Chaucer & St. Valentine’s Day

You must read Rev. Joseph Abrahamson’s post on the origins and history of St. Valentine’s Day.  It’s part of his series that we’ve often linked to on Christian holidays that are mistakenly claimed to have pagan origins.  He shows that St. Valentine’s Day is not based on Roman festivals but on a day commemorating the death of a Christian martyr, though which of many saints with that name is a matter of some confusion.  The question, though, is how this saint’s day became associated with love and romance.

It turns out that the connection comes from one of my favorite authors, Geoffrey Chaucer! [Read more…]

At the still point of the turning world

From Ash Wednesday by T. S. Eliot

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

via Ash Wednesday by T. S. Eliot.

(“The still point of the turning world” is from Eliot’s “Burnt Norton,” the Four Quartets.)

What is Eliot saying about the Word?  about the Word in an age of unbelief?  What does this have to do with Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent?

What to read for Lent?

One of the ways I observe Lent (which starts tomorrow) is to read.  I know, that’s like a fish saying that he is making plans to swim.  I read quite a bit anyway, but for my specifically Lenten reading I look for something that is challenging yet devotional.   What would you suggest?  (I’ll give you some suggestions after the break.  I have an idea for what I intend to take on, but I’d like to hear your recommendations, not just for me but for anyone else who would like some profitable Lenten reading.) [Read more…]

Finding and seeing Richard III

We blogged about how archeologists have discovered what they thought was the skeleton of King Richard III, the monarch who, according to Shakespeare’s play of the same name, murdered his way to the crown until he was killed at the Battle of Bosworth field (“a horse!  My kingdom for a horse!”) by Henry, the Earl of Richmond, who would found the Tudor dynasty.  Well, yesterday DNA evidence confirmed that the skeleton–with its curved spine (Shakespeare described him as a hunchback) and a skull that had been hacked by a sword–is, in fact, that of Richard III, the last of the Plantagenets.  Not only that, facial reconstruction based on the skull showed his face, which is exactly that of a contemporary portrait of Richard.  This has also sparked controversy about whether Shakespeare was a propagandist for the Tudors in making him such an over-the-top but extraordinarily interesting villain.  Some say Richard was a good king after all.  The details of the DNA research, my take on the controversy, and the  pictures are after the jump. [Read more…]

Obama’s Second Inaugural Address

A president’s inauguration address can indicate his vision for his next term, rally the country, and make his play for the history books.  President Obama’s speech had no soaring JFK moments (“Ask not what your country can do for you. . . .”) and even extracting significant lines to discuss was rather difficult.  The speech was unified by a “journey” metaphor and by repeating “we, the people.”  The president brought God into the climate change debate (he referred to God quite a bit, actually, mostly to his advantage), upheld the role of government as a collective entity of the people, made gay rights a part of our civil religion, and alluded to gun control without mentioning it in terms of “the safety of our children.”  What follows after the jump are some excerpts, a link to the whole speech, and a rhetorical analysis of its style.   [Read more…]

Contemporary poet embraces Christianity

One of the most important publication in the contemporary literary world is Poetry Magazine.  Its editor is usually a distinguished poet.  Lately, the editor of that periodical, Christian Wiman, stepped down from that position.  What is, perhaps, less known is that several years ago Wiman embraced Christianity.  He writes about that in a new book that will be released April 2, My Bright Abyss:  Meditation of a Modern Believer.  In his book of poetry Every Riven Thing, Wiman writes about his struggle with cancer that led to his discovery of God.  After the jump, read his poem by that name and an excerpt from a fascinating interview in Christianity Today. [Read more…]