Tag Archives: power

January 7, The Virtue of Temperance: Introduction – Temperance renders the human being beautiful

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Good Afternoon friends! Sister Johanna has sent her latest series of posts on the virtues, this time Temperance. A good source of reflection for those of us who set unrealistic New year Resolutions; may your temperate resolutions nurture the beauty in you this year!

As always, Sister is well worth reading. God Bless, WT.

The virtue of temperance comes last in the line-up of the four cardinal virtues. We have already considered the other three virtues – prudence, justice and fortitude – in previous posts. These four virtues are called cardinal because they are of cardinal importance in our human life. They help us to live moral lives – they are also called the four moral virtues. They are concerned not only with our superficial behaviour, but with our deepest inner processes: our thoughts, feelings, our very reason. They help us to negotiate reality, to approach it with integrity, to see things as they are. The virtues confer power – that is what the Latin root means: virtus means power. We are dealing here not with political power though, but with a much more important kind of power: power over ourselves. The virtues help us to live in the truth of things, and to act in ways that are good, fair, true and loving. I will not recap here what we have already looked at in other posts. Those wishing to catch up with what was said on the virtues may find these posts through the search function of this website.

I have based this study on the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, whose thirteenth century texts on the human person still ring with truth and power today. Although his famous work, the Summa Theologica, does not make for easy reading, St. Thomas’s insights are well worth the effort it might take to become familiar with his ideas, especially those aquinas-carlo_crivelli_007presented in the second part of his Summa. I am also relying on the work of the great Catholic philosopher from the twentieth century, Josef Pieper, whose book, The Four Cardinal Virtues, is both an inspiring read and a luminous interpretation of St. Thomas.

I would like to begin the reflections on the virtue of temperance by a quotation from Pieper’s book, in which he says:

To the virtue of temperance as the preserving and defending realization of our inner order, the gift of beauty is particularly coordinated. Not only is temperance beautiful in itself, it also renders [the human being] beautiful. Beauty, however, must here be understood in its original meaning: as the glow of the true and the good irradiating from every ordered state of being….

I realise that in presenting that quotation in the beginning of this reflection, I may be throwing my readers in at the deep end. If you stay with me over the next few days, I hope gradually to make this statement intelligible.

SJC

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December 2: Jesus Beyond Dogma II: xxxii – Francis could not fall very far, but he was free.

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The second half of life usually consists of what we have denied in the first half – our shadow; which is not some form of addiction, but failure. We can’t entertain the powerlessness of loneliness, impoverishment, boredom and generally not being in charge. We settle for a kind of pleasure that lacks joy, and even involves denial of joy. We can’t imagine being happy without money, without many options. We have replaced freedom of spirit with freedom of choice.

Why did Francis move into a life of non-power, non-aggression and sine proprio? He was so close to the bottom of life that he could not fall very far, but he was free. He knew that God doesn’t look at our faults and failings, but at the many ways we have been determined to try and say yes [which is what parents hope for seeing their children]. Once experiencing being fully alive we will never fear death, because we will know that we have not just lived but have come alive, and that such life is eternal and another form of it is waiting for us. Which is what Paul urges: reproducing the power of his Resurrection – Phil.3.10.

If I have not lived fully, death will terrify me, not knowing that this is not the end. Working in Zambia showed me a village people who lived – by our standards – with next to nothing. The children played, parents scratched a living from hard ground; but they had something we lack. An attitude with no room for cynicism. When they came together their singing was spontaneous – no hymn sheets; and they smile, with nothing to smile about. Like loving, smiling enjoys its own justification, is not dependent on having a reason to smile.

What do we think about when all else is gone? What did those victims who had no access to computers and phones on the aircraft speak about before the aircraft hit the twin towers? The language we heard was love, nothing else mattered. Life’s only purpose is to live lovingly by choice, and die in the same way. How can this become life’s norm? Be careful of a too ready recourse to detachment. Those victims were far from detached from what mattered. Life’s purpose is not to become detached but attached. For this to be real, other things have to be gently set aside.

AMcC

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November 24: Jesus Beyond Dogma II: xxiv – He washed their feet

footwash

Picture: L’Arche Kent

So many of the dysfunctional illnesses are the result of a distortion in our relationship with the Spirit; living with no place for the spirit. Systemic evil – money is imbued with power and it is painfully apparent that it is not being used creatively. The freedom to empower which is the mission of the Spirit has been undermined by pernicious power games.

When Jesus spoke about prayer and fasting needed for casting out such evil, he was telling us that prayer gets us back in a right relationship with the Spirit; fasting is a form of discipline [art of discipleship] reminding us that we have choices to make and so need discernment. Life challenges us to make prophetic choices, rather than those which are conventional and political. It is allowing the Spirit its rightful place that life-giving choices are made.

Meal sharing is one of the main thrusts of Kingdom living. If priority was given to this we would soon rid the world of want and starvation. When Jesus invited his friends for a meal, he washed their feet – roads were dirt tracks with dust and grit. The first thing a host did was to provide for feet to be washed. No doubt Jesus had his feet washed when he was invited for a meal. But his washing of their feet was saying that his presence was totally inclusive – especially of the non-persons; this would include women as well as social outcasts. Peter objected – Jesus reminded him we are all called to be servants – because that is who God is. The washing of feet is not meant simply in the literal sense – it is to do with making welcome, especially to those excluded. Its significance is welcoming home those who have no home.

AMcC

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20 October, Readings from Mary Webb, XI: Careful Omnipotence.

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We are so overwhelmed, in these days, with our discoveries of omnipotence that we have little time for realizing the minute care allied with it.

We forget that the power which sets the parhelion flaming in the sunset, and calls the straying comet back from the bounds of the dark, also puts the orange underwing to sleep in her chrysalis cradle, while the flower she loves best is prepared for her.

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Who can say which is the greater sign of creative power, the sun with its planet system swinging with governed impetus to some incalculable end, or the gold sallow catkin with its flashing system of little flies? Ephemera, all of them; and all utterly beyond our understanding.

And the more you know, the more you wonder … Laudato Si’!

 

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16 December: What can I do?

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Isaiah the prophet challenges us today in the first reading to ‘have a care for justice and keep away from evil’.

Listening to what is happening in world today, it seems there is no justice anywhere and everywhere is full of different kinds of evil. There are so many wars, hunger, illnesses, killings, displacement etc being faced by many people.  Every created thing seeks for justice and fairness. I often wonder where God is in all this. When I reflect on various areas in which injustices are being perpetuated in our world, I weep and feel powerless.

When I consider further, I tell myself I can make a difference in whatever little way is possible for me.  I can speak out for those who are unjustly mistreated. I can write to MPs supporting proposals that promote fair treatment for all.  I can stand up for the truth no matter what it will cost me.  I can also pray for a change of heart for those who no longer seek for God’s justice but rather for punishment without mercy. If I see injustice around me, I can try to be, by following Jesus’ example, a light that shines for all to see.

I pray that in my everyday activities, I will do my best to detach myself from anything that does not promote goodness. I ask God to help me make sure that people and other creatures are treated with fairness, and never trample on them because I have the power and resources to do so.

Come Lord Jesus, Sun of Justice!

FMSL

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November 27: Jacopone da Todi 1. A Poetic Challenge.

 

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This Wakefield scene shows us a provocative contrast between two ways of imagining the inner life of any person’s soul. Sometimes we feel churned up, or even seething. At other times, a lovely calm clarity runs through our inner world, and reveals our potential for containing tranquillity. On this footing we can show others how the world might appear in that condition.

Perhaps we more often have an opportunity to move from the turbulent to the calm than we realise. Franciscan poet Jacopone da Todi regarded our awareness of these formative moments as the key to a faith-based personality.

“We were a mighty host, encamped on the heights,

But the waters of the flood have risen and covered us,

And taken from us the power to pray,

Which alone could keep us afloat and heal our wounds.”  (Laud 30).

 

The power to pray consists to a remarkable degree in the ability to welcome calm into our lives, to become attuned to the Spirit who provides calm, and to begin to acknowledge those areas of wounded memory within us where healing is needed.

Jacopone had a troubled life, beginning with the sudden death of his young wife in an accident. But God was speaking to others very often through his poetry, bringing hope and sincerity where before there had often been only pomposity, cravings for luxury, and abuses of power. We could try to nurture the moments of poetic calm in the course of a week, to let healing begin.

 

Chris D.

October 2016.

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14 September. The dining room is a microcosm of the world: Luke 14.

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Jesus was on trial. People were watching him to see what kind of person he was. The irony is, of course, that he was also watching them. They were concerned about who occupied the coveted place of honour. The place of honour is literally, the first couch, at the highest kind of formal meal, a reclining feast. We are watching a social drama. The dining room was a theatre. The closer to your host, the more important you were. Place at dinner showed position in society.

We have seen enough humiliated politicians being carted off to prison whilst all their former friends who have eaten their bread, drunk their wine, done their favours and benefited from their patronage, go to ground and refuse to know them anymore. The highest place can be quickly changed for the lowest place and there is no shortage of gloating onlookers happy to say ‘I always knew this would happen’.

The dining room is a microcosm of the world, reflecting the accepted order in it. For the host the occasion was a mirror in which he could see his own power and privilege reflected. He was at the centre, this artificial world turned on the host who called it into being. Wanting recognition and the trappings of fame is actually a failure in proper self-love and self-worth. The banqueters look at the gathering in order to see themselves reflected in the esteem and acceptance of the others. They are looking for their own true image, but the true image of humanity is there with them. Here is what is to be truly human: Jesus. They are watching him but they cannot see him, because they are too taken up with what people will think.

  • to be continued.

AMcC

 

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August 12: Trivial Solutions to Human Passions

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Our cosy routines are put in danger, but  we convince ourselves that right will be on our side because we are mighty and might generally proves itself right. Whether with flag in hand on horseback, or with horsepower under the bonnet, the agreed standards of civic protection will favour us, God or no God.  Here is Godfrey de Bouillon again.

We have an army to keep unwelcome passions of others supervised and checked, we imagine, as if there were no rival claims to protection at work in other cultures of the world.

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But what are the unexamined passions of consumer indulgence which provide our confidence? Are they the moderated passions of the best adults, or a splurge of childish cravings? A quick phone call and all the luxuries of the world are ours.

We are like baby kings, and the fact that we cannot observe the labourers abroad who provide the goodies does not disturb our sleep.

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These three images, all from Brussels, seem to me to pinpoint the unhealthy mixture of a tradition of power, resources of control, and the fascination of gaining our own advantages, and satisfying our tastes, which underpins so much modern existence. We don’t believe that we are in any position to prevent the fallout from this heady combination. But we do have the freedom to seek for a spiritual basis to our friendships and ways of living.

CD.

 

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August 10: Perspectives, Natural or Medieval

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Horses often come to us looking for attention. They have been taught to act in a domesticated and even submissive way. Perhaps they invented the idea of selfies before humans did! It possibly did not occur to them what situations of great harm and distress they would enter into as a result, having to bear men in heavy armour hoisted onto their backs, and to trample through landscapes of churned up mud and slaughtered  bodies, human and animal.

Not all medieval attitudes towards animals were caring and patient by any means. At an early stage, women as well as men realised the extra leverage over their neighbours could be gained by saddling a horse and fitting themselves out with swords, spears and regular violent training.

Boudicca

We may sometimes be inclined to sympathise, as when an invading army has better resources and equipment. The Iceni led by Boadicea (Boudicca) had only local knowledge as their advantage over the empire-building Romans. Both sides were pagans, so we can’t hide behind loyalties to a Christian tradition to explain why we would side with one or the other.

Presumably it is just the romance of seeing a vulnerable yet brave underdog militia up, against a drilled and remorseless invader which makes us pleased to see a stirring statue of Boudicca in her chariot on the London embankment. Romance favours heroism, without much in the way of challenging self-awareness to question the means that are employed to win the day. Faith in the Lord Jesus who died for love of enemies is dimmed.

CD

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Shadows of the Wanderer in Chichester.

Shadows of the Wanderer

 

NAIB has drawn our attention to this exhibition in  Chichester Cathedral’s North Transept until Monday 14th November 2016.

Ana Maria Pacheco’s outstanding and powerful installation Shadows of the Wanderer is a multi-piece figurative sculpture in polychromed wood, in which ten over life-size darkly robed figures witness the struggle of a young man to carry an older man on his shoulders.  This powerful image resonates with contemporary and topical issues of exile, migration and the displacement of people struggling to flee persecution.   Ana was inspired by Virgil’s Aeneid, where the hero Aeneas carries his lame father Anchises on his back, leading a band of refugees from the ravaged ruins of Troy.

Ana Maria Pacheco (sculptor, painter and printmaker) was born in Brazil.  Following degrees in both art and music she went on to complete a postgraduate course in music and education at the Federal University of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro.  She then taught and lectured for several years at the Pontifical Catholic University of Goiás and the Federal University of Goiás before leaving for London in 1973 on a British Council Scholarship to the Slade School of Fine Art. Since then she has lived and worked in England

Her work is deeply rooted in Latin American and European social history and culture and deals with serious narratives and enduring themes (journeys, spirituality, mythology, unchecked power) that contribute to the many layers of interpretation and meaning in her work.    It has a strong humanist message and is capable of arousing extreme emotions.

Shadows of the Wanderer

Shadows of the Wanderer

The exhibition was officially opened on Friday 15th July 2016 by David Elliott, Curator and Writer.

This exhibition has been curated by Jacquiline Creswell (Salisbury Cathedral’s Visual Arts Advisor), Pratt Contemporary and Chichester Cathedral’s Exhibitions Committee.

Chichester Cathedral: Shadows of the wanderer.shtml 

 

 

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