Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me

St. Patrick’s Day is Saturday–a day to honor all missionaries, including the missionaries to the European tribes (like St. Patrick to the Irish, St. Boniface to the Germans, St. Augustine to the English, etc.).  (Those of us of European descent need to remember that our ancestors too were tribal pagan peoples who were brought to faith through missionaries.)

To mark the day and what St. Patrick taught, I offer you a poem/hymn/prayer attributed to him, “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.”  (Some people question the attribution, saying it was written in the 9th century, not the 5th, when St. Patrick was alive.  But the form of the work reflects a Druid incantation for protection, and I’m pretty sure the Druids were gone by the 9th century, whereas they were the ones St. Patrick converted.)

At any rate, this is a wonderful meditation.  (The link will play the haunting melody that hymnwriters have given it.)

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this today to me forever
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in Jordan river,
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of cherubim;
The sweet ‘Well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the star lit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave, the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
By Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

via St. Patrick’s Breastplate.

HT:  Zach Simmons

Banning Dante

One of the greatest works of literature ever written, Dante’s Divine Comedy, is attracting the attention of censors:

The classic work should be removed from school curricula, according to Gherush 92, a human rights organisation which acts as a consultant to UN bodies on racism and discrimination.

Dante’s epic is “offensive and discriminatory” and has no place in a modern classroom, said Valentina Sereni, the group’s president. . . .

It represents Islam as a heresy and Mohammed as a schismatic and refers to Jews as greedy, scheming moneylenders and traitors, Miss Sereni told the Adnkronos news agency.

“The Prophet Mohammed was subjected to a horrific punishment – his body was split from end to end so that his entrails dangled out, an image that offends Islamic culture,” she said.

Homosexuals are damned by the work as being “against nature” and condemned to an eternal rain of fire in Hell.

“We do not advocate censorship or the burning of books, but we would like it acknowledged, clearly and unambiguously, that in the Divine Comedy there is racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic content. Art cannot be above criticism,” Miss Sereni said.

Schoolchildren and university students who studied the work lacked “the filters” to appreciate its historical context and were being fed a poisonous diet of anti-Semitism and racism, the group said.

It called for the Divine Comedy to be removed from schools and universities or at least have its more offensive sections fully explained.

via Dante’s Divine Comedy ‘offensive and should be banned’ – Telegraph.

Dante has already disappeared from a number of college courses for these very reasons.  It’s odd that conservatives are often accused of censorship–for objecting to pornography and the like–but the ones who want to censor actual ideas and great works of literature are more often from the Left.  (See Gherush 92’s website.)  And, as Milton pointed out, the book that is most censored of them all–even today–is the Bible.

HT:  Shane Ayer

Lars Walker’s new novel

Lars Walker is someone who hangs out at this blog fairly often.  He is also an accomplished novelist.   He has a new novel out entitled  Troll Valley.

Lars specializes in tales about Norway, especially the ancient Vikings in their transition from paganism to Christianity.  (See West Oversea.)  But this one is about Norwegians in Minnesota, settlers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries on the farms and in the small towns that would give us the Lake Woebegone cliches.  But there is much more to these people than that.

Lars also specializes in hard-hitting Christian critiques of modernity.  (See Wolf Time.)  For all of the Little House on the Prairie charm of watching the main character Chris Andersen and his family ply their customs in the New World, we see change a-brewing.  His father invents a better farm device, leaves the farm for town where he builds a factory and makes a fortune–embodying the industrial revolution with both its good sides and its down sides.  I was most taken, though, with his mother, who shows how a certain kind of Pietism can turn to moralism, which can then turn to progressivism, which can then turn against the very Christianity that inspired its beginnings.  Mrs. Andersen’s do-gooderism turns her into a crusader for prohibition and then for the women’s suffrage and then for a “moral progress” that has no room for the Bible and that wreaks havoc in her family.

And Lars also specializes in writing about the strange denizens of Scandinavian myth, legend, and folklore.  (See The Year of the Warrior.)  The thing about Chris Anderson is that, as he struggles with his withered arm and his self-doubts, he sees elvish creatures from a parallel world.  And he is regularly visited by his fairy godmother, who herself yearns for baptism and the Christian faith.  All of these fantasy elements are going on at the same time as the realistic story and as a sort of commentary on what is happening.  One critic has called what Lars is doing “Christian magical realism,” which is a good description, a reference to the quite interesting style pioneered by Latin American authors such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  (And it’s about time that contemporary Christian authors go beyond formula fiction to experiment with more sophisticated styles and literary effects.)

Another contemporary feature of this novel is that it is being published solely as an e-book, which means too that it costs a mere $2.99.  So if you have a Kindle or the equivalent, download   Troll Valley.

Charles Dickens at 200

Yesterday, February 7, was the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens.  (As well as being the birthday of our oldest daughter.)  His novels are still gloriously readable after all these years, combining seriousness and humor in a way that has not been equaled since.  Here is a worthy tribute, which compares the novelist to Augustine:  Happy Birthday to our Mutual Friend » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

What are your favorite bits from Dickens?

Petronius, gluttony, and the Internet

Another example of how classical literature can help us think through contemporary issues.  Rob Goodman writes about the information overload that the internet can give us in terms of Petronius:

For those of us left numb by the Internet, it might help to consider the ways in which gorging on information parallels (and has, for many of us, replaced) gorging on sensual pleasures. And if we want to take that comparison seriously, there is no better guide than the pioneering Roman novelist of decadence, Gaius Petronius Arbiter. Few have ever described—or lived—the attractions and exhaustions of overindulgence more vividly.

In the court of the Emperor Nero—his friend, partner in excess, and the man ultimately responsible for his death—Petronius was employed as the official “arbiter of elegance.” In short, he was a style consultant to the Roman elite. The historian Tacitus describes him as an expert “in the science of pleasure.” Unmatched in his day as a trendsetter, Petronius is best known in ours as the probable author of one of the earliest surviving novels, the Satyricon. And out of this picaresque story, which has come down to us in fragments, the most outrageous figure by far is Trimalchio: the nouveau-riche ex-slave whose wildly gluttonous banquet forms the Satyricon’s centerpiece. . .

Trimalchio—if only he would stop shooting dice, or loudly discussing his constipation problem—could be a master entertainer. He is a man of abundant means and an almost-pitiful eagerness to please, but his party turns into a feast of steadily diminishing returns. Good food isn’t enough for Trimalchio’s table: Nothing can be served if it isn’t in disguise. Visual jokes were a fashion among Roman chefs, but in Trimalchio’s household they are taken to absurd heights: olives disguised as rocks; sausages “roasting” over pomegranate seeds disguised as coals; pastry eggs hiding roast songbirds; a pig prestuffed with sausages; fruit filled with saffron perfume; more pastry birds, and fruit stuck with thorns to resemble sea-urchins; goose, fish, and game all made out of a pig; oysters in the water pitchers; a whole roast boar surrounded by suckling sweetmeat “piglets,” stuffed with live birds, complete with droppings that turn out to be fresh dates. The boar is also wearing a hat.

One of these courses might have been a surprise; two or three or four might have been marvelous. But after our narrator is bludgeoned by hours of course after dressed-up course, all of which have to be applauded and swallowed, his only thought is for the exit—which he can no longer find.

Is the host, at least, enjoying himself? It’s hard to see any real pleasure in a man who announces how many pounds of jewelry he’s wearing and then demands a scale to prove it—a host who tops off the evening’s entertainment by ordering the guests to “make believe I’m dead” and who then ends up weeping as they act out his funeral.

If Petronius had been a Christian moralist—an ancient John Bunyan, maybe—Trimalchio’s feast might have been marshaled against the sin of gluttony. But Petronius doesn’t criticize the monster he’s created from a standpoint of better morals. He criticizes Trimalchio from a standpoint of better taste: Petronius’ attitude to Trimalchio is equal parts fascination and snobbery. The author was every bit as decadent as his character—he was simply, effortlessly, better at it. . . .

Under decadent circumstances, such as Trimalchio’s feast or Nero’s court, pleasure becomes cheap. It must, at first, be exhilarating to find exquisite versions of the things we most want—food, sleep, sex—right at hand. But then comes the revelation that even with unlimited means, our capacity to take pleasure is itself limited. The usual enjoyments become repetitious and dull, until we can barely taste them at all, or remember how they once tasted. . . .

And there’s the key to understanding the often anesthetic effect of the Internet. Decadence doesn’t demand great wealth: Decadence is a useful way to understand any situation in which an existing pleasure becomes cheap, and it takes the ingenuity of a Petronius to fight off the boredom. That is now the case with information—the small burst of satisfaction that comes from a refilled inbox or a new text, from connecting with friends, or sharing the meme of the day. Millions of us are now richer in these pleasures than our parents’ generation could ever imagine. But our capacity for enjoyment is still finite: We’ve built up a tolerance to the pleasures of information, just as Trimalchio built up a tolerance to the pleasures of food. Those who experience our constant connectivity as dulling should be able to identify closely with his guests.

via Gluttony Goes Viral – The Chronicle Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Do you agree that we can become “gluttons” of information?  That the internet can have an “anesthetic” effect?  That it can make us “decadent”?

With the liturgy, “you never need words for joy”

Rev. Samuel Schuldheisz points us to the role of the liturgy–including the Psalms and the classic hymns of praise–in the life of J. R. R. Tolkien.  This is from a letter to his son, Christopher:

“If you don’t do so already, make a habit of the ‘praises’. I use them much (in Latin): the Gloria Patri, the Gloria in Excelsis, the Laudate Dominum; the Laudete Pueri Dominum (of which I am specially fond), one of the Sunday psalms; and the Magnificat; also the Litany of Loretto (with the prayer Sub tuum praesidium). If you have these by heart you never need words for joy.”

via E-nklings: Tolkien on the Liturgy.

HT:  Mary Moerbe


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