul does not exist or, if it does, that it is a unifying principle that pervades over all organic matter. Mine was that my problem with the idea of the evolution of Man is that the Soul, understood as a rational, calculating and empathic principle (the "breath of God" in us), is essentially what distinguishes us from the beasts of the field (even dogs) and that, consequently, there had to have been a first man, namely Adam. I don't think that, as a Christian, you can really set a very high store by evolution by natural selection given that it is implausible from both sides. A Darwinian cannot contend that the last "mulier erecta" gave birth to the first "homo sapiens;" evolution simply doesn't work like that; likewise, a Christian cannot say that the last homo erectus did not have a Soul whereas the first homo sapiens did, if we understand the presence of a Soul is the principle that separates Men from beasts. In terms of beasts, I am in two minds. My late dog Lucy, for example, seemed to be very wise and understanding. At times, I felt as Sam did about Bill in The Lord of the Rings; I expected her to speak with words. She never did. But I do not believe that that negated her understanding or her capacity to love. All my conservative instincts dictate that there was a gulf that separated us. As I watched her sleep or wade through a shallow river my mind would go back the Days of Creation and forth to the End and I wondered whether we would ever meet again and perhaps be on "equal terms." I believe that we shall. After all, it cannot be denied that dogs have been ennobled by their ancestral attachment to Men.

There was a young South African woman in the class. Africaans is her first language. She described herself as "Christian," though she was clearly of the wishy-washy apostate type; someone who had embraced the world, someone who if given the choice between fire and denying Christ would choose the latter. Her lack of taste was seen most clearly in her love of Starbucks. Conversations with her always lead to awkward silences (on her part). She once asked: "what are your thoughts on the Oscar Pistorius trial?" So I said: "I couldn't really care less." I thought better of breaking the awkward silence by articulating my opinion of the so-called "paralympics," (my post on the subject was hardly popular). Same-sex marriage was another hot topic. She complained that people were so judgemental and that her gay brother had been teased at school and that "it doesn't matter who you fall in love with" (that is verbatim). At this, I had to make my disposition known because in the presence of other faiths I cannot tell you how much it angers me when Christians deliberately misrepresent the Faith, so I said: "That is not what the Christian faith teaches," and proceeded to clarify the Christian teaching on Marriage for the benefit of the others. Nobody said anything. The girl did eventually say that she was glad she had met me, and even tried to hug me. To my explanation that hugging a person whom you've just met is an intolerable intrusion she simply said, "oh." Nice people...is there any lower form of life?

One of the core values of this new job is "Diversity." I expect you all know that I am by no means enthusiastic about diversity, multiculturalism and such rot. For one thing, I don't recognise anybody's "right" to hold erroneous religious beliefs. Something is either true or false and you can't say that there is any practical or ethical reason for believing falsehood aside from the traditions of your fathers. If you believe something which is a palpable lie then you're stupid and, from my perspective, your "right" even to breathe is diminished. My father has often said that I am very intolerant. I don't deny it. I wonder what the future holds for people like me in this diverse, multicultural, pluralistic world? Am I a relic of times past? The answer is, of course, nobody cares! They, the real people, are out there; I am in here, in my room, wrapped in a filthy dressing gown. Therefore I don't really think that the ideals of "diversity" extend towards people like me.

On the subject of being clever, I asked my mother what she thought and she said: "well, you're clever in some respects but in others you're very stupid." It's hard not to agree with that, eh!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Spam...

My Gmail account appears to have been compromised in some way. I logged into my account this evening to reply to some messages and was suddenly in receipt of a number of "failed send" messages. I then received an e-mail from a contact, saying that the content might be a virus. I checked my outbox and reported 84 messages spam as they were not sent by me. I read some of them and they seemed to be about Harry Potter.

If anybody is in receipt of any spam/suspicious e-mails from my Gmail account, I apologise unreservedly. I have changed the password to the account as a precaution but I fear this might have something to do with the fact that we don't, currently, have anti-virus software. In all honesty, we can't afford it at the moment.

I don't know what else to suggest other than that it might be worthwhile deleting any messages you receive from my Gmail account unread within the next few days until I get a response from Google.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Puritania...


There is really nothing else for it, people. I have embraced Puritanism. Not, I hasten to add, the kind of theological Puritanism espoused and propagated by Cromwell or Baxter (I am not a Calvinist and drink to excess far too often), but my own brand of "nothing." A new Dark Age is upon us and if we would distinguish between good and evil then it behoves us to become impervious to all influence of any kind, if we can find the mastery. The safest place in the world is the place where nothing else can come in.

Therefore, by the authority of Almighty God, I exhort you to dismantle any and all unnecessary trappings of the modern world in your homes! Stop watching television, stop reading newspapers, delete your social networking accounts, stop using your mobile phones except in extreme cases of emergency (and even then, try and find an excuse not to use them), curtail the amount of time you spend on the Internet, make yourselves completely oblivious to everything and everyone around you; then wrap yourselves in a dressing gown and lie down on your bed and just wait.