Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Readings

From The Supper of The Lamb: A Culinary Reflection by Robert Farrar Capon

Section from Chapter One: Ingredients

Permit me now to wipe my hands and introduce myself. I am an author who has always intended to write about cooking, but who has never gotten started in a way that didn’t carry him out of the field in two paragraphs or less. This time, as you can see, I have outwitted the muse. My beginning, if confusing, is the most auspicious thus far.

Next, my qualifications.

First, I am an amateur. If that strikes you as disappointing, consider how much in error you are, and how the error is entirely of your own devising. At its root lies an objection to cookbooks written by non-professionals (an objection, by the way, which I consider perfectly valid, and congratulate you upon). It does not, however, apply here. Amateur and nonprofessional are not synonyms. The world may or may not need another cookbook, but it needs all the lovers—amateurs—it can get. It is a gorgeous old place, full of clownish graces and beautiful drolleries, and it has enough textures, tastes, and smells to keep us intrigued for more time than we have. Unfortunately, however, our response to its loveliness is not always delight. It is far more often that it should be, boredom.  And that is not only odd, it is tragic; for boredom is not neutral—it is the fertilizing principle of all un-loveliness.

In such a situation, the amateur—the lover, the man who thinks heedlessness a sin and boredom a heresy—is just the man you need. More than that, whether you think you need him or not, he is a man bound, by his love, to speak. If he loves Wisdom or the Arts, so much the better for him and for all of us. But if he loves only the way meat browns or onions peel, if he delights simply in the curds of his cheese or the color of his wine, he is, by every one of those enthusiasms, commanded to speak. A silent lover is one who doesn’t know his job.

Section from Chapter 8: Water in Excelsis

The bloom of the yeast lies upon the grape skins year after year because He likes it; C6H12O6=2C2H5OH+2CO2 (fermentation) is a dependable process because, every September, He says, that was nice; do it again. 

So let us pause and drink to that, to a radically, perpetually unnecessary world, to the restoration of astonishment to the heart and mystery to the mind, to wine because it is a gift we never expected, to mushroom and artichoke for they are incredible legacies, to improbable acids, and high alcohols since we would have hardly thought of them ourselves and to all being because it is superfluous, to the hairs on Harry’s ear and to the 768th cell from the upper attachment on the right gluteus maximus on the last girl on the chorus line. Prosit, dear hearts. Cheers, men and brethren. For we are free. Nothing is needful. Everything is for joy. Let the bookkeepers struggle with their balance sheets. It is the tippler who sees the untipped hand. God is eccentric. He has loves, not reasons. Salud.

From For the Life of the World by Alexander Schmemann

From Chapter One Section Three

To love is not easy, and mankind has chosen not to return God’s love. Man has loved the world, but as an end in itself and not as transparent to God. He has done it so consistently that it has become something that is “in the air.” It seems natural for man to experience the world as opaque, and not shot through with the presence of God. It seems natural not to live a life of thanksgiving for God’s gift of a world.

When we see the world as an end in itself, everything becomes itself a value and consequently loses all value, because only in God is found the meaning (value) of everything, and the world is meaningful only when it is the “sacrament” of God’s presence.

(join in the sections in bold)

*Give us, our Father, a sense of your presence
as we gather now for worship.
Grant us gratitude as we remember your goodness,
penitence as we remember our sins,
and joy as we remember your love.
Enable us to lift up our hearts
in humble prayer and fervent praise,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

1Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
2   Worship the Lord with gladness;
   come into his presence with singing.
3 Know that the Lord is God.
   It is he that made us, and we are his;*
   we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
   and his courts with praise.
   Give thanks to him, bless his name.

*Great God of our lives,
for all that is gracious in our lives,
revealing the image of Christ,
we give you thanks.
For our daily food and drink,
our homes and families, and our friends,
we give you thanks.
For minds to think and hearts to love and hands to serve,
we give you thanks.
For health and strength to work, and leisure to rest and play,
we give you thanks.
For all valiant seekers after truth, liberty, and justice,
we give you thanks.
For the great mercies and promises given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord;
to you, O God, be praise and glory. Amen.

There are many who say, ‘O that we might see some good!
   Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!’
7 You have put gladness in my heart
   more than when their grain and wine abound.

*Prayers are from The Worship Sourcebook.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

From Bonhoeffer's Letters & Papers From Prison

What is bothering me incessantly is the question what Christianity really is, or indeed who Christ really is, for us today. The time when people could be told everything by means of words, whether theological or pious, is over, and so is the time of inwardness and conscience--and that means the time of religion in general. We are moving toward a completely religionless time; people as they are now simply cannot be religious anymore. Even those who honestly describe themselves as "religious" do not in the least act up to it, and so they presumably mean something quite different by "religious."[1]

Our whole nineteen-hundred-year-old Christian preaching and theology rest on the "religious a priori" of mankind. "Christianity" has always been a form--perhaps the true form--of "religion." But if one day it becomes clear that this a priori does not exist at all, but was a historically conditioned and transient form of human self-expression, and if therefore man becomes radically religionless--and I think that that is already more or less the case (else how is it, for example, that this war, in contrast to all previous ones, is not calling forth any "religious" reaction?)--what does that mean for "Christianity"?[2]

[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers From Prison (New York, Touchstone: 1997) 279.
[2] [Tegel] 30 April 1944 To Eberhard Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers From Prison, 281.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A 3 Year Old Reciting Billy Collins

I saw this little guy on youtube some time ago. NPR is covering the story here. This easily one of the most amazing things I've ever experienced. Plus he's an incredibly adorable little guy.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Reading excerpts from Rowan Williams' Wound of Knowledge

Rowan Williams, The Wound of Knowledge: Christian Spirituality from the New Testament to Saint John of the Cross.

p. 17 
To believe in Jesus' God, the God of unconditional accessibility and even-handed compassion, to believe in an anarchic mercy that ignores order, rank and merit, is to accept that our projects and patterns are the mark of failure, of illusion, of the infantile belief that we can dictate truth and reality. Because it is menacing and painful to be confronted with the knowledge that our constructions of controlled sense are liable to be empty self-serving, we readily turn to violence against the bearers of such knowledge: in Johannine terms, we have decided we want to stay blind when the light is there before us, claiming we can see perfectly well (John 8:41). And the New Testament (especially the fourth gospel) suggests that only when such naked collision of interest occurs can the un-compromising reality of God over against our patterns of "religious control" become dear. God provokes crisis to destroy our self-deceiving reliance on "Law;" our dependence on what we as individuals can make and sustain, or what we as societies can administer for our own unchallenged interest. Self-dependence is revealed as a mechanism of self-de-struction; to cling to it in the face of God's invitation to trust is a thinly veiled self hatred.
p. 18
The Spirit's work is to make the believer like Christ, and being like Christ means living through certain kinds of human experience--not once, but daily. The second letter to the Corinthians is Paul's most passionate meditation on this. Here he speaks of the daily affliction, the daily rejection, the daily dying by which the Spirit works, transforming us "from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18). The veil of the law is removed, illusion is stripped away, but only slowly does this penetrate every area of human living. And it penetrates by means of the pervasive and inexorable experience of failure, by the "wasting away" (2 Cor. 4:16) of the instincts that look for clarity, ease and effectiveness and the acceptance of the hiddenness of God's working.
Here is the transfiguration from glory to glory, realized daily in the absurd, the biter, even the comical; this is, surprisingly, what it is to live in the Messsianic age and to be conformed to the pattern of the Messiah. When the future breaks into the present order, it shows itself in Paul's "folly" for Christ, in the stupid incongruities of this curious life in two worlds.