Tag Archives: paganism

29 October: Autumn according to Johnson.

Vain wish ! Me fate compels to bear
  The downward season's iron reign;
Compels to breathe polluted air,
  And shiver on a blasted plain.

What bliss to life can autumn yield,
  If glooms, and show'rs, and storms prevail,
And Ceres flies the naked field,
  And flowers, and fruits, and Phoebus fail?

Oh! what remains, what lingers yet,
  To cheer me in the dark'ning hour!
The grape remains! the friend of wit,
  In love, and mirth, of mighty pow'r.

Haste—press the clusters, fill the bowl;
  Apollo! shoot thy parting ray:
This gives the sunshine of the soul,
  This god of health, and verse, and day.

Still—still the jocund strain shall flow,
  The pulse with vig'rous rapture beat;
My Stella with new charms shall glow,
  And ev'ry bliss in wine shall meet.
  • Ceres: Roman goddess of harvest.
  • Phoebus Appollo: Roman sun god.

(from Volume 1 The Works of Samuel Johnson, Ll.D., in Nine Volumes)

It is about now that the Beaujolais Nouveau wine is released, so ‘haste – press the clusters’ is about right. Johnson was also capable of admitting that too much of a good thing was possible. The pollution in London today is from gas and petrol rather than wood and coal fires, but just as real. Despite the pollution, Jonson was never tired of London.

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27 May, Trinity Sunday: Doubt and Faith by Father Andrew.

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I do not fear for any honest intellectual doubter, but I do fear for any life that has lowered its standard. If i did not believe that God is Love, then I should turn the sentence round and say Love is God; but I should think Jesus a richer symbol of love than Venus.

I don’t think for a moment doubts are bad. I think, in a sense, one’s mind was made to doubt; but if ones mind was made to doubt, one’s soul was made to aspire, and if one uses both mind and soul, one will attain to a faith that is strong and true. ‘It is intolerable to think that our ideals themselves should perish, that nothing worth existing should have any continuance or growth, that the world of values should have no relation to the world of fact.

From The Life and Letters of Father Andrew, Ed Kathleen Burn, London, Mowbray, 1948, pp169-70

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27 September: What is it about Angels?

MERICI.3 (306x527)

Angel by CD

Recently Professor Brian Cox of Manchester University was speculating that there might be ‘multiverses’; universes where the laws of nature vary from what we experience. How would we ever know about such a cosmos? It’s hardly a case of Professor Cox imagines – or I imagine – therefore it is.

There’s a simple-minded side of me that says – angels! They obey different laws of nature, but some people, sometimes, are aware of them: Mary, Zechariah, William Blake.

John Masefield gives these lines to the Magi in The Coming of Christ:

The days are past when rocks and streams

And trees were gods directing man,

We are all lost among our dreams,

We are all waters without plan.

The world is ours with discontent,

We have all things save hope; we stare

Into earth’s secrets: we invent

New swiftnesses lest we despair.

Yet we have joy, because we may

Still light upon that simple thing

Under the eyes of every day

Which is the secret of the King.

O lighten us, bright star, and show

The angels walking at our side,

And where the glittering waters go,

The lasting waters that abide.

Fitting prayer for Angeltide, these days when we hold their feasts, and for Francistide, for he reminds us that rocks and streams are brothers and sisters to us, not gods, under the eye of the King. And there is no need to believe in multiverses, or even pure spirits, to see the angel beside us in our spouses, workmates, or those we greet in the street: any of these could be a messenger of the King today.

The  next three days’ posts are responses to William Blake’s visions of angels, by Dr Naomi Billingsley, a respected Blake Scholar and currently Bishop Otter Scholar at Chichester.

 

MMB

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Gray Days and a Point of Light.

Margate we live in hope

Margate Beach on a Grey Day

Here, well up there in the Northern Hemisphere, the approach of the Church’s great winter feasts is met by ever shortening days, grayish sunsets subtly shaded with pastel colour, and the gathering shadows of storm-rattled darkness. Even now, as I look out from the giant bay window in my flat toward a slate gray sea, it feels like a slow motion dawn rather than what the clock prosaically states is high noon. And the Church, in her time-tested wisdom, has properly situated the purple cloaked season of waiting and hoping within a test mirrored by nature herself- will the Son of Man ever return; will I ever witness the eastern blaze of a 5:00 AM springtime dawn seen through the very same bay window now shrouded in a feeble mist? One can hope, but for now all I can do is walk my two bemused dogs in the bookended darkness of a seven o’clock dawn and four thirty afternoon sunset.

I have had critics of the Church, harboring grave suspicions of pagan flashbacks, point out the total lack of biblical witness for the date of Christ’s birth, the unlikely probability of shepherds out in the fields in the dead of winter and, far worse, the close congruence of the decadent Roman Saturnalia with the newly minted Feast of the Nativity. Shopping frenzy beginning at mid-November and a near-universal expansion of waistlines don’t help- as a kindly Jehovah’s Witness picture framer said once, utterly confident that I would agree. It seems, though, as if the whole point has been missed. It is the ritual celebration of Christ’s birth and the expectation of God’s promise fulfilled – born of an indestructible hope- that are being celebrated and the vast stage of nature herself hosts the drama. Yes, the shortening days followed by the magic threshold of the Solstice, when that longed for flicker of light begins to wax stronger, formed the reason for the Saturnalia but this has been embodied by the small child laid in a manger; the hope for Emmanuel realized at last.

 

TJH.

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