September 21, 2002

The Newest in Services I

The Newest in Services

I want to sign up for THIS service. Where can I join? How do I get the Icon? Thank you kindly, Mr. Miller.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 05:48 PM | Comments (0)

Bible Translation Redux Kairos

Bible Translation Redux

Kairos makes some further points about the KJV in comment below. Here is an abbreviated response.

Anything can cause error and rift--similarly, anything can lead to truth if the person is seeking. I find no problem with KJV.

As to doctrinal errors--I would simply lean upon the spirit of the time and note that they were dealing with the sacred words and with the sure knowledge that there would literally be "hell to pay" for tampering with them. I sincerely doubt anything was introduced in the words--I suspect that error came in the interpretation thereof.

For further investigation of KJV, I highly recommend Mr.Core's Catholic Page which has a link to the KJV of 1611 (here).

Your point about the Hebrew is well taken. Many still disagree as to the translation of phrases today. Hebrew is a language of many subtleties. As to your most important point. I think you would be better served by reading the philosophy and ideas of the people who produced the TMB as well as appropriate reviews and endorsements and deciding for yourself. (Such can be found here.) I found them persuasive and I find the TMB to be wonderful; however, I have a high tolerance for all things protestant, having come from the stock--so any error potential is effectively limited or neutralized. After all, any error that creeps in is counteracted by Church teaching. Moreover, as I believe I intimated before, I read the Bible to become acquainted with Christ, not to argue doctrine.

Also, Dylan has an interesting exposition and point that may or may not support your original contention, I am uncertain, as I have combed through KJVs for the last 100 years or so and have not found any such passage, even looking at the particular passage sited by Dylan. He didn't indicate whether that translation wound up in the AV of 1611.

One last word. One reason I react as strongly as I do is that people of less integrity than those that visit my site, and certainly less than I have come to know Mr. Kairos as having, sometimes use this whole chain of reasoning in a reverse "Jack Chick" tactic. I am a strong adherent of Ut Unum Sint and tend to look first for those things that can and should unite us. I think the TMB (I can't speak to the NKJV as I find it atrocious in its own right) is an example of the way things can be done right.

I guess on the Bible, I am sort of like those who favor "old Church" architecture and vent so much spleen over the new Cathedral. Modern translations tend to stun the reader into a passivity and apathy from which it is difficult to recover. Beauty of language is important to me. However, not more important that the central truths exposed. If the NAB were all I had, I would read it faithfully and thankfully for the knowledge of our Lord and Savior. Fortunately, that is not the case, and a good many very fine translations are available. While we are stuck with the NAB for liturgy (I pray the Lord lift this burden soon). I would recommend nearly ANYTHING else for personal reading, reflection, and study. My Bible of choice is TMB--but that is not everyone's cup of tea, nor should it be.

Remember, after all, I am the founder and propagator of the Glorious Seventeenth Century Poets Society. What translation would you expect me to favor?

Thanks for giving me the chance to clarify and to make this last point: While I favor the KJV or its derivitives, I would recommend to each person that they do some careful investigation into the available translations. Most libraries have a number of Bibles on their shelves. Check them out and compare them before you decide which one will best serve you in your prayer life. (I would say however that I am highly suspicious of anything with "New" appended to an old translation--New RSV, or New Jerusalem, for example. Inclusivism to the point of lunacy seems to have crept into these translation attempts.)

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

Another Very Old Poem Here's

Another Very Old Poem

Here's another from the archives:

She Encounters Herself Unclothed

Wishing she could pull
the dew up into a
cloak, like the moon
does, she stoops on
the bank to touch
the mirror, and perhaps
disturb the eyes that
watch from above.

c2002 Steven Riddle

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:35 AM | Comments (0)

Slow Blogging to Start This

Slow Blogging to Start

This morning I am leading my Church's reading group. The book of the month is a very gentle, very lovely book by Augusta Trobaugh entitled Resting in the Bosom of the Lamb. After we had read a good many novels that have classically been identified as Catholic Novels, th group decided that they wanted to expand our reading to take in other novels in which religion plays a major part. For our purposes this is a most interesting novel--it is about a group of elderly white women in Georgia who live with an African American woman who has waited on them and served them their entire lives. It is the story of all of these women coming to terms with a secret buried deep in their past. The religion featured is Southern Baptist or a variant thereof, complete with a tent rivival in Georgia summer. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. As I said it is gentle, beautiful, interesting, and provides a nice comparison of how spiritual matters are handled in novels in a tradition outside of Catholicism. Needless to say, there are some pronounced differences between the two in how spiritual matters affect the outcomes and characters.

The group has expressed an interest in reading one nonfiction piece--Donald Currie's Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic. Most of the reading group members are cradle Catholics and so don't have any profound understanding of where a protestant is coming from. This book is helpful in understanding the protestant mindset, and would probably have helped before reading Trobaugh's book.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:18 AM | Comments (0)

September 20, 2002

More on Bible Translations

In the comments below Mr. Kairos says:

But how accurate are TMB and KJ21? The big problem with KJV was not its poetry but its accuracy: have they removed the horns from Moses coming down the mountain?

I have read the KJV for most of my life and have never come across this "inaccuracy." If you are referring to the Statue of Moses by Michaelangelo with the "horns" those, as I understand it, were a result of an imperfection in the marble that did not allow Michaelangelo to complete the halo that they were to represent. He left the horns in place to try to hint at the halo. Please feel free to check my accuracy by looking at this site. Perhaps I have missed this, and if so, I tender my sincere apologies for overlooking it.

I figure a version of the Bible that guided Christians for nearly four centuries (into the 20th century) without serious errors regarding most "mere Christianity" doctrinal points is probably sufficient to guide us in the 21st century. It may not be accurate enough for the most careful philological studies. However, I use this Bible as a devotional tool. A devotional tool is most effective if it is carefully and frequently read. There is almost no other Bible that I WANT to read daily. The supposedly highly accurate NASB is nearly incoherent in its accuracy. From what I'm hearing of the NAB there are some serious questions I have regarding the sudden "inclusiveness" of language. For example, in this entry from 16 September Mass readings, I know of no other translation that includes the first line below:

Brothers and sisters:
In giving this instruction, I do not praise the fact
that your meetings are doing more harm than good.
First of all, I hear that when you meet as a Church
there are divisions among you,
and to a degree I believe it;

Even if this is merely a carry-over from a previous verse to indicate that we are reading a letter addressed to people, I find it implausible that Paul, in his time, would have used such an address.

Compare it with the same passage from King James:

Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that you come together not for the better, but for the worse...

This second passage is clearly a rebuke. The NAB sounds like the beginning of a paean of praise. "I do not praise..." is a phrase that always invites the reader to listen for the "However", which never comes.

Also, I noted in Sunday's Gospel passage:

Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
"Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive?
As many as seven times?"
Jesus answered, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.

The phrase translated here as "seventy-seven times", in nearly every other translation of the Bible I have read has been translated "seven time seventy times." I cannot reproduce for you the Greek characters here (I suppose I could, but I just don't feel like coding it) but it reads "seven times seventy times." Now this certainly can be a result of variant texts, but then, the question of variant texts is always with us.

The question of accuracy has much to do with your purposes--obviously you don't want blatant error, but I prefer the translation of the verse in Isaiah to say, "A virgin shall be with child" as opposed to "A young woman," in the second instance there is certainly nothing notable or remarkable. The King James version did have some inaccuracies, but none, that I am aware of central to faith or to the mystery of Jesus Christ, Word Incarnate. And in many cases the language is far more accurate and precise than the substitutions we have allowed to creep in all but unacknowledged. Often translations substitute "Justice" for "judgment" in reference to God's "judgment." The two are not equivalent.

Moreover, I once had a very devout, very Holy Jesuit recommend that everyone read, for devotional purposes, The Good News Bible. So, my very long answer to Mr. Kairos is--the degree of accuracy necessary depends much upon the purpose to which you are putting the text. As a devotional text, that is most useful which you most often read. If you want the very best for close study purposes, I am told that the RSV serves that purpose well and manages to preserve some of the majestic language and beauty present in the KJV.

I hope the above is not too strident, but I'm always a little disturbed by these charges of inaccuracy. Many biblical scholars will tell you that passages are still hazy, that variant texts make things very difficult to decipher. Finally, I think it does a disservice to the translators of the King James Version who worked their very best with the materials at hand. Perhaps there are inaccuracies, but the beauty of the language and the mysterious workings of the Holy Spirit who accompanies us in prayer and in the understanding of Scripture, along with the firm guidance of the teaching Magisterium of the Holy Catholic Church would keep us from serious error.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 05:47 PM | Comments (0)

An Older Poem from "Monet at Giverny"

from "Monet at Giverny"
Steven Riddle

June 1922
The end
of my stay, my art,
my canvasses, my footbridge,
the waterlilies will be here
when I cannot see them.
Just now they fade from my sight,
dimming against the water.
I think it is sunset.

My house is cold,
a rose in frost with no door.
I am alone,
the evening is more red than sunset,
I stand at the center of a flower
opening dew-laden petals.
It is morning.

c 2002 Steven Riddle

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:06 AM | Comments (1)

Reflection on Psalm 84 From

Reflection on Psalm 84

From an unfinished piece:

Reflection on Psalm 84 Steven Riddle

1. How lovely is thy dwelling place, Lord God of Hosts.

How could we know? What clues are given us by the psalmist that we could begin to recognize the loveliness of God's dwelling place?

Open your eyes! Where do you think God dwells? In some far distant heaven, some place above the clouds and beyond the stars? Well, of course you are right in part.-Certainly He dwells there. But that is only part of the answer, because He also dwells within the blue of the sky and within the heat of the sun on a warm summer day. In fact He dwells within every molecule and every vacuum empty space, in every place you can conceive of and in unimaginable places you cannot know. And, perhaps most mysteriously of all He dwells within every human heart by the power of the Holy Spirit. These hearts are His preferred dwelling places. And certainly to Him there is no more handsome seat, no lovelier abode than the yielding heart that prepares Him even the smallest, most cramped space. Teach me to see the true loveliness of your dwelling places, O Lord.

c 2002 Steven Riddle

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

September 19, 2002

Bible Translations From Dylan, who

Bible Translations

From Dylan, who has an ear for language:

I've discovered that the 21st Century King James Bible (KJ21) and the Third Millennium Bible (TMB) are, in fact, the same translation with this solitary difference : TMB has Apocrypha; KJ21 doesn't. Both are quite good.

I may continue using the RSV for Biblical quotations, and 1928 BCP for the Psalms, unless otherwise noted. But I'm thinking of switching to a KJ21/TMB reference.

What I would like to know is--who approves the leaden translation we are forced to use in our liturgies? Accuracy (to which I cannot speak) aside, it has to be the most pedestrian, dull, and flat translation in recent years. The revision seems only to exacerbate the difficulties of the original. It is a truly "impossible to memorize" translation as the language lacks memorable imagery and rhythm. I think of the passage in yesterday's(?) mass. In the marvelous King James version it reads "Now we see as in a glass darkly." The approved translation comes out "At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror." Not only is it dramatically unmemorable, it makes no sense. There are very few people in the present day who have mirrors that do not reflect clearly. This statement simply has no meaning to a civilization that largely tends to forget its history and its relics. How is seeing in a mirror indistinct? Sometimes it is sharper than the unaided eye. But the language "in a glass darkly" sets the whole image in the right context--when mirrors were not silvered but mica-backed and very imperfect based upon the mica itself. When we redo the liturgy, would someone in power please ask the good Bishops to consider a translation with some body, depth, rhythm, and resonance? I'm not saying that we should revert to the King James, but surely we can come to a compromise that preserves some of the beauty of Biblical English and provides clarity of understanding.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:58 PM | Comments (0)

Love and Reason T. S.

Love and Reason

T. S. O'rama makes the following comment on his blog:

That would seem to be the way it should be, the way we were designed. Faith and reason side-by-side in glorious company. On the other hand, if one must choose, choose the heart! For Aquinas' vision stands as a warning to us all: all his writings were as straw compared to Love.

This is a very interesting point. I believe that they do ALWAYS exist side by side, but usually terribly out of balance. For that reason some of us need to focus our energies in different ways. As Maureen notes in the comment box below, it probably wouldn't hurt for those who are very "love-oriented" to have a better grasp of the intellectual aspects of faith. I hear all manner of anti-intellectualism in the church--from a gross misunderstanding of what the historical-critical method is and can accomplish, to completely off-the-wall interpretations of Vatican II documents that cannot be read by any person in full possessiion of their faculties to mean what some have made them out to mean. Yes, love and reason do exist side by side, but not as fully integrated most times as they were in those great Saints Thomas Aquinas and Augustine. And with modernism and post-modernism deconstructing people all over the place. . .

Posted by Steven Riddle at 06:25 PM | Comments (0)

The Welborn Protocol Discussion continues

The Welborn Protocol Discussion continues

With clarifications by Dylan that better approximate my original intent (that is, if one is not using the correspondent's words but expressing an anonymous general intent), an amusing entry by T.S. O'Rama that makes sly jabs at other church goings-on, comments below by Mr. Kairos (with whom I respectfully maintain my disagreement), and Karen Marie Knapp, and a blog by Mr. Core (again with whom I respectfully disagree, but with some qualifications--multiple e-mails and absence of comment boxes do add extenuating conditions). Overall it has been fascinating to examine reactions. I hope you all enjoy as well.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 05:18 PM | Comments (0)

Temporary Removal Removed So that

Temporary Removal Removed

So that you are all not burdened by extremely slow page-loading, I have temporarily removed Haloscan (commenting) code. If this promises to be a feature every day, it will be removed permanently. If you have comments, please e-mail me. Please let me know if I may share your comments in future entries. Thank you.

Later (11:45) Commenting back on. Haloscan's explanation seems quite reasonable and feasible--the vagaries of the net and those who actually control it. . .

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:48 AM | Comments (0)

The Dangers of Attachment to

The Dangers of Attachment to Very Good Things

The preceding discussion of tide pools was meant to launch this little column because I intend to present one of the harder aspects of St. John of the Cross's teachings. One thing John points out is that there are very real, substantive, spiritual goods to which people become attached and which, as a result, hinder such people from growing closer to God. I thought I'd share a real example from my own life that chronicles an on-going struggle, as well as a partially resolved struggle.

At one time I was approached by a local apologetics group to consider joining them in their mission. This was appealing in a number of ways. First, it was flattering that someone would seek my membership in anything (vanity). Second, I like to argue. No, let's not say argue, as many take that the wrong way, I like to reason, to bump up ideas against one another and see what happens. That said, I also like to swap sides in any debate or discussion at a moment's notice and argue the other side (hardly helpful in apologetics). Third, I thought that it would provide me with, as Saint Paul enjoins, the ability, "to give reasons for the joy you know." (probably misquoting, but you know what I'm talking about.)

What I did not take into account is the very real dangers of preparing for apologetics. Everyone should be ready to defend the Gospel and the Church, but not everyone should necessarily defend it in the forum of apologetics. Within the group that invited me, I saw a number of twisted, bitter, inflexible, angry people who saw in every action and every word the deliberate deconstruction of the Church they loved. Holding hands during the Our Father was second only to the Modernist Heresy in the evils of the modern Church. (Frankly, while it may be an issue--I find dissenting Priests and Bishops, Nuns for Choice, and other difficulties far more pressing and far more in urgent need of rectification than holding hands.) In addition, the question of apologetics appealed very strongly to my intellect. While that might seem a good thing, I came to realize that, for me, it was, in fact, a very bad thing.

Let me digress for a moment here to talk about my decision to become a Carmelite. I had a very good friend who was a Benedictine Oblate. When I told her about this desire she said to me, "Carmelites are all heart and no head, you need to join something like the Dominicans or the Benedictines." At the time, I did not recognize the error of the statement, and accepted it at face value. God, in fact, used it to confirm my vocation, because when she said that, my immediate response was, "God is entirely in my head, I need for Him to trickle down to my Heart and change it." The Carmelites, if they were all heart, was precisely where I belonged. So as not to needlessly lengthen this digression, which has as its point that last sentence, I will perhaps talk about the error implicit in the statement at another time.

Apologetics had the same appeal. I tend to be very much in my head all the time. Apologetics feeds the head of certain types of individuals. That is why I believe the act of apologetics is a very real vocation, as much as is a Carmelite vocation. To properly do apologetics, there must be a very strong, established pathway between head and heart. One must be much as Aquinas, living in the head automatically and expansively feeds the heart that loves God. Not so for me. Feeding the head served to make me more distant from God. The more I know about God the less I tend to practice any practical love for Him, assuming that the practice consists in knowing of Him. It is ironic. But I am not Augustine or Aquinas, and my model for faith really needs to be a Therese or a Bernadette. Therese was highly intelligent and capable, but her faith and approach to God was very simple and deliberate. Bernadette was not gifted intellectually, but her faith was a brilliant, shining jewel of child-like simplicity. Those had to be my models. Thus, for me, apologetics was a dangerous path and a dangerous attachment. Now, I sit and marvel at the wonderful spun-glass texture of the arguments and intricacies of apologetics, but I sit amazed as a spectator at the construction, not as a participant.

However, I haven't entirely escaped the danger. One thing I truly love are commentary and "apologetics" Bibles. The new Ignatius version of the Gospels that are coming out, the IVP Commentary on Scripture, the Navarre, etc. What happens to me when I read such a Bible is that I grow exceedingly distant from God. I move from knowing Him to knowing about Him. I suddenly know all sorts of facts about words and about how Ancient Hebrews viewed certain things, and about what the Church Fathers thought about certain passages of Scripture. What I don't know is what God wants ME to see in scripture. My indulgence in these very good things, my attachment to these readings, prevents me from entering into real prayer. Scripture no longer is a vehicle for entering into prayer, it is an elaborate complex of semantic games, archaeological discussions, historical-critical methods, and any number of other pieces of scholarly folderol that serve only to keep me from the core of what I should be doing. That said, I have to say that there are many of substantially different personality who may be able to integrate these things seamlessly into a glorious and beautiful faith-life. Not so for me, because I view the whole as a sort of game and a kind of intellectual play. This very good thing, and my attachment to it, keeps me from God.

Now, I recognize this problem, and so, I must wean myself from my reliance on these things and get back to the word. Yes, having been through this will help to contextualize the word, and perhaps make Lectio more fruitful, but it has also served as a check on knowing and loving God as I should.

I present this story simply to give everyone cause for reflection and realization, and also to make more concrete what St. John of the Cross means when he talks about the ability of very good spiritual practices to hamper our access to God. We can let the lesser good obscure our view of the greater. In fact, almost all of us do. It is very important to see what practices, books, thoughts, deeds, objects, people, or events serve to distract us most from serving God.

At the present time, blogging has served to deepen my faith life. I find that to explain what I believe I must analyze it carefully and subject it to the greater light of prayer. I need to understand my vocation to tell others about it. But when blogging becomes a blockade to union with God, when it no longer helps me strengthen my faith or deepen my love of God, it will have to go. Blogging often serves as a time of deep thought and deep prayer, and writing to you, whoever my readers may be, allows God to speak to me, as He has done in this very blog.

My prayer is that all of this writing may help each person who reads it to come to a deeper love and understanding of God and a closer walk with Jesus Christ. I hope that it serves as an "apologetics" of life and helps everyone to clarify their individual callings and aspirations. Further, may it serve also as an aid to an examen that will allow each person conducting it a closer more intimate relationship with God. I know those are high aspirations, but those same aspirations serve to guide what is shared here from day to day. May you who read this benefit as greatly as the writer. But most of all, may God be praised and brought forward in every mind, may He be present in every heart, may He be heard on every tongue, and may every life glorify Him, Father, Son , and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:13 AM | Comments (0)

Being a Tidepool There are

Being a Tidepool

There are distinct advantages to being a tidepool on the Ocean of Blogdom. A tidepool is a relatively serene little community of critters that lives out the time between complete submergence in relative harmony. Here, I can say just about anything I care to without raising much of a ruckus or ripple. I like that--a lot. I like conversation that does not need to scream to be heard. I like civil disagreement and I like being able to talk about things that, when presented elsewhere would raise the banner of war. In short, there are certain advantages to being ignored by people who aren't interested in the main theme of this blog. I like being a tidepool, and I hope you all like the gentle aspects of visiting such a community. I sincerely hope that it is one of a number of places of rest, repose, and challenge of a different sort--challenge on a deep spiritual level. Because that's what I'd like to present to all, encouragement and challenge.

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

Thank You First, my sincere

Thank You

First, my sincere thanks for all who prayed for Linda and I yesterday. The projected trial was a good deal less arduous and difficult than imagined, and everything is looking good. We'd appreciate prayers for the next couple of weeks as things really get moving, but thank you. Also, please continue to pray for JB, we still don't know anything, but I'll be certain to inform you when we do. Thanks.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:34 AM | Comments (0)

September 18, 2002

This Just In from

This Just In from Andrew Sullivan

From Andrew Sullivan (whom I never read as it taxes my charitable impulse to its limits) via Dylan: The next pope is likely to be Catholic!

He states that the next pope is likely to make the present pontiff seem like a liberal (I rather doubt it, but I don't think that would be entirely bad). He is a Catholic that revels in "post-Vatican II Catholicism." When statements like these are made in certain circles you can substitute the whole phrase for "moderate-to-liberal Episcopalianism." I consider myself a fully post Vatican II Catholic--after all, I didn't even enter the Church until after all the reforms were firmly in place. But the Vatican II that I hear some invoke, and that for which I have read the council papers are mere shadows of one another. I prefer the one documented on paper. In general, I must agree with Dylan's comments subsequent to the excerpt. No more John Shelby Spongs please--I prefer Christianity.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:34 AM | Comments (0)

More Wisdom from St. John

More Wisdom from St. John of the Cross

This short excerpt from his letters provides us with a glimpse into heaven.

Letter 3
St. John of the Cross

[To Madre Ana de San Alberto, prioress of Caravaca7

Granada, 1582]

...since you say nothing to me, I tell you not to be foolish and not to walk with fears that intimidate your soul. Return to God what he has given you and gives you each day. It seems you want to measure God by the measure of your own capacity, but it will not be so. Prepare yourself, for God desires to grant you a great favor.

There are two things I love about this letter--it's straightforward simplicity and its firm direction. "Return to God what he has given you and gives you each day." That is, don't store it up and plan to return it at some other time. Don't hoard the treasures God showers on you. Every day as you receive, give out. As you are blessed, bless those around you. As God graces you, let the graces flow through you and out to grace the entire world. In a small sense, I suppose, we are all distributors of God's grace, we all act in miniature as the Blessed Mother. People who are ignorant of Christ can be blessed and "graced" by us. The starving, the thirsty, the poor, the downtrodden, even the merely sad or grieving can be lifted up by the spirit of Christ within us and graced by the same Holy Spirit--if we choose to allow it. Mother Teresa was a prime example of someone whose very presence lifted up God's people, because she gave back to Him, in the persons of all those around her, all that she received in a day.

The second wonderful moment in this brief letter is, "It seems you want to measure God by the measure of your own capacity," this is powerful beyond words, and true for every one of us. We, most unconsciously, put limits on what God can accomplish. We are not big enough, so God cannot do what is needed. We are so inelastic, so inflexible, so rigidly set, that we restrict the channels of grace through which God may work. If you recall Jesus could do no miracles in His own home town, "A prophet is without honor in his own country." This is not because He could not work miracles, but the stubborn unbelief and inflexibility of the inhabitants restricted God's action. He will not force us to accept any of His gifts. He may plead, cajole, and offer, but He will not force. So, if we measure God by the narrow margins of our own human hearts, we are casting out the wonderful possibilities inherent in His grace, because God came not to fit into the narrow boundaries of the heart, but to expand our hearts into His own. For that we need to accept the radical necessity for a fundamental change in our outlooks.

And we are told, "Prepare yourself for God desires to grant you a great favor." What greater favor could there be than to replace our stony hearts with hearts of flesh (to quote Ezekiel, I think)? What greater favor than to take away our human limitations to love and replace them with His own love? In so doing, He removes our self-involvement, our self-centeredness, our fear. We must cooperate in this work, we must prepare ourselves. We do so through the sacraments, through prayer, and through actions in the world that let God speak to others. We do so in putting ourselves aside and "putting on Christ." We do so whenever we break out of ourselves enough to breathe the air of heaven and when we use that to change the world in which we live, be it ever so slightly. When we smile at someone who has grown accustomed to our scowl, when we wave at someone to thank them as we drive our cars, when we share a cup of coffee, or listen to someone who desperately needs an ear. All of these things, small though they seem, prepare the way of the Lord.

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

Prayer Request Hi all! There

Prayer Request

Hi all! There are two needs for which I would like to request prayers. A very dear friend's daughter (daughter's name is JB) has as yet undiagnosed lumps in her breast, please pray for her health and the peace of mind of her family. My wife and I have an arduous trial to face today and could do with as many prayers as we could get. Thank you.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:37 AM | Comments (0)

September 17, 2002

William Blake In some things

William Blake

In some things we must admit that Blake was a good deal ahead of his time. His strange mysticism has always given me pause, but the occasionally transcendent verse has always thrilled me. Thus with this wonderful little piece.

The Divine Image William Blake To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love All pray in their distress; And to these virtues of delight Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is God, our father dear,
And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is Man, his child and care.

For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.

Then every man, of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine,
Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.

And all must love the human form,
In heathen, Turk, or Jew;
Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.

Too bad even some Christians cannot remember this. Gandhi was once, perhaps apocryphally, quoted as saying, "Christianity is a fine religion, too bad so few practice it." Are we vehicles of God's Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love? If someone were in serious trouble could they come to us without hesitation? Or, do we sit in judgment on everything that comes to us? Are we inviting and welcoming people, or are we people who alienate those who would rely upon us? Too often, without even knowing it, people can see themselves condemned in our eyes. They see themselves as guilty and us as the jury that found the guilt. I know that chief on my list of "things to do" is let God look out through my eyes, so that what people see when they see me is the welcome that Jesus gave tax collectors and others who did not live up to society's expectations. Always my prayer is , "May God use me today to bring someone the love of Jesus."

Posted by Steven Riddle at 06:44 PM | Comments (0)

Visit the William F. Buckley

Visit the William F. Buckley Blogsite!

Courtesy of T. S. O'Rama, this very amusing bit of reportage is worth your time, as is the wonderful quotation from Muggeridge immediately (?) below. Enjoy!

Posted by Steven Riddle at 06:23 PM | Comments (0)

The "Welborn Protocol" I am

The "Welborn Protocol"

I am filled with tremendous trepidation as I write. I have no wish to stir up controversy, nor should this writing be taken as an indictment of any individual, most especially not the individual whose name is appended to the protocol, but I have long been disturbed by a growing trend that is exemplified in this.

Courtesy and etiquette has fallen victim to convenience everywhere around us. We have young salespeople who are suddenly our best friends, calling us by our first names. In some restaurants we have servers who sit down at the table to take your order, essentially inviting themselves into a family gathering or intimate dinner. The "Welborn Protocol" is the blog exemplification. Throughout history, letters, and notes have been considered private, privileged communication--not to be shared willy-nilly, and certainly not to be quoted, extracted, or otherwise used by the recipient for any purpose without the express prior, usually WRITTEN consent of the individual. Mail is a private means of communication. On most sites that announce that they adhere to the "Welborn Protocol" there is a very obvious ability to leave comments--thus, if a person communicating wished to do so, he or she could leave a public communication for everyone to see. The privacy of an e-mail should be assumed as the privacy of any communication between two people not intended for a larger audience. The posting of a notice to the effect that you can be quoted if you do not specify otherwise is hardly a compensation.

What is happening is that traditionally accepted protocols, courtesy, and etiquette is abandoned in favor of the convenience of an author or poster. I have almost never written e-mail to a site that posts the "Welborn Protocol" because I am put in the awkward position of having to say that I think that what I have chosen to communicate privately is indeed private. This hardly seems to be a way to make someone feel at home. Once, in extreme duress, to express solidarity with someone I was moved to write such a letter and was galled at having to say that private things should remain private.

I suppose if commenting services were not so widely available, I might see more wisdom in this. But I still think the better, more traditionally acceptable, and more courteous road would be to ask people to state in their note whether what they write can be shared, rather than assuming that it is so. This seems a presumption that dominates society.

I suppose that as Christians we should hold to a standard higher than personal convenience. If something occurs in a private communication that might make for an interesting blog, why not write that individual requesting permission to share their ideas?

Yes, I know that some sites receive enormous traffic and that this might lead to a lot of work. In such a case perhaps the better part of valor is to resolve that materials arrive in e-mail will not be used under any circumstances. I doubt that the blogsite would lose many of its blogs, and the example of care, courtesy, and true Christian charity and respect for the individual would shine out.

Once again, I repeat, I do not impute any motives to those who adhere to the protocol. At this point it is rather an "Everyone is doing it " phenomenon. But rather than "everyone doing it" shouldn't we be carefully thinking through the ramifications of doing so, and shouldn't we choose not to do so if the message sent is that we respect our own time and convenience more than the persons who visit our site?

One explanation for my reactions, I suppose, is that I was raised with a EXTREMELY southern sense of courtesy and hospitality. The rules were strict, inflexible, and in place for a very good reason. For example, in the south, one rarely launches immediately into business (particularly in a small town) without inquiring about the health and happiness of various kin, etc. Yes--I know the modern age is push, push, push, hurry, hurry, hurry. But isn't that precisely one of the things we should be combating.

To all who drop by who presently use the protocol, I respectfully ask that you carefully consider it in the light of traditional values and what it is really accomplishing for you. I don't ask that you change it, that would be intrusive, but I do beg that you consider what implications it has, and what it says about the value we place on people. If you do not have a huge heavy-volume website, perhaps the protocol is entirely unnecessary.

I expect a great deal of criticism and I sincerely apologize right now if my arguments above have offended anyone. They are not intended to do so, and, frankly, I am horrified at the thought. I present them simply to provide an alternative perspective on an issue that I believe has gone largely unexamined. Every person who visits here is precious in the eyes of God and to me. I pray for the people who read the entries here every day (largely that I haven't said anything stupid or erroneous that would lead them astray, but for their own intentions and needs as well). I want to do the very best I can to respect each person and respect that person's right to speak to me, either in public or in private, and to allow that communication to remain public or private material.

Now it is said, I have done my part and my conscience is satisfied. End diatribe.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 04:55 PM | Comments (0)

Contemplation in the 19th

Contemplation in the 19th Century

Behold, this extract, which was long in coming, but hard won from a poet that I have mixed feelings about. He has some of the most undeniably beautiful lyrics in the language and some of the most dreadfully maudlin doggerel to every have made its way onto a page. But then Wordsworth was a prodigiously prolific poet--few poets, have an Oeuvre nearly so great--Blake and Browning come to mind in sheer volume of words (cummings if you are merely counting pages).

From "Tintern Abbey" William Wordsworth

These beauteous forms,
Through a long absence, have not been to me
As is a landscape to a blind man's eye:
But oft, in lonely rooms, and 'mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them,
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
And passing even into my purer mind
With tranquil restoration:--feelings too
Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,
As have no slight or trivial influence
On that best portion of a good man's life,
His little, nameless, unremembered, acts
Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust,
To them I may have owed another gift,
Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world,
Is lightened:--that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on,--
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul:
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.

Although no real mention is made of it here, this seems to be a perfect picture of what the prayer of recollection and contemplation are all about. One gets away from the cares of the world--not necessarily to a place remote, as the description here, but to a space of silence that has been carefully cultivated over years of practice and prayer. In so doing, one moves to spend time with the ground of our being, "Almost suspended, we are laid asleep/in body" is a line almost out of St. John of the Cross. Now Wordsworth is rather like Blake, an ambiguous Christian at best, combining with Christianity the seeds of that which would become transcendentalism--a kind of pantheism. But there is no question, that a line like "while with an eye made quiet by the power/ Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,/We see into the life of things," is highly suggestive of a very well formed life of prayer and contemplation. Because this is precisely what can happen in the course of contemplation. What is described is one of the "consolations" of prayer that are not to be sought after for themselves. But in the course of seeking after Jesus in prayer, we find ourselves, from time to time in possession of such a state--and that is a grace from God to be treasured. So, in reading Wordsworth, we have a momentary taste of this (or as Omar Khayyam would have it--"A momentary taste of being from the well amid the waste. . .") and perhaps are given reason to continue on what may be an arduous journey. However we take it, "Tintern Abbey," provides us with some beautiful pictures of what it is to be able to stop for a moment and truly appreciate all that we have been given in this magnificent creation and wondrous life.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:27 AM | Comments (0)

Opening the Treasure of Scripture

Opening the Treasure of Scripture (Part I of ?)

I truly loved this bit of commentary from a relatively recent Carmelite Father.

from Nourished by the Word Wilfrid Stinissen

God is the Word. Therefore, the Word resounds in everything he created. But the Word was concentrated when it was spoken to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all of Israel. The Word was concentrated more and more, and received even greater density until it finally became flesh in Jesus Christ. This Word thus has a name; it is a person. There is now no longer any place in the Scriptures where one does not meet Jesus Christ. . . .

Just as we in our life ought constantly to remind ourselves about our origins, that we here and now exist through God's creating Word, so we should also in our Bible-reading let ourselves be taken back by the Spirit to the origin of the Word, to the place where the Word was expressed before it was written down. And the place is the Father who sends the Word, his Son, to be the light and life of all people. When I read the Bible--both the Old and the New Testament--I hear the Father speaking to me, and what he speaks is the Word, Jesus Christ.

(p. 26)

Jesus Christ, word Incarnate, is present in the entire body of the Scriptures. He is more easily perceived where He is more directly talked about, but as Christians we acknowledge his presence throughout the entirety of the Old and New Testaments. God does not speak in vain, but any speech that is not the Word is wasted words. All conversation that does not have as its aim and end the glorification of Jesus Christ, is not speech at all, but as Romano Guardini would have it, mere talk. Now, talk is not necessarily harmful, it helps to create bridges between people and to establish ground for a relationship. But talk is mere words and can lead equally to sin and terrible tragedy. There is no way that the Word can do so. Nor can any thought, conversation, meditation, or action that has as its focus the Word Incarnate.

When we sit down with the Bible, we are inviting God to visit us. If what we read on the page is simply a string of words that tell one of many already familiar story, we waste our time. If what we read on the page is God's gift to us, an inspired love letter that reaches through the ages, and despite what story may be told, touches us and says gently--"You are my beloved child," then we are approaching scripture in something like the manner it deserves.

Reading scripture has multiple purposes. One of these is to become familiar with Jesus Christ, whom we purport to serve and love. I believe Saint Jerome has been quoted as saying, "Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ." I cannot begin to imagine the quality of my life were I completely ignorant of Jesus Christ. Equally, I cannot begin to imagine the quality of my life if I were intimately familiar with Jesus Christ. Careful, prayerful reading of the scripture is one of the ways in which we become familiar with Jesus. It is not sufficient to listen to the Mass readings. Certainly we should do so, attentively. But we are called to make those readings ours--to internalize them and what they say. Moreover, we are called to make the Person of those Readings our constant abiding companion. We do so more readily when we have at our grasp some definitive knowledge of scripture. I was raised on the magnificent and beautiful King James Version of the Bible. The cadences and echoes of that version seem to me to allow for a better memorization. "Ack!" you say, "memorization? Yuck. Why?" The answer is simply the same reason one has pictures of one's loved ones, or icons. Scripture, is in fact, the only true picture of Jesus we have. If we love an icon for its beauty and that icon puts us in mind of Jesus Christ, that is fine. But if the Jesus it puts us in mind of bears no resemblance to the Man of scriptures, how has the icon helped us? Memorization of scripture, is like carrying a picture of Jesus with you. You tend to memorize those things that speak to you boldly. Sometimes the words of Jesus, "Consider the lilies of the field, they toil not, neither do they spin, yet Solomon is all of his glory was never arrayed as one of these." Sometimes they are the verbal images given us by Paul, "In my weakness is His strength." "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Whatever we remember, it is a moment away from the grind of work. To think the words of Scripture, is one way to offer back to God the most beautiful and enduring sign of His love for us--the Word.

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

September 16, 2002

Love in Carmelite Writings Mr.

Love in Carmelite Writings

Mr. González (my deepest thanks to him for introducing this point), in the comment box below, posts the following excerpt from St. John of the Cross letter 13:

from Letter 13 St. John of the Cross

"For if in any way the will can comprehend God and be united with him, it is through love and not through any gratification of the appetite. And since the delight, sweetness, and satisfaction that can come to the will is not love, none of the delightful feelings can be an adequate means for union of the will with God; it is the operation of the will that is the proportionate means for this union. The will's operation is quite distinct from the will's feeling: By its operation, which is love, the will is united with God and terminates in him, and not by the feeling and gratification of its appetite that remains in the soul and goes no further. The feelings only serve as stimulants to love, if the will desires to pass beyond them; and they serve for no more. Thus the delightful feelings do not of themselves lead the soul to God, but rather cause it to become attached to delightful feelings. But the operation of the will, which is the love of God, concentrates the affection, joy, plea sure, satisfaction, and love of the soul only on God, leaving aside all things and loving him above them all.

In isolation, this is a singularly difficult passage. It compresses into a very small space much of the teaching of St. John of the Cross about prayer, consolation, and love. But there is an interesting addendum that must be considered. St. John of the Cross insists (rightfully so) on love as an action of will, not merely a feeling. Such an act may be accompanied by a feeling, but the feeling is not the fullness of love, nor in any true sense love at all (John above, refers to it as "stimulants to love.) Skip ahead three centuries to St. Thérèse. There we find that love is indeed an act of will that must be manifested in exterior actions. That is, St. Thérèse, in a sense, provides what I term "The Letter of James" corrective to the notion of love. If love remains only an action of will and is not manifested in how we treat those about us, it, like faith, is dead. Not all actions of love will have these exterior actions immediately, but every motion of love in the will is transformative and will lead to actions toward the beloved, in the person of those people who surround us. This is implied in John's letters, spelled out in some of the other writings, but made magnificently clear in the writings of St. Thérèse. This is, in part, why "The Little Flower," despite a relatively limited body of work was made a Doctor of the Church. Her vocation, "To become love at the heart of the Church," demands that love be taught clearly, resoundingly, and without compromise. The action of love can be as small as a gentle smile, or simply sitting still when what you really want to do is smack the person who is running on endlessly. (Kind of like this post--please, keep all soft vegetation for the soliloquy later.)

Posted by Steven Riddle at 04:50 PM | Comments (0)

Blessed Yom Kippur And following

Blessed Yom Kippur

And following a beautiful tradition, long ago established even on internet sites, I hereby tender my sincere apologies and promises of all due penance to anyone I have harmed through my writing, directly or indirectly; to any I may have offended or alienated; to any to whom I have not given proper due to their thoughts, opinions, or sharing; to anyone who may have felt demeaned; and even to those who wasted time because a search engine inadvertantly sent them to my site (the mildest of penances--my mea culpa here is very small). May peace reign in your house, where you work, in our communities, in our country and throughout the whole world. May we leave this day ready to start anew, refreshed, forgiven, and washed clean. May God grant all a sense of repentance and may we join with our Jewish brothers and sisters in their great Holy Day. Shalom to all.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 10:46 AM | Comments (0)

Return to Poetry--God's Storm

Return to Poetry

I know I said I would cease, but Dylan's wonderful post this weekend caused me to reconsider (read: inspired me to continue). The following poem needs work--as does everything placed here so far, but I hope that you will enjoy it.

God's Storm
Steven Riddle

God storms in me--
the brightest sun
and sky deepest
cotton puff pure
white clouds and breeze
that breathes the scent
of fresh-mown grass;
noises of children
in yards as deep
as the sea and
taste of cool tea
on a shaded
porch with neighbors
out walking by
this once to raise
a greeting hand
and smile.

In me God rages
waiting in the womb
unborn and kicking
caught in fowlers nets
a macaw calling
a single crystal
bell so clear and loud
calling first to me
and then to all who
will hear, "Come to me
all who bear heavy
burdens and cry out;
Come to me thirsty
for living water
and see what I can
give you. Come to me
and quietly rage--fight
the war of flowers
and of dew. Come you
who know the world so
well, and you who know
yourselves. Rage with me
the rage of healing
and hope, the anger
of joy and repose,
the wrath of turtle
doves and lambs."

God strikes me
concern and
deep caring
I must take
and others
strike to make
them simple,
whole and one.
He tells me
"Feed my sheep."
And I say,
"Love me, Lord."
As at my
command, He

c 2002 Steven Riddle

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:13 AM | Comments (0)

Hallmarks of a Beginner in Prayer

This is from a study of the works of St. John of the Cross available at ICS (see left column).

from The Contemporary Challenge of St. John of the Cross--Chapter 4 Leonard Doohan

The pride of beginners leads to spiritual avarice. Their attachment and possessiveness of heart centers on "hearing counsels," "learning spiritual maxims," and accumulating religious objects. Nowadays, for example, this spiritual avarice can lead beginners to an attendance at innumerable prayer workshops, the needless accumulation of books on prayer, and the constant comfort and consolation of ever longer retreats and workshops.
Spiritual gluttony is also a common failing of beginners. Some manifest spiritual gluttony in seeking only the comfort, consolation, and satisfaction that involvement in the spiritual life can bring. "All their time is spent looking for satisfaction and spiritual consolation" (N, 1, 6, 6).

Two other weaknesses follow from those already mentioned, namely spiritual envy and sloth. Beginners often become dissatisfied with the comfort they experience and are envious at anyone else's spiritual growth. Moreover, emphasis on the consolations that sometimes accompany the early stages of spiritual growth leads beginners to a distaste for the unpleasant sacrifices needed to advance. "Because of their sloth, they subordinate the way of the pleasure and delight of their own will" (N, 1, 7, 3).

The cryptic numberings simply refer you to the correlated sections of Dark Night of the Soul. What I find most interesting here is the pattern I have observed in myself. I used to spend a tremendous amount of time poring over all the new spiritual books and guides and looking for the latest in self-help prayer books. I still spend far more time than may be helpful doing the same. I have longed to attend workshops and retreats on prayer and have attended an extended (32 week) Ignatian Retreat. All of these things convict me. And yet, when I settle down with the Bible or with St. John of the Cross, this impulse seems to fade away. I haven't scoured shelves in months. Now I look at all those things I've accumulated and wonder why I ever thought the book was useful.

One of the more important things indicated in the passage is the "wrong reason" for mysticism. Many people undertake the prayer of St. John and St. Teresa for the consolation involved--the feeling that they are becoming connected to God. While consolations are wonderful gifts that should be accepted and appreciated, both St. John and St. Teresa note that the consolation should be forgotten as soon as it passes--that consolations, be they visions, locutions, levitations, simply good feelings of accomplishment, should be let go as soon as they are apprehended. One should not dwell on these minor things that are to feed the faltering soul. The reason for prayer is far beyond mere consolation, and pausing there causes you to lose the momentum toward your ultimate destination--Love.

Now, I've not had a whole lot of consolations in prayer, but as I've indicated, I am probably not even truly a beginner--I'm standing in the vestibule and timorously approaching the somewhat daunting oak doors that seal me off from true prayer and reflection. But I have had a few, and unfortunately, part of what happens--without willing it, is a feeling of accomplishment as though one had achieved some sort of status in the prayer world. As soon as that creeps in a sort of spiritual pride begins to take form and take over. The only cure--acknowledge the phenomenon and confess it.

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

Bizarre Archive Foolery Looking at

Bizarre Archive Foolery

Looking at my archive this morning I found that I had a huge collection of material prior to the time I actually started my blog. Actually clicking any of these links brought me to a site that was in Arabic and so did not display. Republishing did nothing. This is strange indeed, and I suppose another of those blogspot things that will vanish in the course of the day--but it is disconcerting.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:44 AM | Comments (0)

September 15, 2002

Great Translation Mr. González at

Great Translation

Mr. González at fotos delapocalipsis, carrying on a discussion of not using such things as Babelfish to translate presents this superb example of translation.

"Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit", says the Lord of Hosts (Zacarias, 4, 6) "No cerca pudo ni por energía, pero por mi alcohol" dice a SEÑOR de anfitriones (Google)

Now, I'm certain that I am not seeing everything that is wrong with that translation--but even to my eyes the Spirit referred to is certainly not the spirit that is there in translation. I also wonder about "energia" but as I have said, my spanish is rudimentary at best, and I piece together what senor González tries to tell me. There was a wonderful poem there the other day, that I have some sense of, but I'm going to take to my translation department to see if I can get a better handle at least on a literal level. Anyway, thanks for the chuckle!

Posted by Steven Riddle at 11:40 AM | Comments (0)

Lesson from Nature Please, go

Lesson from Nature

Please, go here quickly and savor the delights of the lessons that Nature teaches. Mr. Bell from Notes from a Hillside Farm has an amusing observation WITH illustration--actually photograph. Entitled "One reason why sheep do not rule the world," you wonder that sheep even survived to be domesticated!

Posted by Steven Riddle at 11:16 AM | Comments (0)

More Advice from St. John

More Advice from St. John of the Cross

In his Sayings of Light and Love John offers what I would call "meditation starters." They are maxims for the proper leading of life--compressed sayings like those of the Desert Fathers. If you listen carefully, you will hear the "still, small voice" that is to guide conscience.

from Sayings of Light and Love St. John of the Cross

141. Speak little and do not meddle in matters about which you are not asked.
142. Strive always to keep God present and to preserve within yourself the purity he teaches you.
143. Do not excuse yourself or refuse to be corrected by all; listen to every reproof with a serene countenance; think that God utters it.

The first saying is a guiding light that is too infrequently followed. If each of us considered our own life and our own concerns with greater care, we would not have time to criticize others. We are too caught up in things of the world. We seek sensation rather than serenity. We feel that we must be informed--and yet, where does information lead us? Usually it deprives us of peace and time with God. We get caught up in words, events, and concerns that are really not ours. We do not need to offer opinions on every event, every nuance, every momentary catastrophe. Once we begin to formulate such opinions, we stir ourselves up. Our "righteous indignation" exceeds all bounds--we enter into a vicious cycle that robs us of our peace.

The second maxim is the core of all mysticism, but I think too, the core of all real Christian practice. Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection refers to this as "the practice of the presence of God." St. Paul tells us to "pray constantly." The only way to peace is to have God clearly in sight regardless of what we are engaged in. God must be the constantly guiding light, but it is a light that comes from within--not a lighthouse, a distant and unreliable source of light, but an internal and eternal source of light. For it to shine forth, we need to clean the windows, to preserve them pure and clear, or the light becomes obscured. That purity is essential to keeping God in mind. I believe it was Kierkegaard who indicated that "Purity of heart is to will one thing." And St. Thomas Aquinas shows us that God is ultimately simple, undivided, of one essence and one will. We must strive to be likewise. Our wills must be given over entirely to God's will--we must will as He wills, or we are not willing one thing--we have created duplicity--a human will separate from God's own desires.

The third maxim must be the hardest. Accept reproof, accept that you are not perfect without seeking the imperfections of those who are criticizing. Let's face it, every one of us fails. We fail in so many ways that if someone catches us out and comments on only one of those failings, we should be delighted that the extent of our imperfection is not known. When someone finds fault with us, we should dance before God in the spirit of liberation. We cannot see the extent of our imperfection--every one that is exposed is one more that we can offer up to the refining fire of our gracious Lord. If we accept the reproof, knowing the truth of what is said, even if it is said in malice, spite, fear, anger, frustration, or any of a myriad of emotions, we have taken a step toward Christlikeness. This, the greatest of Men, did not speak out when struck with reeds, crowned with thorns, and crucified for apparent imperfections. He took upon Himself every imperfection to destroy their power upon the cross, and He did this with dignity, serenity, and Grace. So too, we must take upon ourselves the imperfections, and slay them as we slay our self-centeredness. Offer those things we are accused of to God and in some little measure destroy them for the sake of our brothers and sisters in Christ. In this way, as St. Paul says, "We make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ." I had always wondered about this mysterious phrase--but it seems that we are always called to make Christ present to our brothers and sisters. The only thing that could be "lacking" is immediate temporal presence, because what happened to Jesus happened in Eternity (even though it happened at a definitive time in a definitive space)--a place we have access to only in limited ways. When we accept the abuse and the imprecations of our fellow humans, we are manifesting, once again, some small part of our Savior's glory. He is granting us an opportunity to speak for Him in our actions.

These three maxims are only part of the rich treasury of St. John's sayings. The book is short, the reading light, and I recommend it to all as a help in meditation and in the attempt to live the Christian life more perfectly. Visit the Institute for Carmelite Studies (see left column) choose Archives and select The Sayings of Light and Love. You will be glad that you did.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:28 AM | Comments (0)

A Magnificent Magnificat

A Magnificent Magnificat

I have written before that I thought the villanelle must be among the more difficult poetic forms to get right. The right balance of line with new material is absolutely critical--and the better villanelles, it seems to me, allow for minor variations in the repeated lines. Dylan has offered a truly magnificent villanelle based on the Magnificat. EVERYONE, poetry lover or not, should see this truly wonderful poem. It is of such quality that one feels that momentary "Salieri" feeling in the presence of a Mozart. Thank you, Dylan the poem is superb--and it should have made its debut somewhere like "First Things" or some such other publication, not on a website. You must see about getting this wider circulation.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:41 AM | Comments (0)