September 07, 2002

More Early American Poetry

More Early American Poetry

Here's another I stumbled upon in my reading which I find "rich and strange" by its juxtaposition of Christ and, or all possibilities, an apple tree.

Christ the Apple-Tree
Anonymous circa 1761

The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit, and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be,
Compared with Christ the apple-tree.

His beauty doth all things excel;
By faith I know, but ne'er can tell,
The glory which I now can see,
In Jesus Christ the apple-tree.

For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I miss'd of all; but now I see
'Tis found in Christ the apple-tree.

I'm weary'd with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest a while:
Under the shadow I will be,
Of Jesus Christ the apple-tree.

With great delight I'll make my stay,
There's non shall fright my soul away:
Among the sons of men I see
There's none like Christ the apple-tree.

I'll sit and eat this fruit divine,
It cheers my heart like spirit'al wine;
And now this fruit is sweet to me
That grows on Christ the apple-tree.

This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my would in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple-tree.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 05:39 PM | Comments (0)

Shaker Songs and Poetry

I have a very soft spot in my heart for both Shakers and Quakers. Shakers particularly grab my imagination, as they were the closest thing the protestant faiths had to a monastic, contemplative society. Founded by Mother Ann Lee in England, quickly transported and rooted in American soil--Shakers have left a lasting mark on the landscape, furniture, faith, and music of America. Here's one of their hymns.

Walk Softly
Shaker Hymn

When we assemble here to worship God,
To sing his praises and to hear his word
We will walk softly.

With purity of heart; and with clean hands,
Our souls are free, we're free from Satan's bands
We will walk softly.

While we are passing thro' the sacred door,
Into the fold where Christ has gone before,
We will walk softly.

We'll worship and bow down we will rejoice
And when we hear the shepherd's gentle voice
We will walk softly.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 05:30 PM | Comments (0)

Melville's Poetry

Melville's Poetry
As a general thing, I'm not overly impressed with Melville either as a prose stylist or as a poet. However, all rules (except this) have their exceptions and I was reading through some Early American poetry and stumbled on this delightful ditty.

The Maldive Shark
Herman Melville

About the Shark, phlegmatical one,
Pale sot of the Maldive sea,
The sleek little pilot-fish, azure and slim,
How alert in attendance be.
From his saw-pit of mouth, from his charnel of maw
They have nothing of harm to dread,
But liquidly glide on his ghostly flank
Or before his Gorgonian head;
Or lurk in the port of serrated teeth
In white triple tiers of glittering gates,
And there find a haven when peril's abroad,
An asylum in jaws of the Fates!
They are friends; and fiendly they guide him to prey,
Yet never partake of the treat--
Eyes and brains to the dotard lethargie and dull,
Pale raverner of horrible meat.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 05:24 PM | Comments (0)

Countee Cullen and the Argument for Multiculturism

I started this as a response over on Dylan's blog, but realized it was too long-winded and too intricate for a mere comment box. So please bear with the thank you section (or skip it).

First to Dylan--thanks for introducing or reintroducing me to Countee Cullen. Not enough good can be said of what you have done for me in terms of poetic life. Before I get mawkish and embarrassing, let me leave it, but let me also say to everyone who blesses my blog with a visit--you would do yourself a great favor by visiting Error 503--La Vita Nuova every day to see what treats Dylan has very courteously prepared for you. I have noted that if you are very nice to him, he will even go to the extent of laying out special things on occasion. That said, on with the main thrust of this portion of the blog.

Of recent date, I've become a Cullen evangelist, wondering why he isn't in more of our text books. You've read some of his selections here and at Dylan's blog, and you can recognize fine poetry. Too often textbook publishers and anthologists in their desperation to represent diversity include some of the most incredibly awful second- or third- rate poetry by modern Hispanic and/or African American authors. Were one to judge from such texts, one might conclude that the tradition of African American poetry in this country began with Nikki Giovanni and culminated with the writings of Maya Angelou. And I am certain both of these fine writers would be among the first to try to disabuse you of the notion.

However, the name of Countee Cullen rarely, if ever shows up in the annals of poetry from this century taught at anything below the college level. I know that in eighth grade students are often reading, if not analyzing sonnets--why is his writing not included. Here is where I draw the line in the sand.

I am not a multiculturalist for the sake of representation. I find that kind of nonsense does a service to no one. However, true multiculturalism--people who with an eye to good writing return to the writers of the past who have been glossed over and neglected, for whatever reason--these people should be taken seriously and respected. African American writers have contributed extensively to the American Idiom and to the poetic venture. And yet we seem to neglect, with impunity, such fine writers as Countee Cullen and Phillis Wheatley.

People who have championed the multicultural cause have done us all both a great service and a grave disservice. Those who seek to rewrite history and literature to enhance the contributions of underrepresented writers simply damage the integrity of the cause. But those who have directed our attention to much neglected writers such as Countee Cullen (a deeply religious poet), Phillis Wheatley, and, on the African Continent, Wole Soyinka, Amos Tuoela, Chinua Achebe, and others, serve us all well. Great poetry, great writing, greatness of heart should not be judged by presence in the established pantheon nor by skin color or any other external attribute. I can think of a dozen frequently anthologized white and minority poets who I could easily dispense with for the sake of the real art embodied in some of these writers.

The purpose of multiculturalism--to bring to a struggling people examples from the past and present of persons to emulate, to show that our culture isn't composed solely of the writings and thoughts of white men of the past--are admirable. Where the goal goes astray--seeking to entirely eradicate the contributions of white males as representative merely of the oppression of past years, or overbalancing in favor of writers who have neither influenced nor contributed much, if anything, to the mainstream of American Writers--multiculturalist should be criticized. But when a person says to me, "Countee Cullen has not influenced poetry as much as he would have had he been given proper representation in materials presented to students," I find myself nodding in agreement.

People who truly love the arts serve us all well when they hold up examples of extraordinary work. Dylan does this consistently at his blog. I attempt to do it, but I admit to diluting the overall effect by including things that I may like regardless of their actual merit. (In case you couldn't tell I'm extremely fond of poets prior to 1770, or so. I like a lot after that as well, but it seems most people would probably be better acquainted with poets from those centuries. Moreover, it is perhaps better to stay with what you love because you can at least explain what it is about the poem that you find meaningful or important.) I am profound grateful for every blogger who takes time to post even a single poem or great piece of prose. Great writing is only one of the gifts God has showered upon us, but in such a medium it is certainly one that we can all share and enjoy.

Thank you all for your patience, and I would dearly love to continue the discussion of multiculturalism if anyone would like to take up the thread.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 05:05 PM | Comments (0)

Some Misconceptions about Detachment

Some Misconceptions about Detachment

If you listen to some wags, who don't understand him, nor have taken the time to understand his writing, you might get the impression of St. John of the Cross as an austere, rigid, cold, distant, unmovable, unlovable man. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Some would point to his teaching and claim for it an almost manicheean distaste for physical reality and the Earth around us. Again, untrue. Anyone who knows of his life knows that some of his greatest inspiration came from wandering the fields and hills around Toledo, Campo del Medina, and other places where he spent time. St. John of the Cross was a true love of nature and of God.

"But his teachings--didn't he teach detachment?" Yes, in fact, he did. But people have some strange notions of what detachment entails. Today I encountered a person who said to me that they "prayed not to like something" as a road to detachment. Detachment isn't about liking or loving or not liking, or not loving. We should never pray to be anything other than what we are in God's eyes. And to be the fullness of that should be the main body of our prayer. If God gave us a taste for something, we shouldn't pray that He remove that from us--that is not detachment. That, in fact, may be contrary to God's will. (To say that it is seems to presume that I know fully what God's will is).

Detachment is the willingness to leave behind the truly good things of Earth in our pursuit of the only Really Good Persons. Detachment is not about pretending not to enjoy a glass of wine before dinner--it is about not whining when no wine is available for dinner. Detachment is not thinking that the world is bad and full of evil things; it is about loving all the good things of earth and being ready in a moment to abandon all of them at the behest of God. If you see six Sand Hill Cranes strutting through the field in the back of your home and they fly away, you experience a moment of bliss at the sight and perhaps sorry at the flight. But detachment is letting them go. You know you're attached when you go out and build a pen to keep the six cranes on your property at all time.

Detachment is an essential part of the Carmelite Life. We are called to be detached from all Earthly things, material and immaterial. And it is mostly in the realm of the latter that we have the greatest difficulty. Most of us are very much attached to our image of Jesus Christ and of God the Father. And most of us have highly inaccurate pictures of Jesus and God the Father. Most of us have fashioned Jesus in such a way as He would approve of most of what we do. Some of us have Jesus as "comfy buddy," who keeps us company and comforts our sorrows, but never thinks of challenging us in what we do or think. Some of us have Jesus as radical militant social reformer who commands that we reverse the social order no matter who we have to destroy, displace, or discomfit in any number of ways to do us. Sometimes those radical departures from the image of Jesus are easier to correct than some of the very subtle inaccuracies we have grown attached to. Sometimes our Jesus is almost exactly what Jesus really is, He is just ever so slightly more this, or less that. This attachment we have to "knowing" Jesus may be one of the hardest things to overcome.

Another myth concerning detachment is how you come by it. You don't repudiate the world's goods. You don't attempt to shake off the bonds of the corporeal or physical. You don't pray concerning each little thing to which you find yourself attached. You don't even pray for detachment. No, instead, you focus clearly on Jesus. In lectio, in meditation, and if you've been granted the grace for it, in contemplation, you spent time with Christ, listening to Him, looking at Him in love. Jesus gave us the key to detachment, "Wherever your treasure is, there will your heart be." When Jesus truly becomes our treasure, rather than the "treasure" we pay lip service to; when spending time with Him becomes a priority that outweighs nearly everything else in our lives, detachment is a natural concomitant of that. As we grow in love with the greater, we will naturally desire to leave behind the less, and we will find ourselves in a better place to do so.

Most of you are probably not much concerned with detachment. The main outlines of your spiritual direction don't seem to call for it. But all of the Orders have a primary focus--and detachment and contemplation are the focus of the Carmelites. And as with all such, it is merely the primary emphasis. If one were to look beneath the hood of the saints of any order, detachment would have been one of the qualities of the saint. That is by way of saying that detachment is by no means unique to the Carmelites, it is simply more obvious. So to the main charisms of all the orders. Each has its "defining characteristics," but all great Saints have integrated in greater or lesser degree all of the charisms of the orders. Nevertheless, each saint retains his or her particular personality, so too each order retains its definitive charism and personality.

Detachment is an essential, but it is an odd essential because it cannot be approached directly. As soon as one is pursuing detachment as an end, it has become an attachment of the spiritual kind, one of the kinds of attachment that are most difficult to address and to turn around.

Detachment is a great gift, received in profound prayer and union with Jesus Christ in God. One cannot achieve it by will, nor by the exercise of the virtues--although it may naturally follow from some of these things. One cannot achieve it by making it a goal and trying to achieve it. Detachment is best achieved by, curiously, detachment.

Thanks for listening to me go on and on. I truly love St. John of the Cross, perhaps more than any other Carmelite Saint (save Our Lady Herself). I love his deep warmth, his true humanity, and his vast love of God. He is not an easy saint to follow--on the other hand, I have a feeling that he is interceding for me on a nearly constant basis, and as with the importunate widow and the unjust Judge, God helps me out just to get St. John off of his back. (No, I know heaven doesn't work that way, but sometimes with the blessings I feel, it seems like it just might.)

Bless you all. May all of your prayers be exactly as God wills.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 04:25 PM | Comments (0)

Apologies for the Late

Apologies for the Late Blogging

The first Saturday of each month is the day on which my Carmelite community gathers. I have been blessed/cursed with having been formation master/director/ and returned to the position of formation master. The Carmelites I meet with are some of the most wonderful and loving people you could imagine, and the faith in that single room often boggles my mind. Last month I had set a hard task--everyone was to read and choose at least 5 of The sayings of Light and Love. From those five each person was to choose one and explain it or describe the relevance of it to their own life. You cannot begin to imagine the blessings showered on everyone present at that meeting. Everyone in the group shared at least one of the sayings, and some more than one. We dispelled a number of misconceptions regarding San Juan de la Cruz and next month we're going to reread select parts of the Sayings in preparation for The Ascent of Mount Carmel.

I guess you didn't need all this detail, but I really wanted to share a little bit about how wonderful, responsive, loving, and caring the whole group is. The other advantage is that we have an amazing mix of people--People from Haiti, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, The Philippines, USA, Mexico, and a number of other countries. Everyone contributes to providing the food and so we have quite a multinational and tasty brunch during the meeting.

I never fail to be stunned by God's tremendous mercy and generosity toward me. Yes, I know the group is not there for me alone, but I am so blessed to be able to meet with such wonderful, faith-filled people. Praise the Lord!

Posted by Steven Riddle at 03:58 PM | Comments (0)

Welcome Visitors from Mr. Serafin's

Welcome Visitors from Mr. Serafin's Estimable Blog

I was stunned to discover the visitor count when I arrived home. Normally a Saturday is akin to a Friday only flatter. But I had more people than I had ever have visit on a weekend by three o'clock. Looking, I discovered that Mr. Serafin had very kindly directed people my way. You are all truly welcome, and thank you for taking the time to come and look at the blog. I am flattered and touched.

Thank you all again, and thank you Mr. Serafin for your kind words and for your reference to this sight, I am truly pleased that something here pleased you!

Posted by Steven Riddle at 03:51 PM | Comments (0)

September 06, 2002



I fear I may have been misinterpreted because my language was so lax. When I indicated that I would "not go there" with respect to Edwin Arlington Robinson, I meant merely that I would not defend the following two poems, which, while not in my top Ten, are very, very high indeed in my estimation. But I leave it at that. I can't "justify" my liking on literary merit or poetic merit (not because they lack it, but because I simply don't see them in those ways any more, they are too close.) So, without further ado--"Miniver Cheevy" (spelled it incorrectly in prior post) and "Richard Cory."

Edward Arlington Robinson Miniver Cheevy

Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn,
Grew lean while he assailed the seasons;
He wept that he was ever born,
And he had reasons.

Miniver loved the days of old
When swords were bright and steeds were prancing;
The vision of a warrior bold
Would set him dancing.

Miniver sighed for what was not,
And dreamed, and rested from his labors;
He dreamed of Thebes and Camelot,
And Priam's neighbors.

Miniver mourned the ripe renown
That made so many a name so fragrant;
He mourned Romance, now on the town,
And Art, a vagrant.

Miniver loved the Medici,
Albeit he had never seen one;
He would have sinned incessantly
Could he have been one.

Miniver cursed the commonplace
And eyed a khaki suit with loathing;
He missed the mediæval grace
Of iron clothing.

Miniver scorned the gold he sought,
But sore annoyed was he without it;
Miniver thought, and thought, and thought,
And thought about it.

Miniver Cheevy, born too late,
Scratched his head and kept on thinking;
Miniver coughed, and called it fate,
And kept on drinking.

Richard Cory
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich—yes, richer than a king—
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

Mr. Robinson endeared himself to me as a poet with his remarkable Arthurian Poetry. It may be finer than nearly everything (post Medieval/Renaissance). I would prize only Tennyson's remarkable "Lady of Shalott" above Arlington's quite remarkable "Merlin." If you can find it, highly recommended. (I like long narrative poetry A LOT--it is conceivable that I am the only living fan of Alexander Pope (love almost everything) and John Dryden (in part).)

[Note: correct Edward to Edwin above in response to Dylan's note. Thank you.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 05:17 PM | Comments (0)

Meditation on an Advertisement

Meditation on an Advertisement
Today, as I was leaving work I looked in my mailbox and found a small gem. I had somehow transmogrified into "today's high-powered, senior-level technology executive." The risible inaccuracies of this single phrase are so numerous they would try the reader's patience to delineate. Therefore I sha'n't. Suffice to say that I am not any of those things, nor do I aspire to be.

But I thought for a moment, "Are there people who think of themselves like that?" If so, God bless them, how sad. Such people lean upon empty words to feel good about themselves. They do not have a center, they rely upon others for definition. Our only definition is in God's eyes. Who we are to God: beloved (but misbehaved and dirty, dirty, dirty, children), loving servants, blessed followers, greater than the angels, the people of His Son's Blood, children of His Daughter, Children of His Spouse, Brothers of His Son, Redeemed, Saved, Loved.

Just a short reflection, but a cautionary one, we shouldn't come to believe what others have to say of us, nor what we say about ourselves. We should only heed what God has to say to us.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 04:51 PM | Comments (0)

Billy Collins Oh, I

Billy Collins

Oh, I could weep. Indeed my lament is great. I heard bits and pieces of the "poem" that Collins read to congress in New York today and I was. . . oh, be charitable, unimpressed. "Names so many they could not fit on the walls of the heart." I suppose all ocassional verse is bad, but surely this must hold some sort of record. I guess I need to see the whole thing. Perhaps as a whole it is better than it acts as a sound bite. But I'm not sure I can overlook so terrible a line.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 04:44 PM | Comments (0)

One of My Top Ten

One of My Top Ten Favorites

I am certain that I have not posted, nor have I seen posted, this, among the most spectacular of the Glorious Seventeenth Century Poets ("Society members," he said, primly through pursed lips, "attend.") I present to you one of my very favorite poems of all time. (Tres triste, if I disappoint, but I must fess up).

To His Coy Mistress Andrew Marvell

  Had we but world enough, and time,
  This coyness, lady, were no crime.
  We would sit down and think which way
  To walk, and pass our long love's day;
  Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
  Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
  Of Humber would complain. I would
  Love you ten years before the Flood;
  And you should, if you please, refuse
  Till the conversion of the Jews.
  My vegetable love should grow
  Vaster than empires, and more slow.
  An hundred years should go to praise
  Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
  Two hundred to adore each breast,
  But thirty thousand to the rest;
  An age at least to every part,
  And the last age should show your heart.
  For, lady, you deserve this state,
  Nor would I love at lower rate.

  But at my back I always hear
  Time's winged chariot hurrying near;
  And yonder all before us lie
  Deserts of vast eternity.
  Thy beauty shall no more be found,
  Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
  My echoing song; then worms shall try
  That long preserv'd virginity,
  And your quaint honour turn to dust,
  And into ashes all my lust.
  The grave's a fine and private place,
  But none I think do there embrace.

  Now therefore, while the youthful hue
  Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
  And while thy willing soul transpires
  At every pore with instant fires,
  Now let us sport us while we may;
  And now, like am'rous birds of prey,
  Rather at once our time devour,
  Than languish in his slow-chapp'd power.
  Let us roll all our strength, and all
  Our sweetness, up into one ball;
  And tear our pleasures with rough strife
  Thorough the iron gates of life.
  Thus, though we cannot make our sun
  Stand still, yet we will make him run.

Yes, I know, and cheerfully admit, the most elaborate come-on line in all of history. But I have had such good use for a few of the lines. For nearly any decision making operation or planning event in any business, "Vaster than empires and more slow." And ultimately, putting a kind of Christian cast to the whole thing, I could very easily envision Jesus saying to each soul, "Had we world enough and time, this coyness lady were no crime." How often we refuse His advances--and the metaphysicals did not have the extreme body/soul divisions that show up starting with the Puritans. If we recall, part of the marriage vows during this time was the line, "With my body, I pledge thee troth."

Oh well. Don't make too much of it, but do please enjoy the lush language and imagery. It truly deserves its status as one of the most anthologized poems ever. (So do "Richard Cory" and "Miniver Cheever," but we won't go there.)

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:43 AM | Comments (0)

The Great T'ang Poets

Fr. Jim at Dappled Things references a couple of epitaphs by Pound at the Widening Gyre. These epitaphs are for the great Chinese poets of the T'ang Dynasty Li Po and Tu Fu. (Yes, I use the Wade-Giles transliteration system rather than the abominable, unpronounceable, and often incomprehensible PinYin system, which, I swear, must have been developed with Irish orthography [explain to me sometime how Siobhan eventually becomes something vaguely like Jah-vahn]).

The post put me in mind of the fact that we have not much talked about the Chinese, Korean, and Japanese poets, and that is a shame. In future times I will post here not merely Tu Fu, Li Po, Wang-an Shih, Ou-yang Shih, Su-T'ung Po, but Saigyo, Basho, and others. The poetry (particularly of Li Po and Tu Fu) can be extraordinarily beautiful, but it is very strange to western ears and does take a certain amount of adjustment to read and appreciate. However, that said, even in translation, these poems can be quite lovely. And some of the Japanese Court poetry experiments lend themselves to a rather interesting possibility of internet collaborative poetry. One poet introduces a haiku (poem of 5/7/5 syllables or various other possibilities in English), the second "finishes" the Haiku into a Tanka by adding two seven syllable lines, and then adds an additional haiku that elaborates on the theme or diverts the theme into a new channel. I have done this numerous times and ended up with gigantic wandering poems, which, while not tremendous literature, were extraordinary fun to compose.

Anyway, more on oriental poets at a later date. Thanks Fr. Jim for the goad.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:31 AM | Comments (0)

Countee Cullen Revisited

Some days or weeks ago, Dylan included Mr. Cullen in a list of underrated poets. The name rang a bell although I don't know that I had read anything by him before that time. I recognized the name as one of the "Harlem Renaissance" school of poets (although labels tend to get in the way of the real power of any poet). I picked up a thick volume of his work and started to read--I was surprised by the power and the beauty of the poetry. A poem from Mr. Cullen is, perhaps, a good introduction to the thoughts on my mind for the day.

Any Human to Another
Countee Cullen

The ills I sorrow at
Not me alone
Like an arrow,
Pierce to the marrow,
Through the fat
And past the bone.

Your grief and mine
Must intertwine
Like sea and river,
Be fused and mingle,
Diverse yet single,
Forever and Forever.

Let no man be so proud
And confident,
To think he is allowed
A little tent
Pitched in a meadow
Of sun and shadow
All his little own.

Joy may be shy, unique,
Friendly to a few,
Sorrow never scorned to speak
To any who
Were false or true.
Your every grief
Like a blade
Shining and unsheathed
Must strike me down.
Of bitter aloes wreathed,
My sorrow must be laid
On your head like a crown.

There are two points I'd like to make about this wonderful little poem. First, the comparison with John Donne's remarkable "No man is an iland" meditation is immediate and interesting. The themes of both are the shared burden of each individual--what affects one affects all through our incorporation in the Body of Christ. These meditations are sisters.

But the Cullen piece adds a unique interpretive twist. Because there is no audience and the title "Any Human to Another" opens up the possibility that we have at points the poetic voice speaking to Christ, and Christ returning that speech. The final seven lines are indicative of the possible fruitful ambiguity of the poem. I could see the lines "Your every grief/ Like a blade/ Shining and unsheathed/ Must strike me down.", as spoken by Jesus, and I think particularly of the scene at Mary and Martha's before the tomb of Lazarus. Or for that matter, weeping for lost Jerusalem. Every grief weighs heavily of Christ's head. The last three lines, I speak to Him, "Of bitter aloes wreathed,/ My sorrow must be laid/ On your head like a crown." My sorrows, and particularly those sorrows and sicknesses of spirit that we call sins helped to form the crown of thorns (I imagine that this crown of aloes is little less painful) pressed down upon the sacred brow.

Now, I don't insist that this is what Countee Cullen was trying to do, nor is it an exposition of the fullness of the poem. But good poetry and good poetic language gives rise to "fruitful ambiguities" that allow a reader to , in Harold Bloom's famous phrase, "be read by the work of literature." I see in this poem, in part, what I bring to it. The poem acts as a partial mirror, as any great poem will. We can find within its structure things that may not have been intended by the poet, but which naturally arise because the poet is communicating with a vast audience all of whom have different backgrounds, and so different interpretive texts. In good poetry, all interpretive texts will find a key in the words. I believe this to be not merely a good poem, but truly a beautiful poem, and ultimately a truthful poem. Mr. Cullen has opened up a rich storehouse of meaning and possibility in a very simple, very streamlined poem. And he notes a truth--whatever happens to any one of us ripples out and touches all of us, directly or indirectly.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:08 AM | Comments (0)

September 05, 2002

The Stunning Grace of God

The Stunning Grace of God

I don't read Spanish well, and so I may have misinterpeted what is at fotos del apocalipsis today. But if I am reading correctly this passage:

Míos son los cielos y mía es la tierra; mías son las gentes, los justos son míos y míos los pecadores; los ángeles son míos, y la Madre de Dios y todas las cosas son mías; y el mismo Dios es mío y para mí, porque Cristo es mío y todo para mí. Pues ¿qué pides y buscas, alma mía? Tuyo es todo esto, y todo es para ti

is a portion of this passage which I placed in my spiritual commonplace book today:

Sayings of Light and Love St. John of the Cross

Mine are the heavens and mine is the earth. Mine are the nations, the just are mine, and mine the sinners. The angels are mine, and the Mother of God, and all things are mine; and God himself is mine and for me, because Christ is mine and all for me. What do you ask, then, and seek, my soul? Yours is all of this, and all is for you. Do not engage yourself in something less or pay heed to the crumbs that fall from your Father's table. Go forth and exult in your Glory! Hide yourself in it and rejoice, and you will obtain the supplications of your heart.

Doesn't God have amusing and amazing ways of reinforcing his particular messages for us. The message for me was "Do not engage yourself in something less. . ." I am so grateful for blogging, because it has forced me to engage in something more. As I have written and as I have listened and shared with others, I have grown in understanding and in my desire to serve God. Writing is a form of prayer for me. In doing so, I let down defenses that I normally place in God's way--things that defend me from His ministrations. But over and over again I have been reminded, "Do not worry about that, nor that, nor that, nor that. Focus your attention on Jesus Christ, the Crucified, the Triumphant." And here, I put it in my commonplace book and stumble upon it later in another blog. What can I say except, Thank you, Lord!

Posted by Steven Riddle at 06:19 PM | Comments (0)

Mere Surfaces and Sensations

or What Would You Expect from a Carmelite Follower of St. John of the Cross? :-) [Do these blogs have smileys?]
Luis remarks in the comment box below:

We need not apologize that we have a body or throw away its usefulness in pointing to THE Beauty. Just as creation points to our God, let our churches do so, while understanding of course that beauty is in the eye of the beholder to some extent.

My thanks to Luis who has given me the chance and the impetus to clarify my thoughts. I just realized looking over the original what I seem to saying is not what I intended. I was trying to gently say that it is perhaps better not to criticize buildings that do not suit our taste. I apologize for the misunderstanding. Obviously the original context and the language caused me to be overly vague. I do not think that everything should be ugly to accentuate worship, and reading my post, it certainly does sound like that was what I was saying. Once again, my apologies form misspeaking. My point here is a good deal more subtle than the overly blunt language makes it. I was trying, without faulting anyone, to say that we do everyone a disservice when we emphasize aesthetics over Real Presence. Many people are stuck with the Church they have, there is no real viable alternative for them. How are they helped if their Church is held up as an example of an "unfortunate Church?"

There is absolutely nothing wrong with beauty in a worship space. There is nothing wrong with building beautiful churches. I do, however, find something wrong with posting pictures of "unfortunate churches" or "ugly churches." Comments on the aesthetic merit of any edifice can potentially distract the faithful from the most beautiful thing of all--what happens within the building. Beauty is wonderful if it is available, but if not, do we build up the Body of Christ by pointing out how ugly we deem the Church some must go to?

Thanks to Luis and my anonymous poster for pointing out how much my previous post had missed the real point I was trying to make. I do not think, however that I will change either the post below nor the one on Ms. Welborn's blog, as I don't really want to criticize anyone in so many words. I just abjure all to remember that every such comment does potential damage to large numbers of people, and it isn't really worth it.

(On the other hand, I stand by the orginal post. St. John of the Cross teaches that a thing is good insofar as it leads to God and that even a very good, very holy, very religious thing becomes destructive when it stands in the way of our progress toward union. If the appearance of a Church becomes a true impediment to Union with Jesus Christ, it is time to examine priorities. But then--I am a Carmelite and not everyone follows the same way--it is a distinctive mark of Carmelite Spirituality. God Bless you all!)

Posted by Steven Riddle at 04:41 PM | Comments (0)

Mere Surfaces and Sensations I

Mere Surfaces and Sensations

I post here a response I made on Amy Welborn's blog, and which I have repeated in variations in many places over blogdom regarding the huge controversy surrounding the Cathedral and the undue focus on the appearance of Churches.

Dear Amy,

Perhaps ugly and "regrettable" churches are one of the many ways that God reminds us not to be attached to things that do not matter. We won't occupy Earth forever, so we should be storing up our treasures in Heaven--what treasure could possibly excel the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Precious Savior, regardless of the surroundings in which it is offered up for us?

Detachment from these things allows us to refocus on the essential--Love of God, first, foremost, and always.

What a building looks like simply doesn't matter if we are fed with the life of Our Savior. Everything else is "mere surface and sensation," smoke and mirrors. Some environments may be more conducive to receiving and perceiving God, but we are called to move beyond those things into a constant attention to His Divine Presence in our lives. Whether I am in the Los Angeles Cathedral or in a mudhole somewhere in the middle of Iowa, God is there with me. When I am in His Real Presence, what difference does stained glass and marble make? Should I even notice these things in the transcendant glory of Incarnate Love. To be distracted by these things, even holy and good things, is simply not to focus on what is best because of something good--in short, a failure.

God wants us to be present, wherever we are, whatever we are doing. Anything less fails Him. Grant Lord, that I may never fail you in this. Grant that I may always wait upon You and rejoice in You.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 12:34 PM | Comments (0)

Musings on a Paraphrase

Musings on a Paraphrase of Luis of Granada

In the first chapter of A Sinner's Guide the Venerable Luis of Granada says (and I paraphrase), "If all the seas were filled with ink, and all the scribes that ever were or ever would be were given all the paper that could be made, and were the seas drained and the papers filled and the scribes laid to rest, they would not have even begun to describe a single of God's perfections."

Of a particular perfection--mercy--it occurred to me, that every breath I breathe I breathe at the behest of God Almighty. In His supreme mercy He holds back from me knowledge of all the ills that the emanations of my sinful actions have caused in the world. Were I to be aware of one-millionth of the misery I have caused even inadvertantly, I would be completely overwhelmed and unable to lift a finger to do anything.

Jesus comes to my House and knocks interminably upon the door. I have stopped my ears and sit with feet firmly opposing entrance, and yet, in His profound Mercy, He does not leave me, but He enters through the window left open behind me and starts to set the place to rights until I get up and chase Him out again.

What a God! What a merciful, wonderful, beautiful, Lord who serves us not only with His spirit, but with His Body and Blood. All the Earth with one voice should cry aloud, Praise the Lord! All that is praises Him without end--open your ears, batter your hardened hearts and hear the voices raised in the Praise of our Great God on High. Thank You Lord, for being my Lord. Master me, Lord, so that my only delight is in Your presence and Praise!

Praise Him!

Posted by Steven Riddle at 12:21 PM | Comments (0)

Chidiock Tichborne At Dylan's blog,

Chidiock Tichborne

At Dylan's blog, we have what may be the single extant poem from his hand, and quite lovely it is too. Elegaic and moving, it is his own elegy, written prior to his execution for treason. I hadn't heard of the man, so I needed to do some work to find out more. Here from Louis Untermeyer is a précis. My apologies to Dylan, direct linking is broken, and I do not wish to lose this lovely poem to obscurity, so I repeat the entire thing below the excerpt from Untermeyer, including Dylan's lead comment. (Just drop me a line if you wish me to remove it--I'll log it on my PDA and get rid of it, if need be).

Louis Untermeyer source unattributed

Tichborne was not pre-eminently a poet but a conspirator. History is not sure of the part he played in the attempt to do away with Queen Elizabeth. Conjecture has it that he was born about 1558 somewhere in Southampton, and it is said that his father, Peter Tichburne, traced his descent from Roger de Tichburne, a knight in the reign of Henry II. His family was ardently Catholic and both Chidiock and his father were zealous champions of the Church of Rome; they did not scruple to abet the king of Spain in "holy" attacks on the English government. In 1583, Chidiock and his father were questioned concerning the possession and use of certain "popish relics"; somewhat later they were further implicated as to their "sacrilegious and subversive practices". In April 1586, Chidiock joined a group of onspirators. In June, at a meeting held in St.Giles-in-the-Fields he agreed to be one of the six who were pledged to murder the Queen and restore the kingdom to Rome. The conspiracy was discovered in time; most of the conspirators fled. But Tichborne, who had remained in London because of an injured leg, was captured on August 14th and taken to the Tower. On September 14th, he was tried and pled guilty. He was executed on September 20th. In a grim finale, history relates, he was "disembowelled before life was extinct" and the news of the barbarity "reached the ears of Elizabeth, who forbade the recurrence."

On September 19, 1586, the night before he was executed, Chidiock wrote to his wife Agnes. The letter enclosed three stanzas beginning:"My prime of youth is but a frost of cares."

This elegy is so restrained yet so eloquent, so spontaneous, and so skillfully made that it must be ranked among the little masterpieces of literature. The grave but not yet depressing music of the lines is emphasized by the repetition of the rhymed refrain, as though the poet were anticipating the slow tolling of the bell announcing his death.

He was twenty-eight years old.

Now, complete from Dylan's blog go there and see. (Once again, my apologies Dylan).

'My prime of youth is but a frost of cares'

[We note in this poem from the Glorious Sixteenth Century a kinship to a much later poem : Francis Thompson's "The Hound of Heaven," especially those lines near the middle of the poem : My mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap ... My days have crackled and gone up in smoke, Have puffed and burst as sun-starts on a stream ... with the difference that there seems to be no Godward-turning, no note of praise at the end of Tichborne's poem. A bleak psalm, well-wrought and simple, which speaks from the centre of a very sad heart.]

My prime of youth is but a frost of cares,
My feast of joy is but a dish of pain,
My crop of corn is but a field of tares,
And all my good is but vain hope of gain.
The day is gone and I yet I saw no sun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

The spring is past, and yet it hath not sprung,
The fruit is dead, and yet the leaves are green,
My youth is gone, and yet I am but young,
I saw the world, and yet I was not seen,
My thread is cut, and yet it was not spun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

I sought my death and found it in my womb,
I lookt for life and saw it was a shade,
I trode the earth and knew it was my tomb,
And now I die, and now I am but made.
The glass is full, and now the glass is run,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 09:26 AM | Comments (0)

The Glorious 16th Century,

The Glorious 16th Century, Redux Redux

Right now, Splendidis Longum Valedico Nugis later, by (perhaps facetious) request the Grand Writings of Fulke Greville, most particularly his "Sonnets" from Caelica.

Splendidis Longum Valedico Nugis Sir Philip Sidney Leave me, O Love, which reaches but to dust; And thou, my mind, aspire to higher things; Grow rich in that which never taketh rust; Whatever fades but fading pleasure brings. Draw in thy beams, and humble all thy might to that sweet yoke where lasting freedoms be; Which breaks the clouds and opens forth the light, That doth both shine and give us sight to see. O Take fast hold; let that light be thy guide In this small course which birth draws out to death, And think how evil becometh him to slide, Who seeketh heaven, and comes of heavenly breath. Then farewell, world; thy uttermost I see; Eternal Love, maintain thy life in me.

A prayer, like incense, sent to heaven, for all who visit and for myself. "Eternal Love, maintain thy life in me!"

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:31 AM | Comments (0)

Thanks and Praise My thanks

Thanks and Praise

My thanks to the many visitors who stop by to partake of some of the maunderings that occur herein. My especial thanks for all the blessings you shared with me over the past two days. I have been blessed to overfull by your interest, compassion, sympathy, and kind words.

And my thanks and Praise to God, the illimitable, the radiant, who shines on saints and sinners alike. His rays have been working extra hard to pierce the shell I have placed around myself and cause me to be a kinder, gentler, and better image of His Son--the great Image without equal. It is my prayer that you all may be blessed to become more like Him every day.

Thanks to all of you, Sons and Daughters of the Divine, and most of all thanks for sharing some of God's great love with me.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:11 AM | Comments (0)

Hail to the 16th

Hail to the 16th Century [redux]

This text of Robert Southwell, a martyred Jesuit, who I believe is a Saint, is taken from the Oxford Book of Mystical Verse, 1917 available online at Bartleby.

Of the Blessed Sacrament of the Aulter Robert Southwell  (?1561–1595)    THE ANGELLS’ eyes, whome veyles cannot deceive,   Might best disclose that best they do descerne; Men must with sounde and silent faith receive   More then they can by sence or reason lerne; God’s poure our proofes, His workes our witt exceede,          The doer’s might is reason of His deede.   A body is endew’d with ghostly rightes;   And Nature’s worke from Nature’s law is free; In heavenly sunne lye hidd eternall lightes,   Lightes cleere and neere, yet them no eye can see;         Dedd formes a never-dyinge life do shroude; A boundlesse sea lyes in a little cloude.   The God of hoastes in slender hoste doth dwell,   Yea, God and man with all to ether dewe, That God that rules the heavens and rifled hell,          That man whose death did us to life renewe: That God and man that is the angells’ blisse, In forme of bredd and wyne our nurture is.   Whole may His body be in smallest breadd,   Whole in the whole, yea whole in every crumme;        With which be one or be tenn thowsand fedd,   All to ech one, to all but one doth cumme; And though ech one as much as all receive, Not one too much, nor all too little have.   One soule in man is all in everye part;           One face at once in many mirrhors shynes; One fearefull noyse doth make a thowsand start;   One eye at once of countlesse thinges defynes; If proofes of one in many, Nature frame, God may in straunger sort performe the same.        God present is at once in everye place,   Yett God in every place is ever one; So may there be by giftes of ghostly grace,   One man in many roomes, yett filling none Sith angells may effects of bodyes shewe,         God angells’ giftes on bodyes may bestowe.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:07 AM | Comments (0)

The Glorious 16th Century Okay,

The Glorious 16th Century

Okay, he was virulently, almost comically anti-catholic (read about the dragon that spews papist pamphlets all over the Red Crosse Knighte in the first book [canto?] of the Faerie Queene). But when he was right, Edmund Spenser was right, and here's a wonderful example of him being right on. (You can see the entire Amoretti at Renascence Editions--see left column.)

from Amoretti Edmund Spenser Sonnet LXVIII.

MOST glorious Lord of lyfe that on this day,
  Didst make thy triumph ouer death and sin:
  and hauing harrowd hell didst bring away,
  captiuity thence captiue vs to win.
This ioyous day, deare Lord, with ioy begin,
  and grant that we for whom thou didest dye
  being with thy deare blood clene washt from sin,
  may liue foreuer in felicity.
And that thy loue we weighing worthily,
  may likewise loue thee for the same againe:
  and for thy sake that all lyke deare didst buy,
  with loue may one another entertayne.
So let vs loue, deare loue, lyke as we ought,
  loue is the lesson which the Lord vs taught.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:01 AM | Comments (0)

Great News for Great Books

Great News for Great Books

Mr. David Moynihan of Blackmask Fame has just started posting a series of texts derived from Harry Plantinga's CCEL site (see left column). These are the writings of the Anti-Nicene Fathers. Present texts include Origen, Tertullian, and others. Mr. Moynihan promises more for the future, and there is no reason whatsoever to doubt him as he has been prodigious in his outpouring of texts. This is a tremendous service to those of us without the resources to own the thirty volume set and for those of us with portable e-book readers. Check it out!

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:45 AM | Comments (0)

Donne to Music Mr Steven

Donne to Music

Mr Steven Schultz of Catholic Light (a very fine blog for those interested in matters liturgical and musical) gives us a truly delightful link to an MP3 file of a setting of John Donne's Holy Sonnet VII, posted here a couple days back. Go and enjoy a musical treat!

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:39 AM | Comments (0)

On Queztalcoatl Both ibidem and

On Queztalcoatl
Both ibidem and Musings of an Amphibious Goat (Newman fans will be interested in the latter as well) have had truly wonderful posts on the controversy surrounding Quezalcoatl on the doors of the Cathedral. Read them, they are illustrative of the need to check your facts before panicking. In fact, to check your facts and then don't react anyway.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:36 AM | Comments (0)

Belated Thanks Yestereday I read

Belated Thanks

Yestereday I read this excerpt from C.S. Lewis at Dylan's blog, and realized later that it influenced much of what I wrote and did for the day. The excerpt is one of my very favorite pieces of writing, and combine that with having seen Malcolm Muggeridge's Something Beautiful for God it put me into a sort of altered state. Thanks Dylan.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:32 AM | Comments (0)

September 04, 2002

Final Blog for the Evening

Final Blog for the Evening

It has been an exhausting day. God has been most generous in His blessings. He has given me the beginnings of some thoughts that may grow into something worthy of presentation. But more He has given me San Juan de la Cruz and "The prayer of a Soul Taken with Love"

from Sayings of Light and Love St. John of the Cross from 26--Prayer of a Soul taken with Love

You will not take from me, my God, what you once gave me in your only Son, Jesus Christ, in whom you gave me all I desire. Hence I rejoice that if I wait for you, you will not delay.

In Jesus is the fullness of all the hopes of Earth. In Jesus is the fullness of all the Promises of Heaven. In Jesus is the fullness of the Love of the Father. In Jesus is the fulfillment of all dreams, hopes, wishes, thoughts, and being. Jesus is above all, in all, through all, with all, the constant companion of my soul, the one and the only--the God who chooses to blossom in my fellow man. The God, the Brother, the Lord, the end-all and be-all for whom there is not praise enough nor words enough to express my joy, my delight, my love, my sense of the precious. He is all-in-all and He incorporates me into the Holy Body of His Sacred Bride. He is beyond all hope, all expectation and yet He is the exact fulfillment of all hopes and all expectations. If I wait upon Him an eternity will be a moment; if I turn from Him a moment is an eternity. How can I say enough the great Love Jesus has given me and I long to return to Him. Simply--I am Your servant Lord and I wait for You alone, and all my waiting is the greatest work I can do. Thank you, my Lord and my God.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 09:49 PM | Comments (0)

John Donne On Today's Themes

John Donne On Today's Themes

Holy Sonnet XV John Donne

Wilt thou love God, as he thee? then digest,
My Soule, this wholsome meditation,
How God the Spirit, by Angels waited on
In heaven, doth make his Temple in thy brest.
The Father having begot a Sonne most blest,
And still begetting, (for he ne'r begonne)
Hath deign'd to chuse thee by adoption,
Coheire to his glory, and Sabbaths endlesse rest;
And as a robb'd man, which by search doth finde
His stolne stuffe sold, must lose or buy it againe;
The Sonne of glory came downe, and was slaine,
Us whom he had made, and Satan stolne, to unbinde.
'Twas much, that man was made like God before,
But, that God should be made like man, much more.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 05:38 PM | Comments (0)

Brief Prayer I'm sure

Brief Prayer

I'm sure this prayer follows that of famous men, but the words come to me, I share them.

Lord, let me always see my own imperfections
before I look to those of others.
Let me always know my own brokeness
before I point out that of others.
Let me always be aware of the ways that I fail you
so that I do not look for the failings of others.
Lord grant me the grace always
to love You in Your immortal loveliness,
and to bear Your flame to those
who live in darkness.
Lord have mercy on a broken servant!

Praise to Jesus Christ, Lord Now, Lord Triumphant forever.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 05:15 PM | Comments (0)

The Proper Dwelling Place of

The Proper Dwelling Place of God
A Meditation/Examen on the reaction to the Dedication of Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral

You have all seen the articles delineating the reactions to the Cathedral. One thing this inspired in me was an intense questioning and an intense examination of my own life.

2 Samuel 7:4-7 (RSV) 4. But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan. 5. "Go and tell my servant David, 'Thus says the Lord: Would you build me a house to dwell in? 6. I have not dwelt in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. 7. In all the places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel saying, "Why have you not built me a house of cedar?"

God does not need me, nor Cardinal Mahony, nor the people of Los Angeles, nor any people to build Him a house. That is not what the Cathedral is about and it cannot be judged in terms of whether it is suitable for God. In fact, the building has been constructed, it is done, and the time for evaluating and judging is over. The great jubilee of worship can begin--that is the duty and the responsibility of the people who go to the Cathedral, and it is our duty to support them with all of our prayers and our hopes for them.

But what then is the proper dwelling place of God? If God is not confined to a house, where does He live? The only vessel potentially large enough, warm enough, expansive enough, alive enough is the human heart. In "A Temple of the Holy Spirit" Flannery O'Connor records the conversation of two schoolgirls as they joke about "being a temple of the Holy Spirit." But it is very evident in the context and growth of the story that Ms. O'Connor regarded them as exactly that. I turn to myself and ask the famous fundamentalist/evangelical question--"If I were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict me?"

Now I rephrase the question, "To those who meet me, is there any indication whatsoever that my heart is a dwelling place for God?" And my answer, sadly is, "Vanishingly little." I leap to judgment, I am harsh, critical, unrelenting. My heart is a hard and stony place, fit only for my own prejudices and my own ways. I do not share the troubles of the world, rather I add to them through my inaction and through my judgment. This was resoundingly brought home to me through a post by our own Ms. Knapp in the comments box on this page. I had made some off-hand remark about Archbishop Rembert Weakland, based largely on hearsay and gossip. And Ms. Knapp responded:

. . .[D]o not believe all that you hear from the professionally outraged. You would have joined us in learning to live a holy and prayerful life, in love with Jesus and with the help of all the sacraments he gave us. (Yes, I will always owe a great debt to the ninth archbishop.)

As retirement neared, even before the debacle, we worried. Would the next bishop be a CEO, or a Church politician, or maybe someone kicked upstairs over The Situation??? We had become accustomed to a prayerful bishop of shepherd's heart, who made no secret of loving us --- could we even dare to hope for another like that in our lifetime?

I had listened to hearsay, gossip, and backbiting. Even now I hear the same things of other Archbishops, and sidelong blows to other officials, and I ask myself, do I listen to these? And if I do, what harm have I done countless who rely upon such men for the sacraments? Should I not rather pray and raise these men up before God rather than tearing them down before men?

In my prejudice, in my listening to gossip and half-truths (or even full-truths that carry more the fruit of harm) do I let my heart draw tight and become a narrow, restricted, hardened place? Do I listen to complaints about art, architecture, liturgy, and forget that Jesus is there, whether everything is exactly as it should be or not. Jesus is present. Jesus enters me, joins with me intimately. Is this the heart that Jesus would welcome as a home? (Fortunately the answer is yes). Is this the heart I would like to offer Jesus as home, this the dwelling I would offer to the Lord I love? (The answer is a resounding NO!) For "it is not what goes into a man that makes him unclean, but what comes out of him."

I think and I tremble, and I remember the exalted experience of Isaiah who saw the Seraphim who waited upon the Lord and was able to say, "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King the Lord of hosts!" (Is 6: 5). But I am not lost, because Jesus can sweep this heart clean. He can move the walls of this heart so they are not so narrow. He can change this dried out, shrunken hardened knot of a heart into a gentle bower for His head. I need merely say to him, "If you will it, I shall be healed." And we all know that Jesus wills it. He wills that my whole heart be entirely transformed for His greater glory.

The only fit dwelling for the Lord of Hosts
is the human heart,
His only chariot,
human legs,
His only servants,
human hands,
His only rest--conversation in love.

Too long have I neglected you, O Jesus My Lord. Too long have I listened to what is not proper to listen to. Too long have I not spoken up and warned those who speak that every idle word will be called to account. I am an unworthy servant, and yet, I rejoice greatly in being even an unworthy servant because if you will, I shall be allowed even greater service. I shall be called up from the foot of the table to give you drink and serve you food. Lord count me among the humblest of thy servants, the most unworthy, and use this unworthy vessel to bring to you greater and more worthy. Lord, thank you, thank you so much for the invitation to serve, and the reminder that a servant does not remark upon the habits of those upon whom he waits. Thank you for the blessings of servitude. Better a thousand years your slave than a single moment my own! Amen.

Thank all of you for so patiently enduring this and allowing me a moment to apologize to all I have offended through action or inaction. It is not my intent to hurt any, and with every action I seem to knock down twenty. Praise God! In my weakness is His strength.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 04:57 PM | Comments (0)

A Most Excellent Meditative Sharing

A Most Excellent Meditative Sharing
Dylan at Error 503 has given a most beautiful reflection on the Benedictus, a prayer those accustomed to reciting the morning hours stumble over nearly every morning. (I say that mostly recording my own experiences. Sometimes morning prayer is a deep and piercing beam of light, but often it is a duty that begins the day properly. Without it, the day is without substance). Meditative time with scripture improves our prayer lives and consequently the lives of all those around us. This sort of reflection is the kind of gift we may all aspire to accept.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 10:01 AM | Comments (0)

Commenting Please be aware: you


Please be aware: you are not being censored. After a DDoS, Haloscan is recovering and resynching, so I've noticed that comments appear and disappear seemingly at random. Many comments made yesterday evening have vanished, hopefully to reappear later today. These DDoS are really vile sorts of things and I don't understand what motivates people unless it be the cause I mentioned below in my post about Othello.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 09:11 AM | Comments (0)

Sacrificing the Need To Be Right

As Christians, one of the most difficult things we have to do is to put ourselves aside and serve others. We have to abandon our own definitions of ourselves in order to be what God has made us to be. We are no longer allowed to cling to outmoded ways of being right. We can't lean on the vaguely puritan and Calvinist sense that if we are doing well in the world we are somehow specially liked by God. Truly, God has blessed us and has loved us, but we are not in any way any more special than the leper in the streets of Calcutta or the starving child in Zimbabwe.

As Christians, we need to give up being right. We need to sacrifice the constant affirmation we rely upon in the world. Blogs are simply one example of this. A blog serves as our voice to a world of people we do not know, and we all write to be heard. We not only wish to be heard, but we want desperately to be affirmed. We want people to notice us and to say, "Yes, you're right." Or we want a chance to explain our views and to say why someone else is wrong. But blogs are a single manifestation of this need, and not by any means the most pronounced. In the business world, we need to be right--our view needs to trump the views of those around us. Isn't it sufficient to be useful? Why, then do we need to be right?

Being right means being loved. We want everyone to love us. The reality is that outside of Christ our ability to love the other is very, very limited. We know this internally, and so to win the love of someone else, the acclaim, or the approbation, seems a grand and glorious prize. We have made something of ourselves. But, in fact, what have we accomplished? Little or nothing. No starving child was fed because I wrote in this blog. Likely few people were moved to go and serve in soup kitchens. Christ is not better glorified because I said He ought to be. In short, our need to be right serves no one but ourselves.

But writing here can be training in one part of humility. We can sacrifice the need to be right, and do what we do solely for the glory of God. Rather than seeking to be clever, to be read, or to be popular, we can seek to be of service. We can encourage one another to pray, and we can be the irenic souls who pour oil on boiling waters. We can be the voices that calm the tempests, and the voices of reason that call everyone to focus on the central issue--Jesus Christ and Him Crucified.

If we do anything outside of Jesus Christ, it is done in vain. Prayer that is not prayed for the glory of God is mere words. Yes, we may petition, and yes, God will answer, but the best petition is made in humble acknowledgement that we do not know the proper way, nor may we see the fullness of His Will. In prayer, we give up the need to be right. We become again like children on our Father's knee, and we ask Him to open up the world again.

If you have a young child look at her or him. Look through their eyes and see the wonders of the world. That is what we must be as Christians--children who do not need to be right, but who seek to absorb the wonder of the wide world around them. It is terrifying, and it is thrilling. And we have as our guide and protector the greatest of Fathers and the best Big Brother ever.

So--let us give up the need to be right, sacrifice the need to be perfect, slay the need to be the center of attention, sacrifice the need to be loved. In so doing we will be able to accept the fact that we are loved beyond our wildest imaginings. We can drop the masks, the pretences, and the falsenesses. We can abandon our prejudices and our notions of how the world should work as we sit on our Father's knees and we are once again shown the world and the people that He loves. He will open our eyes to the vast splendor of all that He has created, and we will be able to fall in love again, perhaps truly for the first time with the Father who loves us and wishes us above all the everlasting bliss of knowing Him and knowing the world as He knows it. We can become servants of the most high, who serve with humble and great delight. We can join the chorus of praises and thank God every day for the opportunities He has showered upon us. Praise God in His Heavenly Abode! Praise Him in all His Creation! Praise the Lord Jesus Christ through whom we live and move and have our being! Praise all the goodness that permeates creation, for as Jesus said, "Only the Father is good," so whatsoever we perceive to partake of the good partakes of the Father in that degree. Praise God and thank Him today and always.

Praise God, the source of our life, our refuge, our shelter, our Loving Father, our compassionate brother. Praise God!

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:19 AM | Comments (0)

For No Reason Whatsoever From

For No Reason Whatsoever

From Othello, a passage that my college Shakespeare professor required us all to memorize and which, subsequently, hasn't left my head for a moment. It is really a very concise reflection on the nature of evil.

Othello, Act 3, Scene 3 Iago: Not poppy, nor mandragora,   Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world,   Shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleep   Which thou ow’dst yesterday.

Normally played as an aside or Iago speaking under his breath in the very presence of Othello. One could attribute Iago's actions to prejudice, to petty hatred because of a slight, or to any other of a myriad of causes. But the most likely explanation of Iago's act, it seems to me, is that he does what he does because he can. Pure and simple, he has the ability to destroy a life, and almost as an experiment, he does so. There's relatively little passion surrounding Iago's behavior and the play provides scant hints of reasons. But as a reflection on evil, Iago stands head and shoulders above the crowd. We have the ability to do so, therefore let us do it--how many "solutions" in the twentieth century have been mandated by this wisp of a reason?

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:52 AM | Comments (0)

September 03, 2002

New Inductees Though I cannot

New Inductees

Though I cannot begin to fathom why it should be so, Dylan has applied and been accepted into Glorious Seventeenth Century Poets Society. As I've said, his work promotes far more than the seventeenth century and I am humbled that he would even want to belong. Our other, most honored Inductee, by his own request is none other than the illustrious Lane Core, Jr. A warm round of applause for our two inductees. And I greet you with appropriate words from our good friends Beaumont and Fletcher from their extravagant Opus, Knight of the Burning Pestle:

These be the fair rewards of them that love! Oh, you that live in freedom, never prove The travail of a mind led by desire!

Gentles, welcome to our small society.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 06:16 PM | Comments (0)

Living Ordinary Things in an

Living Ordinary Things in an Extraordinary Way

from the Angelus Message of 9.1.02 His Holiness, Pope John Paul II

Afterward John Paul II emphasized that returning to everyday life was not always easy and that sometimes it was hard to re-adjust. "However," he underlined, "it is in everyday life where God calls us to gain a maturity in our spiritual life which consists in living ordinary things in an extraordinary way."

"Sanctity is achieved," he concluded, "by pursuing Jesus without escaping from reality and from trials, but by confronting them with the light and strength of his spirit."

Praise God! Our teacher continues to teach with the simple wisdom of all the saints. We are so tremendously blessed in this great leader of the Church.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 04:58 PM | Comments (0)

The Grand and the Glorious

The Grand and the Glorious

aka Praise God for John Donne. Here's another of his nearly miraculous Holy Sonnets. I had wondered where Philip Jose Farmer had gotten the fantastic title for one of the novels (the 2nd?) in his Riverboat series. "When what to my wondering eyes should appear..." this Holy Sonnet.

Holy Sonnet VII John Donne

At the round earths imagin'd corners, blow
Your trumpets, Angells, and arise, arise
From death, you numberlesse infinities
Of soules, and to your scattred bodies goe,
All whom the flood did, and fire shall o'erthrow,
All whom warre, dearth, sage, agues, tyrannies,
Despaire, law chance, hath slaine, and you whose eyes,
Shall behold God, and never tast deaths woe.
But let them sleepe, Lord, and mee mourne a space,
For, if above all these, my sinnes abound,
'Tis late to aske abundance of thy grace,
When wee are there; here on this lowly ground,
Teach mee how to repent; for that's as good
As if thou'hadst seal'd my pardon, with thy blood.

Forthcoming, another inductee into the Glorious Seventeenth Century Poets Society. (Hint: it's not Dylan, he transcends mere centuries! Truly A Man for All Seasons (and I don't say that lightly considering the high esteem in which I hold the original of that title)).

Posted by Steven Riddle at 03:17 PM | Comments (0)

A New Inductee I'm

A New Inductee

I'm pleased to announce that the delightful Karen Marie Knapp has been duly nominated and voted into the Glorious Seventeenth Century Poets Society for this contribution to the web. Congratulations Ms. Knapp (and thanks for the poem/song).

Posted by Steven Riddle at 11:33 AM | Comments (0)

Being a People of Prayer

Oh woe, I just wrote a very long blog regarding this and I destroyed it because I used my PC commands on my Macintosh. I hope I can recreate some sense of it below.

We are a people of perpetual dissatisfaction. We move from place to place and from scandal to scandal, wildfire leaping from the tops of trees over the firebreaks. We move from outrage at priestly pederasty, to outrage at the cover-up, to outrage at Vatican inaction, to outrage over Bishops' overreaction, to outrage at Vatican action, to outrage regarding someone suggesting that the Pope might not be the best administrator, to outrage over those pederasty-supporters who think that the Pope is still a pretty good guy. And when it seems that we've used up the fuel of that scandal, we move along to be outraged by the architecture of a cathedral, and we cast about anxiously for the next outrage.

We live in a world of flux. Nothing is the same from one moment to the next and we are constantly having to shape our lives to this change. We are uncomfortable with it and we look for permanence. Many of us find it in orthodoxy and orthopraxis. We grab onto these externals and clutch them like the last piece of a wreckage, the last refuge from the storm. In so doing, we denounce anything that does not conform to the standard we exalt. We must feel good about ourselves and that entails anger toward those who do not toe the line.

But is that what the Church is about? More importantly, did Jesus Christ come to establish Orthodoxy and Orthopraxis? Are we to hold these up as the standards that represent the very best of Jesus Christ? When we get to heaven, is Jesus going to ask us if we crossed ourselves with our right hand or our left hand, if we genuflected on right knee or left? Is he going to ask the architects whether they built a Cathedral in proper alignment with the compass? I don't think so. Seems that he set a standard that was very clear, the sheep shall be separated from the goats on the basis of the question: "When I was thirsty did you give me to drink? Naked, clothe me? In prison, comfort me... you all know the drill.

Jesus gave us the Church as a guide. He gave us the blessing of the teaching magisterium of the Church to help it sail the waters of all times, to help it to cope with things that would come up. He did not give us the Church as a new cross of orthodoxy and orthopraxis on which to crucify ourselves. These things are important because they give us structure. But sometimes it is important to lay waste to the structure and to do as Christ Himself commands. One might question just how "Orthodox" Mother Teresa of Calcutta was. After all, there was no religious admission test to her hospital. Children, be they Hindi, Sikh, or Muslim were cared for in the hospitals she put together without a question as to what the faith of their parents was. She did not harangue the dying with endless speeches about accepting Jesus Christ as savior. Instead, contrary to what orthodoxy seems to propose, she simply accepted the people as people and showed them the deep love of Jesus Christ, their savior. Whether they knew His name or not, they met Him in the person of Mother Teresa and her workers. That is what knowing Jesus is about.

Most of us do not really know Jesus. We know what we would like Jesus to be. We define God in our own image and then sic him on all foes. But this is not Jesus. Most of us are very comfortable with the Jesus we know, and thus, following the dictum of Soren Kierkegaard, "If you are comfortable with Christ, you do not know Him."

Jesus is a constant challenge to us. In the storms of scandal he stands upon the raging waters in the midst of the storm and says, "Come to me." How many of us venture out of the boat. How many of us spend a moment more than we have to contemplating Jesus Christ in word, in creation, in reality? How many of us lead a true life of prayer?

Prayer is the heart of the Church. Knowing Jesus Christ as He is, deeply, intimately, lovingly--this is the only way to true orthodoxy. If you truly love Jesus Christ, you will love His church and you cannot fail to be orthodox in your belief, but the orthodoxy is natural, pliant, an interior support, like a spine, not a stiff exterior carapace designed to keep all that is uncomfortable outside. Knowing Jesus Christ will make you uncomfortable and provide you with the greatest of all comforts. You will be uncomfortable because you know that you cannot do enough, and comfortable because you know the love of Love Incarnate.

Prayer is the way through scandal. Prayer combined with forceful, merciful, appropriate action is the way through any scandal. Rather than recrimination, vituperation, and endless roiling, seething, anguished anger and finger-pointing, we start and end in prayer. We pray for the victims of the scandal and for their healing. Even as we remand to justice those who have perpetrated the acts, we pray for their souls, knowing that "It would be better for them that a millstone were hung about their necks and they were cast into the sea" than what they have already done. We pray for the leaders that they will do what is right--not what we THINK is right, not what we might suggest, not what pops into their heads first thing upon considering the matter, but what Jesus Christ, our Lord, Master, and Brother, shows them is right. We pray that our bishops are less administrators than they are men of God, following clearly the lead He has marked out for them. A true follower of Christ cannot help but be a good administrator. We stop centering all of our energies on ourselves and on our expectations and we center on Jesus Christ.

The nature of blogs is to constantly stir the pot. News will arise, new things will crop up that suggest that the world is going to hell in a handbasket (and when was it not?). People will become outraged over the most outrageous things. Rather than expend that huge sum of energy in outrage, anger, and vitriol, expend it in a way that will help--intimate, devout prayer. St. Therese of Lisieux never left her small convent in France, but through her prayers she assisted in the missions and has become the Patroness of the Missions. As an individual, I cannot affect the course of the Bishops' decisions, or the Curia of the Vatican. But by my prayers joined to those of countless others, I can affect these groups to their very foundations.

We are prayer warriors. We are called to know Christ and to bring Him into the world. We are to incarnate Christ in each one of us, bringing hope, joy, and release wherever we happen to be. How can we presume to do this if we do not know hope and joy ourselves? How can we bring Christ to the world if we are hopelessly mired in the world?

Prayer, prayer, prayer, prayer, prayer, prayer, prayer, and again prayer. Everything should begin in, proceed in, and end in prayer. And we should be praying not to the image of God we have made, but to the real Jesus Christ. How do we begin to know Him? We start by stripping away ourselves and our protections. We lay ourselves open to the action of God. We let Him touch us, move us, hold us, guide us. He is our Lord and Salvation. He is our rock and our comfort. We abandon those things that keep us from Him. We abandon, not orthodoxy and orthopraxis, but the idols we have made of them. And we allow God to remake us in His image. It is impossible to truly love the real Jesus Christ and not to be orthodox. We might love an image we have made of Him and be led astray, but not the real Jesus.

How do we get to know Him? Read the scriptures. Not just the Mass readings every day, but read the gospels every day and every night. Did you know that one of the three general grants of indulgences is for the reading of scripture--and if that reading is for more than a half-hour each day the indulgence is plenary? Such is the power the Church recognizes in the transformative capabilities of the Word. St. Augustine said, "You cannot love what you do not know." How many of us have actually been to Calvary with Jesus? How many of us have borne His Cross like Simon the Cyrenian?

Prayer is the beginning and the end of becoming and being Christian. We must immolate the old man in prayer so that the new man may be born in Jesus Christ. We must stop evaluating the scandals and evaluating the evaluators and dredging up new scandal to paradoxically feel better about ourselves. We cannot feel better about ourselves if we are mired in the world. Prayer is the starting point of changing everything, right down to the roots of the world. If we spent one-tenth of the time in prayer that we spend in being scandalized, we would already be well along to making the Kingdom of God present on Earth. Prayer, loving presence to Jesus Christ, first, last and always.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:42 AM | Comments (0)

September 02, 2002

Los Angeles Cathedral I thought

Los Angeles Cathedral

I thought I'd repost this little ditty that I have originally placed in a comment box on Mr. Serafin's Blog. This is a beginning, as I have a lot of disparate thoughts about this building, and I will subject you to them as I work them out.

I don't know if I like this as a Cathedral. Looks like Mies van der Rhoe or Le Corbusier got dumped in a blender and poured out. Not at all fond of modernist designs. On the other hand, it is not the building that makes the faithful. True, a good building can help to build a proper atmosphere for worship, but worship can occur in a grass hut if the faithful are focused appropriately.

I think we do a disservice to those who will be using the Cathedral to shed so much verbiage abusing the building. If it is not to our taste, that is as may be; however, it is not blasphemy, nor sacrilege. It may not be constructed according to Church Rubrics, I can't speak to that. And I don't know how I would feel participating in a liturgy within that cavernous interior. But still, I haven't been there and God is present in the gathering of the people, in the reading of the Word, and in the real presence of the Eucharist--this is true in a tar-paper shack or in a marble palace.

God bless Cardinal Mahony and the people of Los Angeles in their new Cathedral. May it be a place of Real Presence and an opportunity for evangelism. May it stand as a Rock in the center of a city that needs a foundation. May God bless the architect and all the people who are privileged to gather in the place. And may this Cathedral be a true beacon on a Hill, calling to the faithful and unfaithful alike, reminding them of the presence of God.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:23 PM | Comments (0)

The Amazing Margaret Cavendish

Now, here's a poet who would give the Sitwell Family a run for its money (although her poetry is, shall we say, not of the first water). Ms. Cavendish was not what we would call a happy person. She was one who felt the oppression of her sex more than many others. She wrote a great many poems, here's a couple of poems from a series called "The Atomic Poems."

from "The Atomic Poems"
Margaret Cavendish
What Atomes make Life.

ALL pointed Atomes to Life do tend
Whether pointed all or at one end.
Or whether Round, are set like to a Ring;
Or whether Long, are roul'd as on a String.
Those which are pointed, straight, quick Motion give;
But those that bowe and bend, more dull do live.
For Life lives dull, or merrilie,
According as Sharpe Atomes be.
The Cause why things do live and dye,
Is, as the mixed Atomes lye.

What Atomes make Death.

LIfe is a Fire, and burnes full hot,
But when Round watry Atomes power have got:
Then do they quench Lifes Atomes out,
Blunting their Points, and kill their courage stout.
Thus they sometimes do quite thrust out each other,
When equall mix'd, live quietly together.
The cause why things do live and dye,
Is as the mixed Atomes lye.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 09:30 AM | Comments (0)

The Proper Role of the

The Proper Role of the Artist
I may be sharing a lot of this particular letter, as it is one that speaks to me, and yet one in which I find a certain dissatisfaction and a certain wrestling with meaning and possibility.

However to start the discussion, there is no disagreement whatsoever with the following excerpt.

from "Letter to Artists" His Holiness Pope John Paul II

3. A noted Polish poet, Cyprian Norwid, wrote that “beauty is to enthuse us for work, and work is to raise us up”.(3)

The theme of beauty is decisive for a discourse on art. It was already present when I stressed God's delighted gaze upon creation. In perceiving that all he had created was good, God saw that it was beautiful as well.(4) The link between good and beautiful stirs fruitful reflection. In a certain sense, beauty is the visible form of the good, just as the good is the metaphysical condition of beauty. This was well understood by the Greeks who, by fusing the two concepts, coined a term which embraces both: kalokagathía, or beauty-goodness. On this point Plato writes: “The power of the Good has taken refuge in the nature of the Beautiful”.(5)

It is in living and acting that man establishes his relationship with being, with the truth and with the good. The artist has a special relationship to beauty. In a very true sense it can be said that beauty is the vocation bestowed on him by the Creator in the gift of “artistic talent”. And, certainly, this too is a talent which ought to be made to bear fruit, in keeping with the sense of the Gospel parable of the talents (cf. Mt 25:14-30).

Here we touch on an essential point. Those who perceive in themselves this kind of divine spark which is the artistic vocation—as poet, writer, sculptor, architect, musician, actor and so on—feel at the same time the obligation not to waste this talent but to develop it, in order to put it at the service of their neighbour and of humanity as a whole.

One minor quibble--a point which probably should have been brought forth more explicitly, particularly in light of the Keatsian destruction of the ancient triad, is the relationship of Truth to both beauty and goodness. This may be developed more explicitly later in the letter, but it is an essentially ingredient in any art.

What I find profound here is the discussion of the vocation of the artist as one to seek out the beautiful. This is not necessarily the pleasing, nor is it necessarily the profound, although in truly beautiful things both meaning and depth are likely to be present. But it is certainly not the outré, the bizarre, the merely offensive. I suppose it is possible that true beauty is likely to offend. The beauty of the Cross is a scandal among men. The beauty of the lives of Martyrs and their witness (although this sort of beauty is not art in the human sense but in the divine sense.) Art is truly about exploring boundaries and widening itself to make more accessible and redemptive the expression of beauty. In this sense we are able to wander through endless galleries of much modern "art"--broken mirrors and bricks on museum floors, dung encrusted paintings, and much else.

Let me reflect on one art "experience" I had. Within the exhibit space, a small room had been built of mesh with one wooden wall on which was a grid that held, perhaps 200 ears of dry field corn. Within the room was a large bin of dog food from which a bold of coarse muslin had been draped. Throughout the room were thousands of white moths, being bred in the dog food. The "artist" sat on a stool and knitted a la Madame Defarge, a never-ending scarf and answered questions about her performance. While I found the whole thing interesting, perhaps intriguing, I also found it ultimately futile and pretentious. This "work of art" vanished when the exhibit was disassembled. Now, the fact that it made some impression on a few people might cause one to think that it has a lasting effect. But does it really? And was it really about beauty? The best that could be said of such a work is that it was not offensive. There was no obscene writing nor any unsavory element (save perhaps for the smell of the dog food) about the thing. But is it really art? Is it really an expression of goodness and beauty? Perhaps, but I would tend to say no--it was an interesting experiment in what the limits of art could be. It was more effective that the room with a spiral of slate stones laid out, the room with the thirty-five mechanical toy horses and the film loop of Niagara falls, or any of the other twenty or thirty exhibits that I cannot at this remove recall even in the slightest.

Art is about beauty and goodness and truth. If any of these three is lacking, the work is simply not art. You can call it art, and you can redefine your parameters to display any sort of mess at all. But it is simply not art and cannot be. Given all of these things, I would propose further that Art, to be Art, should be comprehensible by someone other than the artist. That isn't to say that others would know the fullness of the design or plan, but that each might be able to perceive something of it and take it away. This is particularly true of literature. When words cease to mean and become simply sounds or images on a page, I think that the language has moved away from Art.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 09:03 AM | Comments (0)

Prayer Surprises I never fail

Prayer Surprises

I never fail to be amazed by the powerful imagery in prayers from the Eastern Churches. There is a freshness and a profound truth to the following Akathist to the Sweetest Lord Jesus Christ. The prayer opens with an invocation of Christ the Warrior. This juxtaposition has almost the effect of a Zen koan, startling us into new understandings of Jesus. Of course, it does seem to grate on my not-to-deeply hidden anabaptist (Mennonite) proclivities--but that is probably all to the good. Thanks to Dylan and to Wayne Olson who has a link to an Orthodox Prayer book on his site.

AKATHIST to our Sweetest Lord Jesus Christ

Kontakion 1
Warrior-Chieftain and Lord, Vanquisher of hell, I Thy creature and servant offer Thee songs of praise, for Thou hast delivered me from eternal death. But as Thou hast unutterable loving-kindness, free me from every danger, as I cry: Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me.

Oikos 1
Creator of Angels and Lord of Hosts! As of old Thou didst open ear and tongue to the deaf and dumb, likewise open now my perplexed mind and tongue to the praise of Thy Most Holy Name, that I may cry to Thee: Jesus All-Wonderful, Angels' Astonishment! Jesus All-Powerful, Forefathers' Deliverance! Jesus All-Sweetest, Patriarchs' Exaltation! Jesus All-Glorious, Kings' Stronghold! Jesus All-Beloved, Prophets' Fulfillment! Jesus All-Marvellous, Martyrs' Strength! Jesus All-Peaceful, Monks' Joy! Jesus All-Gracious, Presbyters' Sweetness! Jesus All-Merciful, Fasters' Abstinence! Jesus All-Tenderest, Saints' Rejoicing! Jesus All-Honorable, Virgins' Chastity! Jesus everlasting, Sinners' Salvation! Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me!

In addition, from a different site, here is a portion of an Akathist to the Theotokos. What we see in this splendid prayer is the wealth and breadth of imagery for the Blessed Virgin. Here is true hyperdulia, blessing us all with the blessing of the Virgin.

Hail, O Space of the Spaceless God! Hail, O Gate of the Sublime Mystery! Hail, O Message unsure to men without faith! Hail, O Glory most certain to those who believe! Hail, O Sacred Chariot of the One above the Cherubim! Hail, Perfect Dwelling of the One above the Seraphim! Hail, O you who reconciled opposites! Hail, O you who combined maidenhood and motherhood! Hail, O you through whom transgression was erased; Hail, O you through whom Paradise was opened! Hail, O Key to the Kingdom of Christ! Hail, O Hope for the Ages of Bliss! Hail, O Bride and Maiden ever-pure!

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:25 AM | Comments (0)

Sara Teasdale

Sara Teasdale

Dylan has tried, and come close, but no cigar. Sara is still Sara, hard as she tries. She takes a subject like moonlight--one that is literally dipping with poetic cliche and ready to drool poetry all over some innocent bystander, and turns it into. . . well read the poem and decide for yourself. For Sara, I'd say it was magnificent, but, we are all given different talents and I fear Ms. Teasdale's were not among the first order.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:12 AM | Comments (0)

Thomas Hardy Dylan has given

Thomas Hardy

Dylan has given us some short poems by Thomas Hardy, a poet I greatly admire. In fact, other than Hopkins, he may be my favorite Victorian/Edwardian poet. However, as with his novels, I find the poems too depressing for words and have difficulty reading more than one or two.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:08 AM | Comments (0)

September 01, 2002

Some Wisdom from William Penn,

Some Wisdom from William
Penn, that is. William Penn is one of my favorite historical figures, but then I've always been drawn to Penn, Fox, Woolman, Ann Lee, Hannah Whittal Smith, and other of the Quaker and Shaker persuasion. These are mystics run rampant, without the guidelines of the Church to help them. Nevertheless, from much of what they accomplished, one must assume that the Holy Spirit kept them mostly on track. As a result, they have much to say to us. Now, from several works, William Penn offers us some words of wisdom.

William Penn from Some Fruits of Solitude (1693) Truth often suffers more by the heat of its defenders, than from the arguments of it opposers.

Knowledge is the treasure, but judgment the treasurer of a wise man. He that has more knowledge than judgment, is made for another man's use more than his own.

Right is right, even if everyone is against it; and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it.

from No Cross, No Crown
No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 01:01 PM | Comments (0)

A Melancholy Admission Inspired by

A Melancholy Admission

Inspired by good Mr. Dylan's obvious love of, and precise blogging of, the poet e.e.cummings, I went to the library and decided to find out what I was missing. I have come to the melancholy conclusion that I must wait upon Mr. Dylan and his choices as most of what I saw there was either experimental or pretentious (depending upon the degree and severity of judgment you wish to exercise) beyond the limits of my tolerance. On the other hand, there are some obvious gems and some quite beautiful poems (many of them very early work). So, I am resigned to my limited taste, and will simply trust that Mr. Dylan will keep up his efforts to lift us out of our prejudices and continue to delight us with the choicest gems of such poets and writers. By so doing, he offers the community of St. Blog's a wonderful service. A round of applause please.

(In the room women coming and go, talking of Michaelangelo). Oh well, if it's any consolation, "I do not think they sing to me" either.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 11:27 AM | Comments (0)

The Celebration is Today And

The Celebration is Today

And to mark the celebration another hint--as though yesterday's bludgeon weren't sufficient.

from Amoretti Edmund Spenser Sonnet IX Long-while I sought to what I might compare those powrefull eies, which lighten my dark spright, yet find I nought on earth to which I dare resemble th' ymage of their goodly light. Not to the Sun: for they doo shine by night; nor to the Moone: for they are changed neuer; nor to the Starres: for they haue purer sight; nor to the fire: for they consume not euer; Nor to the lightning: for they still perseuer; nor to the Diamond: for they are more tender; nor vnto Christall: for nought may them seuer; nor vnto glasse: such basenesse mought offend her; Then to the Maker selfe they likest be, whose light doth lighten all that here we see.
Posted by Steven Riddle at 09:49 AM | Comments (0)

Another Lesser-Known Poet We have

Another Lesser-Known Poet

We have much to learn from Rachel Speght. Her magnificent work, an excerpt presented below, examines parts and portions of the human condition and provides some insight in to how to live within these limitations. Below three excerpts:

from Mortalities Memorandum (1621) Rachel Speght

The Hauen of my voyage is remote
I haue not yet attain'd my iourneyes end;
Yet know I not, nor can I giue a guesse,
How short a time I in this place shall spend.
For that high power, which sent me to this place,
Doth onely know the period of my race.

The reason of my sadnesse at this time,
Is, 'cause I feele my selfe nor very well,
Vnto you I shall much obliged bee,
If for my griefe a remedie you'le tell.
Quoth shee, if you your maladie will show,
My best aduise I'le willingly bestow.

My griefe, quoth I, is called Ignorance,
Which makes me differ little from a brute:
For animals are led by natures lore,
Their seeming science is but customes fruit;
When they are hurt they haue a sense of paine;
But want the sense to cure themselues againe.

And euer since this griefe did me oppresse,
Instinct of nature is my chiefest guide;
I feele disease, yet know not what I ayle,
I finde a sore, but can no salue prouide;
I hungry am, yet cannot seeke for foode;
Because I know not what is bad or good.


I met my old acquaintance, Truth by name;
Whom I requested briefely to declare,
The vertue of that plant I found so rare.

Quoth shee, by it Gods image man doth beare,
Without it he is but a humane shape,
Worse then the Deuill; for he knoweth much;
Without it who can any ill escape?
By vertue of it euils are withstood;
The minde without it is not counted good.

Who wanteth Knowledge is a Scripture foole,
Against the Ignorant the Prophets pray;
And Hosea threatens iudgement vnto those,
Whom want of Knowledge made to runne astray.
Without it thou no practique good canst show,
More then by hap, as blind men hit a Crow.

True Knowledge is the Window of the soule,
Through which her obiects she doth speculate;
It is the mother of faith, hope, and loue;
Without it who can vertue estimate?
By it, in grace thou shalt desire to grow;
'Tis life eternall God and Christ to Know.

[A Memento Mori]
The manner of Deaths comming, How 'twill be,
God hath conceal'd to make vs vigilant.
Some die by sicknesse, others by mishap,
Some die with surfeit, other some with want:
Some die by fire, some perish by the Sword,
Some drown'd in Water swim vnto the Lord.

Pope Adrian was stifeled with a Gnatt,
Old Anacreon strangled with a Grape,
A little hayre did choake great Fabius,
Saphira could not sodeine Death escape.
Into this life we all but one way came,
But diuers wayes we goe out of the same.

If God from perill did not vs protect,
Our daily food might stop our vitall breath,
The things we neither doubt, nor feare, may proue
The instruments of an vntimely Death.
And in a moment worke our liues decay,
When we least thinke vpon our ending day.

'Tis God omniscient which doth onely know
The time of life, that man on earth must liue,
At his appoyntment Moses must goe die,
Who bounds and limmit vnto time doth giue:
Man happen may to aske Where, When, and How,
Death will surprize, but God sayth Thus, here, now.

The Memorandum itself is a somewhat sobering document, well worth the time and effort to study it.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 09:38 AM | Comments (0)

Psalm 148 This is another

Psalm 148
This is another beautiful exposition on the Psalms.

from Catechesis on Psalm 148 His Holiness John Paul II

Let us now entrust to St John Chrysostom the task of casting a comprehensive look upon this immense chorus. He does so in words that refer also to the Canticle of the three young men in the fiery furnace, which we meditated upon in the last catechesis.

The great Father of the Church and Patriarch of Constantinople says: "Because of their great rectitude of spirit, when the saints gather to thank God, they used to invite many to join with them in singing his praise, urging them to take part with them in this beautiful liturgy. This is what the three young men in the furnace also did, when they called the whole of creation to praise and sing hymns to God for the benefit received" (Dn 3).

This Psalm does the same calling both parts of the world, that which is above and that which is below, the sentient and the intelligent. The Prophet Isaiah also did this, when he said: "Sing for joy, O heavens, and rejoice, O earth! ... for the Lord has comforted his people and shows mercy to his afflicted" (Is 49,13). The Psalter goes on: "When Israel went forth from Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language ... the mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs" (Ps 113[114],1,4); and elsewhere in Isaiah, "Let the heavens rain down justice like dew from above" (Is 45,8). Indeed, considering themselves inadequate on their own to sing praise to the Lord, the saints "turn to all sides involving all things in singing a common hymn" (Expositio in psalmum CXLVIII: PG 55, 484-485).

Posted by Steven Riddle at 09:22 AM | Comments (0)

Interesting Sites For those interested

Interesting Sites

For those interested in pro-life views, you will find much of interest on Mr. Russell's site Reflection and Thoughts. And for a different, and utterly fascinating perspective on this issue, I cannot recommend highly enough John Augustine's pro-life feminist and Catholic Feminist site Musings of an Amphibious Goat. There is much here that is very, very orthodox, and at the same time, very, very feminist. And yes, before you ask, it is possible. Read the pieces on the site and find out how! There are a great many varieties of feminism, some of them totally incompatible with Catholic belief, and some very much in tune with the Holy See.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 09:05 AM | Comments (0)

An Upbeat Selection from Another

An Upbeat Selection from Another Voice Rarely Heard

The following is from a poem by Aemelia Lanyard, a courtier of Elizabeth I (and therefore in my mind suspect immediately). Nevertheless, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum has some interesting bits (when you get away or can screen out the endless passages flattering other courtiers--you know, give me "The Pillow Book" any time--no flattery there at all). Here's a very lovely, hopeful passage from early on:

from Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum Aemelia Lanyard Tis He that doth behold thy inward cares, And will regard the sorrowes of thy Soule; Tis He that guides thy feet from Sathans snares, And in his Wisedome, doth thy waies controule: He through afflictions, still thy Minde prepares, And all thy glorious Trialls will enroule: That when darke daies of terror shall appeare, Thou as the Sunne shalt shine; or much more cleare.

The Heav'ns shall perish as a garment olde,
Or as a vesture by the maker chang'd,
And shall depart, as when a skrowle is rolde;
Yet thou from him shalt never be estrang'd,
When He shall come in glory, that was solde
For all our sinnes; we happily are chang'd,
Who for our faults put on his righteousnesse,
Although full oft his Lawes we doe transgresse.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:40 AM | Comments (0)

Still Searching

My search continued, and in so doing, I stumbled across the first chapter of a book on the Psalms by Rowland E. Protheroe. This passage spoke to me:

from The Psalms in Human Life, Chapter 1 Rowland E. Protheroe Above the couch of David, according to Rabbinical tradition, there hung a harp. The midnight breeze, as it rippled over the strings, made such music that the poet-king was constrained to rise from his bed, and, till the dawn flushed the eastern skies, he wedded words to the strains. The poetry of that tradition is condensed in the saying that the Book of Psalms contains the whole music of the heart of man, swept by the hand of his Maker. In it are gathered the lyrical burst of his tenderness, the moan of his penitence, the pathos of his sorrow, the triumph of his victory, the despair of his defeat, the firmness of his confidence, the rapture of his assured hope. In it is presented the anatomy of all parts of the human soul ; in it, as Heine says are collected `sunrise and sunset, birth and death promise and fulfilment-the whole drama of humanity'.
Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:31 AM | Comments (0)

A Wonderful Resource for Psalms

A Wonderful Resource for Psalms
While searching for the Sidney-Pembroke Psalter, I stumbled upon this wonderful resource for the psalms. Each psalm is available in a variety of translations including "The Bay Psalm Book," "Scottish," "Brady and Tate", "Sternhold and Hopkins," "Watts," and as they are available "Psalms for Singing" ( with a midi file of the suggested tune) and other authors such as "Milton." If you are interested in the Psalms and how they can be set for group reading/performance, you may want to look at this resource.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:26 AM | Comments (0)

Take Up Thy Cross Yesterday

Take Up Thy Cross

Yesterday at the Vigil Mass, Father John spoke on the necessity of enduring and of taking up our crosses. He used a phrase that reminded me of a great little treatise written by William Penn during a time of great persecution--"No Cross, No Crown." That is, without assuming our crosses, there is no crown of victory.

But the homily inspired two related thoughts about assuming our crosses. First, and most importantly, we are individually called to assume our unique crosses. Too often we feel the need to share our cross with those willing and equally with those unwilling. That is, we may assume our cross, but we spend too much time complaining, griping, moaning, lashing out at the innocents around us. Our Cross gives us "a right to be angry" or "a right to be a burden ourselves." By taking up our Cross we should not become a Cross to others. How often do our children, our spouses, and those around us suffer because we have assumed the burden of our Cross?

The second point is that you do not have a choice of Crosses. Just as Jesus didn't shape His end, but carried his cross to Calvary, so too, we have no choice about the shape of the device we carry. It could be illness, it could be financial burdens, it could be familial difficulties, it could be any number of things. The point is, you do not have a choice--your cross is your cross--you may either embrace it and walk with Jesus, or reject it and go your own way. Even in "rejecting" it, you still bear the burden, you simply choose to bear that burden completely alone, without the aid of a savior who has walked this way before. He knows every stone in the path. He knows ever dip in the road. He knows the way of all crosses and the weight of their burden. In many cases, were we to decide to try to carry the burden alone it would crush us. Jesus becomes our guide on the way, our Simon of Cyrene, taking up our burdens when they threaten to overburden us and destroy us.

Our crosses are unique and real. They are the emblem we wear that allow us an identity with Christ in His suffering. Rejecting the Cross is not a real option anyway. Thus, it seems logical to embrace the cross we are given and thank God that, unlike Him who first bore the Cross, we are not completely alone in bearing our burden; we have a Savior who knows the weight and the agony of that road. We have a Savior who has trodden the path, and we have around us the company of Saints, all of whom have borne their own Crosses, and whose only desire is that all should come to God. They help us, living and dead, through the power of their prayers and through their palpable fellowship. They are their with us in great crowds, loving us to Glory, praying us to salvation in Christ Jesus.

Thanks be to God for this great company of assistance, our brothers and sisters who pray for us and support us here on Earth, and those who have gone before us and who support us as we continue this Earthly journey. And she who bore the greatest Cross but one is our mainstay and chief support. She knows grief and sorrow; she knows what it is to lose a child in an ignominious way. It is a certainty that if we turn to her, she will assure that no other child is lost to her in such a way. All will come to God through her Son, and that rejoices her heart as much as the first cross sorrowed her. In our necessity, when the burden becomes too great, when we feel at an extremity, we need merely turn to our Mother and ask her for her intercession for us. Her prayers will be as effective as her entreaty at Cana. She is a sure resource and a constant attendant upon us. Thank God for His wisdom in providing us with such a Mother.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:16 AM | Comments (0)