Archive for December, 2013

December 30, 2013

doth seek now with tears thy help to worship

So much to ponder in these ancient hymns of the Orthodox Church. I’m particularly struck by the repeated consideration given near the end of this hymn to the danger and difficulty of responding aloud to God’s revelation of Himself with “well-balanced songs of praise.” (Purchase an MP3 recording of this here, and see more ancient nativity hymn lyrics here.)
9th Ode of the 2nd Canon of Christ’s Nativity

Magnify, O my soul, her who is more honorable and more exalted in glory than the heavenly hosts.
I behold a strange and wonderful mystery: the cave a heaven, the Virgin a cherubic throne, and the manger a noble place in which hath lain Christ the uncontained God. Let us, therefore, praise and magnify Him.

Magnify, O my soul, the God born in flesh from the Virgin.
When the Magi saw a new and strange star appearing suddenly, moving in a wonderful way, and transcending the stars of heaven in brightness, they were guided by it to Christ, the King born on earth in Bethlehem, for our salvation.

Magnify, O my soul, the King born in a cave.
The Magi said, Where is the Child King, the newborn, Whose star hath appeared? For we have verily come to worship Him. And Herod, the contender against God, trembled, and began to roar in folly to kill Christ.

Magnify, O my soul, the God worshipped by the Magi.
Herod ascertained from the Magi about the time of the star by whose guidance they were led to Bethlehem to worship with presents Christ Who guided them, and so they returned to their country, disregarding Herod, the evil murderer of babes, mocking him.

Today the Virgin giveth birth to the Lord inside the cave.
Verily it is easier for us to endure silence since there is no dread danger therefrom for us. But because of our strong desire, O Virgin, and Mother of sameness, to indite well-balanced songs of praise, this becometh indeed onerous to us. Wherefore, grant us power to equal our natural inclination.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: Magnify, O my soul, the might of the indivisible and three-personed Godhead.
O pure one, Mother of the Word that appeareth newly from thee, O closed door, verily, as we behold the dark shadowy symbols pass away, we glorify the light of the truth and bless thy womb as is meet.

Both now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen. Glorify, O my soul, her who hath delivered us from the curse.
The Christ-pleasing people, O Virgin, having deserved to be granted its desire by the coming of God, doth seek now with tears thy help to worship the glory of His enlivening appearance wherein is the renewal of birth; for it is thou who dost distribute grace, O pure one.

This too:

When it was time for thy presence on earth, the first enrollment of the world took place. Then it was that thou didst decide to enroll the names of men who believe in thy Nativity. Yea, that commandment did issue forth from Caesar, since the everlastingness of thine eternal kingdom hath been renewed. Wherefore, we offer what is better than moneyed tax, namely Orthodox theological sayings; to thee, O God, Savior of our souls.

December 28, 2013

he could cook a fish just staring at it

It was said his eyes were so mean he could cook a fish just staring at it.

Description of Growlfist the Strander King in North! Or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson.

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December 28, 2013

here we can see it for what it is

They’re content to make their way by planting seeds and raising beasts. Too poor to live in Torbourough, too honest to scrape by in Dugtown, not yet vile enough to through in with the Stranders, they live their lives with a mighty sorrow. As the company moved on, most of the mud-farmers as Podo called them, though not without pity, ignored them. But some stood up in the fields where they were unearthing stones in the way of the plow or stopped hammering a rotten plank to a rotten structure with a rusty nail or peered out their windows to watch the Igiby’s pass.

“Has it always been like this?”, Lilli asked.

“No, lass, not always”, Podo said over his shoulder.

“But for far too long,” Oscar said, “that’s certain. For many years the Stranders have made trouble along the river. These poor tired folks have suffered between the indifference of the elite in Torbourgh and the hostility of the ruthless in Dugtown and the Strand.”

“Someone should do something,” Lilli said quietly.

“What would they do?”, Janna ask. “It seems like the whole world is as awful as it is here.”

“Things weren’t this bad in Glipwood,” Tink said.

“No, but it didn’t take much to tip the scales,” Janna said. “In just a few days, the town was deserted, and the Fangs moved in. Everything in Scree is as bad as it is for these mud-farmers. It’s just that here we can see it for what it is.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Janna saw a smile on his mother’s face. She and Podo’s eyes met, and he sensed that he had done something that made her proud. He thought back to the way he felt in Glipwood on Dragon Day when Oscar had first helped him see the sadness beneath the merriment. None of visitors to Glipwood laughed from the belly. None of them smiled except in defiance of the way they really felt. Only Amulen the Bard was able to muster any true feelings of joy, and Janna had noticed to that, for himself and for the people who listened to his songs with such desperate attention, the joyful feelings that the song brought to the surface always came with tears. Theirs was a burden too heavy to be lifted by songs along however fine the melody.

“Someone should do something,” Lilli said again, this time in a feisty tone. Everyone knew better than to challenge her. She was right.

From North! Or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson.

December 15, 2013

this improvised temple

From The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder:

There had been some changes made in the storage yard. Some of the ornate old porch pillars had been propped up around the lean-to so that they seemed to be supporting its sagging tin roof; the statue of Diana had been moved into position near this improvised temple; and in the place of honor at the back and center of the shed, the bust of Nefertiti was enthroned in the broken birdbath. The little boy was playing quietly with his octopus on the floor of the shed and the two girls were busily pulling the tall dry weeds that choked the yard, and stacking them in a pile near the fence. “Look, Melanie,” the girl named April said. She displayed a prickly bouquet of thistle blossoms. “Neat!” Melanie nodded enthusiastically. “Lotus blossoms?” April considered her uninviting bouquet with new appreciation. “Yeah,” she agreed. “Lotus blossoms.” Melanie had another inspiration. She stood up, dumping her lap full of weeds, and reached for the blossoms—gingerly because of the prickles. Holding them at arm’s length, she announced dramatically, “The Sacred Flower of Egypt.” Then she paced with dignity to the birdbath and with a curtsy presented them to Nefertiti. April had followed, watching approvingly, but now she suddenly objected. “No! Like this,” she said. Taking the thistle flowers, she dropped to her knees and bent low before the birdbath. Then she crawled backward out of the lean-to. “Neat,” Melanie said, and, taking the flowers back, she repeated the ritual, adding another refinement by tapping her forehead to the floor three times. April gave her stamp of approval to this latest innovation by trying it out herself, doing the forehead taps very slowly and dramatically. Then the two girls went back to their weed pulling, leaving the thistles before the altar of Nefertiti.

December 8, 2013

what is there that people will not smile at

Anyone inclined to mockery might have found something to smile at in his appearance. But what is there that people will not smile at?

From The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

December 8, 2013

forever present at an orgy of scandalous revelations

Have you noticed, prince, how many adventurers there are nowadays? Especially here, in our dear Russia. How it has happened I never can understand. There used to be a certain amount of solidity in all things, but now what happens? Everything is exposed to the public gaze, veils are thrown back, every wound is probed by careless fingers. We are forever present at an orgy of scandalous revelations. Parents blush when they remember their old-fashioned morality.

From The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

December 8, 2013

be polite and sincere to everyone

On the journey I said to myself, ‘I am going into the world of men. I don’t know much, perhaps, but a new life has begun for me.’ I made up my mind to be honest, and steadfast in accomplishing my task. Perhaps I shall meet with troubles and many disappointments, but I have made up my mind to be polite and sincere to everyone; more cannot be asked of me. People may consider me a child if they like. I am often called an idiot, and at one time I certainly was so ill that I was nearly as bad as an idiot; but I am not an idiot now. How can I possibly be so when I know myself that I am considered one?

From The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

December 8, 2013

children are capable of giving advice in the most important matters

One can tell a child everything, anything. I have often been struck by the fact that parents know their children so little. They should not conceal so much from them. How well even little children understand that their parents conceal things from them, because they consider them too young to understand! Children are capable of giving advice in the most important matters. How can one deceive these dear little birds, when they look at one so sweetly and confidingly? I call them birds because there is nothing in the world better than birds!

…Later, when everyone—even Schneider—was angry with me for hiding nothing from the children, I pointed out how foolish it was, for they always knew things, only they learnt them in a way that soiled their minds but not so from me. One has only to remember one’s own childhood to admit the truth of this. But nobody was convinced… It was two weeks before her mother died that I had kissed Marie; and when the clergyman preached that sermon the children were all on my side. “When I told them what a shame it was of the parson to talk as he had done, and explained my reason, they were so angry that some of them went and broke his windows with stones. Of course I stopped them, for that was not right, but all the village heard of it, and how I caught it for spoiling the children! Everyone discovered now that the little ones had taken to being fond of Marie, and their parents were terribly alarmed; but Marie was so happy. The children were forbidden to meet her; but they used to run out of the village to the herd and take her food and things; and sometimes just ran off there and kissed her, and said, ‘Je vous aime, Marie!’ and then trotted back again. They imagined that I was in love with Marie, and this was the only point on which I did not undeceive them, for they got such enjoyment out of it. And what delicacy and tenderness they showed!

From The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

December 8, 2013

each new blunder of the prig becomes instantly a legend of immemorial antiquity for the snob

The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes being corrected. Even when the revolutionist might himself repent of his revolution, the traditionalist is already defending it as part of his tradition. Thus we have the two great types—the advanced person who rushes us into ruin, and the retrospective person who admires the ruins. He admires them especially by moonlight, not to say moonshine. Each new blunder of the progressive or prig becomes instantly a legend of immemorial antiquity for the snob. This is called balance or mutual check, in our Constitution.

G.K. Chesterton in “The Blunders of Our Parties” (Illustrated London News, April 19, 1924).

December 7, 2013

we should be careful

The Mower
by Philip Larkin

The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found
A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,
Killed. It had been in the long grass.

I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world
Unmendably. Burial was no help:

Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence
Is always the same; we should be careful

Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.

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