Tag Archives: light

January 13. Temperance VII: Beauty, Reason and Will

Jack Lonnen Meadows in costume 1At last we may return to one of the key ideas in the first quotation I cited some days ago in these posts on temperance. The philosopher Josef Pieper says that the virtue of temperance is beautiful in itself and renders the human being beautiful. What can he mean? Isn’t temperance about self-control? Beauty belongs to some other virtue, maybe, but not to temperance.

But beauty, says St. Thomas Aquinas, is an attribute of temperance because temperance enables us to control ourselves in relation to those things which can most degrade us. When our passions are indulged in an intemperate way, they ‘dim the light of reason from which all clarity and beauty of virtue arises’, according to Thomas. Let’s linger over this a bit. St. Thomas mentions the ‘light of reason’. We are always being reminded by St. Thomas that the human being is a rational being. Our reason, as we have noted in all our posts, is a great attribute, a precious gift. It is, you might say, like a musical instrument that needs careful handling. A violinist carries his instrument in a specially constructed violin case that protects the strings and the wood from damage so that the violin is able to produce the sweetest sound. Our reason, too, is meant to be protected from damage so that it can function well. Intemperance can cause a kind of damage to our reason. It is not hard to understand this. Just think of someone who is drunk. What becomes of the light of reason and the clarity of thought in an intoxicated person? Or think of someone in a rage so intense that the mind stops functioning, and violence takes over.

The role of the will is important here. ‘The will,’ says Thomas, ‘stands between the reason and the passions and may be moved by either.’ Our will, then, is a bit like a traffic policeman, allowing some things through and making others wait. The traffic policeman commands obedience from drivers in the same way that the will, directed by the reason, can command obedience from our passions. If our passions do not obey will, the will can be run over by them, and this causes havoc for us. Thomas goes on to say, ‘Although the passions are not in the will, it is in the power of the will to resist them.’ We are not at the mercy of our passions, regardless of their seeming strength. Just because we may passionately want to do something that we know is not good, our will need not capitulate.

It is always possible for the passions to respond to the will’s directives. The passions are not all-powerful. The will, moved by the light of reason, is able to resist them.

Yet, the beauty of temperance is not merely that it protects us from going hay-wire with regard to the physical pleasures of food and drink and sex. It has a positive effect on our entire being, body, soul and spirit. Temperance is not directed only to our physical appetites. We have a host of emotional appetites also: the craving for control, for popularity, for possessions, for acceptance, for love, for attention, for money, for safety, for comfort – the list goes on and on. We cannot treat all of them here. But from all of them in their extreme and intemperate form, temperance is liberating and purifying.

The particular beauty of temperance is ‘the glow of the true and the good’ radiating from within the temperate person. Temperance, you might say, works on us to bring about the purification of our entire being. How? By submitting our most intensely personal feelings and desires, our most passionate impulses and cravings to the light of divine truth.

As Pieper says, temperance is ‘that purity by dint of which the selfish and furtive search for spurious fulfilment is abandoned.’ He continues:

A new depth here opens to our view: purity is not only the fruit of purification; it implies at the same time readiness to accept God’s purifying intervention… to accept it with the bold candor of a trustful heart, and thus to experience its fruitful and transforming power.

SJC

Maurice’s great-great-grandfather was an actor.
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January 6: a gift, a cracker.

keys.

I don’t recall meeting a Balthazar or even a Caspar, and the only Melchior I ever knew was from Slovenia, well west of Palestine. He was not rich enough to offer gold, frankincense or myrrh in any quantity, though he was good company.

I like to think the gifts the Kings – if Kings they were – offered were practical as well as symbolic. Gold coins to set the Holy Family up in Cairo when they got there; incense to cover the smells of stables and possibly worse, and myrrh for a tender young bottom.

Christmas cracker novelties are perhaps the ultimate in unpractical gifts. Not this one. The key that’s in the lock has a black case on its handle which came from a 2016 Christmas cracker. I can distinguish it in the dark and so let myself in. The key of my little kingdom.

It reminds me of the family gathering, a family to be grateful for. And though it’s black, it does its job in the dark, paradoxically I can say ‘lead kindly light’ … I think 6th January is the last day for us Latin or Western Christians to say Happy Christmas to each other – but it’s Christmas day for Orthodox Christians.

Happy Christmas, one and all!

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New Year’s Eve, Father Andrew at Christmas VIII: The Holy Night

nightwarsaw

‘How still that little sleeping town’ – somehow I doubt it tonight! But the homeless One Reveals God’s Face. There will be a welcome at one or other of Canterbury’s Churches each night during the coldest months.

The Holy Night

How still the night,
How still the stars,
How still that little sleeping town,
How like a jewel in God’s crown
That Star of stars
That shines so bright.

How silver sweet
The moon doth shine;
Lo, yonder little cattle-shed
Shall lend a straw-strewn manger bed
To Babe divine
And Mother sweet.

To all our race
The light hath come;
For He Who lies ‘neath quilt of straw,
That homeless One Whom shepherds saw
Himself our Home,
Reveals God’s Face.

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29 December: Father Andrew at Christmas VI. Venite, Adoremus

bellgap

Another of Fr Andrew’s Christmas poems. I’ve chosen the bell picture because of  v 3, and because of Abel, who likes the idea that Canterbury Bells are calling people to Church.

Venite, Adoremus (Come, let us adore him)

‘Come along, shepherds,’ the Angels cried,
‘Come along, every one!
For great things happen on earth to-night,
And you shall see a wondrous sight –
In bed of straw, on napkin white,
Come down to earth from heaven’s height
God’s own Eternal Son.’

‘Come along, comrades,’ the Shepherds cried,
And quick those men did run,
And in they pressed through the humble door,
And low they knelt on the stable floor,
Where Mary and Joseph, as poor as poor,
In rich contentment did adore
God’s own Eternal Son.

‘Come along, Christians,’ the bells ring out,
‘Ding-a-dong, come along, come along!’
For round the Altar tapers shine,
Where waits our Saviour, yours and mine,
Veiled ‘neath the mystic Bread and Wine,
And every soul should be a shrine
For God’s Eternal Son.

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28 December: Father Andrew at Christmas V. Lux Vera

madonna-closeup-hales-pl

Mary, Jesus’ Mother from Hales Place Jesuit Chapel, Canterbury

More Christmas poetry from the Anglican Franciscan, Fr Andrew SDC.

Lux Vera

‘Let there be light’ Thou didst say.
It was done –
In the shining of stars, in the gold of the sun.
They tell of Thy handiwork, give Thee their praise,
Yet dark is the brightest and best of earth’s days,
Without Thee, our Beloved.

‘Let there be love,’ didst Thou say?
It was done –
And Mary bent low, while the night, silver-hung,
Shone soft on Thy meek Baby face –
And bright is the darkest of nights by Thy grace,
And with Thee, best Beloved.

There was and is no electricity at Hales Place Chapel, but the gold on the garments and the insignia on the walls – there are many stars elsewhere in the design – would have reflected candle light on the darkest of nights, as it did on one of the brightest of earth’s days when this picture was taken. MMB.

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4 December: Light to see by.

weavers-cotts-upmill-640x565

I looked up from my mother’s garden to see these windows glowing in the winter’s sun. Those are weavers’ windows, raised up high and facing South to catch the sun, ‘that it may shine to all that are in the house’. Daylight was the more precious when there were only oil lamps to work by as the shades lengthened. Those sycamores would not then have been there to cast a shadow.

You are the light of the world. A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may shine to all that are in the house.

Matthew 5:14–15

We can forget what a precious gift light is, with our street lights blotting the stars from view. And we are in danger of forgetting how precious our sisters and brothers are when we are encouraged to want an excess of earth’s goods for ourselves.

 Deal thy bread to the hungry, and bring the needy and the harbourless into thy house: when thou shalt see one naked, cover him, and despise not thy own flesh. Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thy health shall speedily arise, and thy justice shall go before thy face, and the glory of the Lord shall gather thee up.

Isaiah 58: 8-9

WT

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3 December, 1st Sunday of Advent: Star of Wonder?

venus-487x640

Last Christmas we saw one bright star in the sky -but it was far more to the West than the East – so it most certainly was not the Star of Bethlehem! 

In fact it was not even a star, but our planetary neighbour, Venus.

But there she was, a perfectly good reminder of the Babe of Bethlehem. Really though, reminding people of God is our job:

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 5:16

No-one can prepare the way of the Lord without light, so let’s get on quietly with those good works that our daily lives demand, and hope that people will see through the imperfect beings that we are to the Good One whose grace sustains us. After all, Venus shines with a reflected light, not her own, and that’s exactly what is asked of her.

And let’s look up to the stars – at least when the cloud cover allows – and just wonder.

MMB.

 

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November 15: Jesus Beyond Dogma II: xv – ‘What now?’

fallsupward

What has happened thus far is following the maxim: the whole equals the sum total of the parts – whereas the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The implications: the fixed character of reality gives way to a fluid flowing, driven by energies of which we know nothing, which we cannot control. Rational argument doesn’t work anymore – cause and effect do not work as we presumed they did. Creation is relationally friendly. Quantum vision can be summarised: Creation manifests itself; energy exists; time begins; space expands; events are uncertain; only probabilities can be measured; cause and effect are fluid; birth and death happen at the speed of light; information is to be found in energy.

No room here for power-over, only power with. Power games are alien to life. Thirst for control makes no sense, where everything exercises its own sense of control – everything is out of our control. We live in a self-organising universe, which calls for humility on our part, to submit our plans to the greater wisdom of Creation.

How do we see Jesus in this context? Maybe Saint Paul can help: So, from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone the new is here… 2Corinthians 5.16.

Paul is inviting us to regard Jesus differently from the prevailing norms. Christ’s coming has changed all this. All the great religions grapple with our relationship with the divine – but the desire for power gets in the way. The understanding of God as relationship is the oldest humanity has ever known – and from this issue notions of Trinity. Christian history has seen Trinity from a mathematical angle in which the individuality of the persons became more significant than their relatedness. Jesus seen as closer to the Father than to the Spirit – though New Testament has nothing of this.

Jesus belongs to the realm where the whole is greater than the sum total of the parts; he belongs to the whole Creation – he is the primary expression of divine creativity. How Jesus differs from Father and Spirit could well be a meaningless question. The need for a difference is a human patriarchal need, which gets in the way of our befriending God in a Creation-wide way.

AMcC

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18 October, Saint Luke: Watching

trees-wind-moon

 

The wind whisked and sighed all night and

at sunrise-time some secret sun

shed what passed for light, but even

bats were sceptical of day and shot

by in fitful flight, long past their

vanishing-hour,

 

while wind kept sweeping through, rustling

like ladies in long silken skirts.

Nothing sparked or spiked in morning

sunshine that wasn’t, and yet,

this shadowed and speaking scene seethed,

strange with the life

 

I strained to see.  Autumn’s sunflowers

rocked and swayed, scarcely able to

stand, like tall thin drunks on their stems,

sleepy heads lolling, and they seemed

about to slither down, feet first,

into a heap,

 

while wind – I relished standing in

it – used its huge hands to swish the

leaves of trees and push tree tops round

in circles and made sounds like surf

foaming, swirling, hurling itself

on the seashore,

 

sliding back, all slick, and hurling

itself over and over –

 

such

dark, brooding exuberance –

 

such

fierce sibilance –

 

such lavishly

lively gifts of Being –

 

all mine, at dawn

 

as I stood

in the dark wind

 

watching.

 

 

 

SJC.

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Sister Johanna’s poem about Watching and the Wind seems appropriate for Saint Luke, who gave us his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, where he tells how the Spirit came in a great wind and settled over the Apostles.

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7 October: A Look at the ACTIVITIES at L’ARCHE KENT.

ACTIVITIES at L’ARCHE KENT

candles

Regular readers will know that we are good friends with L’Arche Kent. We would like to share a little more of the activities that go on there. Extracted from the Autumn Newsletter, with permission.

Candle making has been popular for many years now at the Saint Radigund’s workshop.

Packs of 6 beautiful floating candles now available for the bargain price of just £1.00—get yours before it’s too late.

And at the Glebe garden people make planters and bird and bat boxes from scrap timber. But here is a beehouosenew idea. The garden has had a trial with one of these bee houses this year. The insects seem to be enjoying the spacious accommodation!

PLEASE SAVE YOUR CORKS AND SEND THEM TO

ST RADIGUND’S FOR A NEW ACTIVITY PROJECT.

DON’T FORGET TO SPREAD THE WORD TO YOUR

FRIENDS, THE MORE CORKS THE BETTER!

The Archangel Brewery is quite a new project. The trials brews were so promising that a new boiler is on its way. This is a very popular activity!

brewersRecord-breaking beer makers squeeze 13

people into the meeting room. Thanks to lots of lovely generous people who’ve donated towards our little project. £736 raised so far!

http://www.larche.org.uk/Sites/kent/Appeal-kentappeal2

And, finally: when I called in at Saint Radigund’s the other day, the place smelt lovely. Cathy was filling laveder.jpglavender bags.

Thank you to everyone who sent in lavender—bag making is well under way!

You can find L’Arche Kent on Facebook and at http://www.larche.org.uk/Sites/kent/Pages/about-larche-kent

Maurice

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