Monday, April 23, 2007

Sorry to leave you hanging

School has been rather all-absorbing lately. I promise to tell the end of the story (of Holy Week) soon. Let me spoil the ending, though. Jesus is ALIVE!

Here's a poem in the mean time:

Easter Wings

Lord, Who createdst man in wealth and store,
Though foolishly he lost the same,
Decaying more and more,
Till he became
Most poore:
With Thee
O let me rise,
As larks, harmoniously,
And sing this day Thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.

My tender age in sorrow did beginne;
And still with sicknesses and shame
Thou didst so punish sinne,
That I became
Most thinne.
With Thee
Let me combine,
And feel this day Thy victorie;
For, if I imp my wing on Thine,
Affliction shall advance the flight in me.

George Herbert

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Clone Wars

Donald Phillips, The Bishop of Rupert's Land, is responsible for overseeing about 50-100 churches. This year he was at St. Margaret's for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday morning (in the congregation) and both Easter Vigils. Last year he was at our Maundy Thursday service, Good Friday and both Vigils also.

Aren't there any other churches that might like him to visit them? I don't know. Jan's theory is that, like Santa Claus, the Bishop has a number of clones whom he can send out to help him in his work. We think that the person sitting in the congregation on Good Friday was the real bishop, but all the others are just clones.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday

When the Good Friday service begins, the cross is still shrouded and the alter is still stripped. The clergy and lay-readers are still dressed in black.

The service itself, which centered heavily upon the choir, who sang beautifully both American folk songs and pieces from Bach's B Minor mass, including a beautiful aria sung by up-and-coming opera singer Sandra Peters, was moving and sad, beautiful and touching. Interspersed with the choir music, David gave a series of reflections on Jesus' death.

What liturgical Christians need to remember, said David, is that it is not enough to recite the creed. You need a personal relationship with Christ. Do you want to see Jesus? Do you want to look in his face? It is not an easy face to look upon, this time of year. It is a face of suffering and pain. But what we need, if we want to be followers of Christ, is not an explanation, not a theory, not a theology. We need to be in the garden with Christ. We need to walk with him to the cross. And that is what the liturgy provides for us. Through the litugy we are there. We pray with Jesus in the garden, and like his disciples we fall asleep. We abandon him and we deny him, but we are still welcome at the foot of the cross. We witness his suffering and we mourn with the disciples. And we walk with Joseph of Aramethia to the new tomb, and we help to lay Jesus down.

And we wait.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Maundy Thursday

Easter is the holiest time in the Christian year. Easter isn't just a day, it's a season. Starting with Palm Sunday, no service in a Liturgical church ends. All of Holy Week is really one long service, and today was Maundy Thursday.

Maundy Thursday, the comemoration of the Last Supper, and of Jesus washing his disciples' feet, is one of the most moving services in all of the church year. The Bishop of Rupert's Land was at St. Margaret's again this year, and after we read the Gospel telling how Jesus washed his disciples feet and heard a sermon on why Peter didn't want his feet washed--why a salvation that means God serving us is beyond our acceptance, since it means that we can't earn our salvation--the Bishop called members of the congregation who so chose to let him wash their feet.

When the service was all over, the clergy and all the lay-readers took off their albs surpicles and stoles, leaving only a black cassock underneath. They left the bread and the wine on the alter and left it all behind. Like Peter who abandoned and denied Christ, they abandoned their office and they left the body of Christ. Solomnly they walked to the back of the church, and slowly the lights of the sanctuary were turned off. One by one.

In the darkness, a cantor sang Psalm 22:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? and are so far from my cry and from the words of my distress?
O my God, I cry in the daytime, but you do not answer; by night as well, but I find no rest.
Yet you are the Holy One, enthroned upon the praises of Israel.
Our forefathers put their trust in you; they trusted, and you delivered them.
They cried out to you and were delivered; they trusted in you and were not put to shame.
But as for me, I am a worm and no man, scorned by all and despised by the people.
All who see me laugh me to scorn; they curl their lips and wag their heads, saying,
"He trusted in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, if he delights in him."
Yet you are he who took me out of the womb, and kept me safe upon my mother's breast.
I have been entrusted to you ever since I was born; you were my God when I was still in my mother's womb.
Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help.
Many young bulls encircle me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me.
They open wide their jaws at me, like a ravening and a roaring lion.
I am poured out like water;all my bones are out of joint; my heart within my breast is melting wax.
My mouth is dried out like a pot-sherd; my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; and you have laid me in the dust of the grave.
Packs of dogs close me in,and gangs of evildoers circle around me; they pierce my hands and my feet; I can count all my bones.
They stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them; they cast lots for my clothing.
Be not far away, O LORD; you are my strength; hasten to help me.
Save me from the sword, my life from the power of the dog.
Save me from the lion's mouth, my wretched body from the horns of wild bulls.
I will declare your Name to my brethren; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.
Praise the LORD, you that fear him; stand in awe of him, O offspring of Israel; all you of Jacob's line, give glory.

The black-clad figures walked back up, and piece by piece stripped the alter, and a black shroud was placed over the cross. In the dark and the quiet, we got up and left the church.

We know what will happen next. We feel uneasy and unrestful. And we wait.

Holy Week

Today was Maundy Thursday. Holy Week has officially begun.

Really it started last Sunday, with Palm Sunday. Our Sunday morning service included children waving palm branches, prancing around the church in excitement.

Palm Sunday is always bitter-sweet. Jesus enters Jerusalem in triumph. The crowd cheers, they wave palm branches, they lay branches and cloaks on the ground for Jesus' colt to ride on, like Sir Walter Raleigh laying his coat in the mud for Queen Elizabeth to step on. Jesus is Lord and King. When people tell him to quiet the crowd he responds "If these were silent, the stones would cry out!" And the people aren't silent. They shout "Hosanna!" They shout "The King!"

But we can never quite forget that the next time we see a crowd shouting at Jesus they are shouting "Crucify him!" How many people were in both of those crowds?

So we celebrate, but when we are done we burn the palm leaves, and save the ashes. We save them for almost a year, until next Ash Wednesday, when the priest spreads them on our foreheads in the shape of a cross and says "Remember O man (or woman) that dust thou art and to dust wilt thou return."

Palm Sunday is always bitter-sweet.

In the evening we celebrated Passion Sunday. A string quartet played Haydn's Seven Last Words of Christ, and our rector David Widdicombe offered a series of meditations on those last words.

Jesus says "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." This doesn't mean "They don't know, so they shouldn't be held responsible." The ignorance is not the excuse. It's more like someone saying "Forgive them for they robbed my house". "They know not what they do" is why they need forgiveness, not why they deserve it. We are forgiven freely by the grace and love of the suffering God--the God who suffers on our behalf. We don't know what we are doing, but we are forgiven.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

There must be more then this provincial life

I made a flippant (do I make any other kind?) comment on Claw of the Conciliator's blog in which I said something like "Disney's morality is almost completely incompatible with Christianity". It was a response to an article he was quoting that said something about "Disney-brand “Judeo-Christian morality,”. Claw commented that Disney isn't about Judeo-Christian morality but about believing in yourself, and I meant to agree, but went overboard.

Anactoria asked in the comments "Hey Paul, how are Disney stories incompatible with Christianity exactly?" and rather than hijack Claw's comments completely, I though I would answer her in a blog post of my own.

If you want more background for some reason, check out this post and the comments to it.

Disney's morality tends strongly towards secular-humanism-lite-plus-occasional-new-age.

Beauty and the Beast, to use your example, Anactoria. is drawn from a fairy tale, yes. The version of the fairy tale I'm most familiar with goes like this:

A rich merchant lived in the city, with his daughters, one of whom was Beauty, but he lost his wealth, and he and his daughters (whose suitors no longer wanted to marry them) had to live in the country. One day, he heard that a ship of his had returned. He went back to the city. His other daughters asked for jewelry and dresses, but Beauty wanted only a rose.

Beauty's father, lost in a forest and caught in a storm, finds shelter in the Beast's palace. As he leaves, he plucks a rose to bring back to Beauty, offending his unseen host, who denouncing him as a thief, tells him he must now die. The father begs to be allowed to see his daughters again: the Beast says that he can go if he promises to send the first living thing he meets on his property back to the Beast. The man agrees, assuming that the first thing he sees will be his cat, but Beauty runs to meet him, and he sees her first. Beauty journeys to the Beast's castle convinced she will be killed, but instead she is made mistress of the enchanted palace, and the Beast asks her to be his wife. She says she can be his friend, and will stay with him forever, but not as his wife, asking only to return to her home for a week to say farewell to her father. Her sisters entice her to stay beyond the allotted week, and she returns belatedly to the castle, finding the Beast lying near death from distress at her failure to return. She begs him to live, so that he may be her husband, and by this act the Beast is transformed into a handsome prince. After Beauty returns to the palace, her family comes to live with her. (very slightly altered from the wikipedia on Beauty and the Beast)

Now this pre-Disney version is about all kinds of things. It's a children's story, but it's multi-layered and profound. It's about female sexual maturity (the girl leaves her father for a man who seems beastly at first, but who she eventually becomes attracted to), it's about the redemptive power of love (the beast is becomes human because he is loved), it's about both the importance keeping promises (Beauty breaker her promise to the Beast has disastrous consequences) and the danger of making promises (the father has to sacrifice his daughter because he is bound by a promise), it's about self-sacrifice (Beauty gives of herself to save her father), and it's about deceptive appearances (Beast looks ugly but beneath it is good). I'm probably forgetting some stuff, but you get the idea. This is all just to say that just because it's a children's story doesn't mean the morality has to be watered down.

Disney's version maintains the deceptive-appearances angle (sort of, I'll get into that). Gaston is handsome but evil, the Beast is ugly but good. But let's look closer, and especially let's look at what Disney has added to the story and what they've taken away.

Belle starts the movie by complaining about her provincial life. She's bored. Like Ariel in The Little Mermaid, like Pocahontas, like Mulan, like Aladdin, Belle is unhappy with her life among the commoners. She wants excitement, and (like the other characters) she finds it, because she's special.

In the fairy tale the spell is broken when she agrees to marry him. In the Disney version it's when she says she loves him. What's the difference? In one it's about the redemptive power of love a committed and self-sacrificing love, and in the other it's about the power of love with no strings and no risks.

Christianity is a religion in which sinners are ransomed from the fall. Judaism is a religion in which a just God blesses a people with the Law, so they can live rightly with him and be a light to all nations. "Judeo-Christian" morality emphasises self-sacrifice and the existence of a truth beyond human understanding but which is made access able to us by grace. It emphasises love as an action instead of only a feeling, and it emphasises that what you do matters.

Disney morality emphasises that the truth is found within oneself, that love is like a light switch that fixes things without and risk or sacrifice.

Via Diedre

create your own visited countries map

Now squishied so it can all fit!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Black is so passe

So I've had enough of the blackness of my blog. It's not a dramatic change to move to blue, but it feels like time for it.


Jan and I hosted a Seder supper on Friday, and (if I say so myself) it was a smashing success.

I wish we could have invited more people, but even as it was our apartment was a little full, our finances were a little strained, and the food was only just enough.

Still, though, it was great to have a party with some of our friends, to spend all week cooking and preparing, to have people in our home, looking through our books. Adding the service of a Seder to the party just made it that much better, in my opinion, and I think this will become a Moffett tradition.

The menu was:
A hot spinich salad with raisins and pine nuts
Chicken soup with homemade matzo/chicken balls
Roast potatoes and carrots
Green beans
Stuffed lamb
Haroset (a fruity, nutty dish kinda like a chutney in concept, more of a condament than a dish)
Matzo bread

Next time I'll double the potatoes, the lamb, and the stuffing, and add more green beans. I don't think anyone went home hungry, but there sure weren't many leftovers.

The liturgy of the Seder involves (among other things) filling your wine glass at four different occasions, and that might be part of why as the supper went on it became progressively less solumn and more joyful, with more jokes and silliness. It seems very appropriate to me, as we celebrate the move from slavery in Egypt to freedom, to become more joyous throughout the night. It also occurred to me that slaves cannot drink four glasses of wine with a meal.

This post is very rambling, but the point is: our seder was great.
Next year in Jerusalem.