Saturday, June 27, 2009

Note to Self

Note to self:

Write down what you do and what you win in 4H unless you want a huge headache when applying for 4H Scholarships! You can't just look at a ribbon and guess what year it was given and for what activity...

And do it for your children, because they'll probably be just like you...

Friday, June 26, 2009


1. When I am swamped I tend to blog more often and more mundanely. I seem to find more time, when I have no time, and then tend to say nothing in a manner intensely amusing to myself. Ironically.

2. This is a good post. Thankfully I read it before I read the next one, or I wouldn't have been quite as impressed with it.

3. This is an excellent post. It put together so many puzzle pieces for me. Wow. I'll probably be pondering for a while.

(I find it interesting that no matter what I read lately, I'm always finding myself traveling in a circle around the Eucharist, Sexuality (Marriage and Procreation), and Natural Law. Huh. I wonder why this is?)

Of course, my recommendation does not render these pieces "good." Check my perception before embracing it, as I usually bestow my verbal approbation rather quickly and impulsively (hmmmmm. *ponders*) I could have failed in my speculative intellect... (eh, Dr. Tingley?)

Beddy bye!

What, ho! Who ever in the world scrubs fecal matter off goats and reads ethics pieces a few hours later, all the while so exhausted she thinks she's going to drop down asleep? I confuse myself sometimes. Now to sleep for four hours... (Goat Show in the morning)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Lithuanian Churches


Foist ov awl,

't 'pears dat da Evangelical Lithuanian Lutheran Church has been 'round fo' a loooooong time - since the Reformaysh. 't also 'pears dat da Evangelical Lithuanian is in full fellowship with da LCMS (my synod, in case anybody was wondering.... :P )

But 'part from that, I can't really say much else, since I don't speak/read Lithuanian. hmmm.

Ecumenical Contacts
Confession of Faith

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

No time, no time!

One breath at a time. My chest feels so tight with anxiety and frustration that it's emotionally hard to breathe.

I want to scream, but that won't help anything. Just keep praying and doing, Sarah.

Lithuania trip is coming so fast, I have so much to get done. Ultimately, though (tries to realize this) I'm not going to die if these things don't get done, though I will disappoint people and maybe ruin my reputation.

Blah. Well, from God is my honor - therefore I'm just going to do what I can and try not to sweat the rest.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Cross as Noose, Noose as Symbol

Finally I'm getting this post finished! I can't believe how long this is taking me and how busy I have been!

As for the bishop, the sight of the guillotine was a shock to him, from which he recovered only slowly. Indeed, the scaffold, when it is there, set up and ready, has a profoundly hallucinatory effect. We may be indifferent to the death penalty and not declare ourselves, either way so long as we have not seen a guillotine with our own eyes. But when we do, the shock is violent, and we are compelled to choose sides, for or against. Some, like Le Maistre, admire it; others, like Beccaria, execrate it. The guillotine is the law made concrete; it is called the Avenger. It is not neutral and does not permit you to remain neutral. Who ever sees it quakes, mysteriously shaken to the core. All social problems set up their question mark around that blade. The scaffold is vision. The scaffold is not a mere frame, the scaffold is not an inert mechanism made of wood, iron, and ropes. It seems like a creature with some dark origine we cannot fathom, it is as though the framework sees and hears, the mechanism understands, as though the wood and iron and ropes have their own will. In the hideous nightmare it projects across the soul, the awful apparition of the scaffold fuses with its terrible work. The scaffold becomes the accomplice of the executioner; it devours, eats flesh, and drinks blood. The scaffold is a sort of monster created by judge and carpeter, a specter that seems to live with an unspeakable vitality, drawn from all the death it has wrought.

Thus the impression was horible and profound; on the day after the execution, and for many subsequent days, the bishop seemed overwhelmed...One evening his sister overheard and jotted down the following: " I didn't believe it could be so monstrous. It's wrong to be so absorbed in divine law as not to perceive human law. Death belongs to God alone. By what right to men touch that unknown thing?"

Good Evening, Dear Reader.

The preceding excerpt flowed from the pen of Victor Hugo in his epic work Les Miserables, Fantine, Book One, IV (Works to Match Words). Reading to my brother several days ago (now a week and a half ago), this passage re-awakened a personal sadness over impoverishment of symbols and their meaning in the full sense of the word "symbolic."

Imagine wearing a guillotine or a scaffold around your neck. Imagine hanging a picture of a corpse swinging from the gallows on your wall. Imagine tracing a noose around your neck with your fingers. Imagine praying before a rack or torturer's wheel. Are you feeling nauseated yet?

Yet, as Christians, we do many of these things (their equivalent, at least) quite regularly.

For what is the Cross but an instrument of torture and death? And it was as much a symbol as the guillotine of Hugo's day to the Roman world. What was said of the guillotine and scaffold above that could not be said of a cross?Before God died upon it, the cross was a horror, the embodiment of shame and excrutiating, prolonged death. And for the Jewish and Pagan world encountered by Christianity in it's early years, the cross was still such a symbol. Hence "the reproach of the cross" and the "foolishness of the cross" and the "shame of the cross."

Now, culturally, it's merely decorative. We arrange flowers on it. We put it on our walls, on our shirts, in our churches, around our necks in silver and gold, stick it to our cars, even tattoo it on our bodies without even stopping to think about what we're doing.

But the Cross "is the law made concrete." It is not pretty. It is gory and revolting. One can talk all one wants about crucifixion and remain unaffected - just as I could mention "drawing and quartering" until I saw Gibson's Brave Heart. Now even the words sicken me. (For those who have read Saint Joan by Bernard Shaw [a perfectly frivolous work except for some delightfully profound lines] one might think of "the Chaplain"'s reaction to Joan's burning.) Would we be as silly, unthinking, and irreverent today in our use of the Cross if it were still the norm in criminal punishment?

Though we have never witnessed crucifixion ourselves, we nevertheless confess the Cross as the means by which Christ won salvation for the whole world by incalculable suffering. What does it say about our God and His sacrifice to lightly treat the symbol of His agony in our flesh?

I think of the days prior to my awakening to orthodox catholicity when I was party to mockery of Roman Catholics using the Sign of the Cross. (Yes, Confession time) Sure, I can plead ignorance - the "Romophobia" (term borrowed from an Anglican friend at Hope) of the circles in which I revolved in my early life. But that doesn't diminish the significance of the act. In fact, it almost underscores a new sort of shame which attaches itself to the cross these days.

1. There is a sort of shame among the Protestant contingent when it comes to any relation between the body and spirituality. For many of them, there's a disconnect between spirit and body, the two are treated separately, and the idea that something done to the body could have any spiritual significance is often spurned as false and superstitious. * Thus the water of Baptism and the bread and wine of the Eucharist cannot have any effect upon the soul, besides being "bodily" signs to remind the Christian of "spiritual" things.

2. As said above, the cross, culturally, has become almost "merely" decorative. There is a deliberate, if ignorant of the purport of the action, impetus to separate the cross from its function. (Perhaps there is a link to Modernism and Post-Modernism here that needs to be explored.) People (generic populace) do not automatically think, "grotesque death" when they see a cross. They think, "religious," "christian," "jewelry," or any number of other categories (which they also often incorrectly define). This is especially aided by the Protestant de-body-ing of crosses. Remove the corpus and you've got two perpendicular lines intersecting. With the corpus, the average yokel might think, "Catholic," "Jesus," "church," or even "corpse," before he gets going on the aforementioned list.
People simply don't see a cross as a cross anymore. The sign is no longer symbolic of its function .
This "de-body-ing" the cross does away with the shame of death. But somehow, effacing the shame of the corpse of true Man from the cross, does not mesh with an understanding of the true God who truly became incarnate of the Blessed Virgin bodily, truly suffered bodily, truly died bodily, and was truly raised bodily.

So, on two counts, the mockery of the Sign of the Cross went awry. First, it operated on a false confession that what is done in the body does not matter. A sign doesn't do anything, therefore it is superstitious. Never mind whether it can confess the faith - that's done "with the mouth." Second, it failed to even remotely recognize the intrinsic meaning of the symbol as relating to either death or Christ. Both in the secular and sacred senses, none of the little "sitters in the seat of mockers" made any further connection with the bodily tracing of the fingers than "superstitious Catholics." We felt no shame, because we recognized neither shame nor glory in the simple geometric shape of the cross.

What is left of the glory if the shame never was?

I mean, if there was no intrinsic shame in the cross, why is it such a wonderful thing that Christ has made this tree glorious?

At any rate, there's a lot to chaw on. I'm more and more convinced that words and actions mean and do things - they aren't meaningless, even when they are misunderstood and misused. The spirit is not separate from the body. Rather the spirit lives in the body - not in an alcove, but permeating and filling the material in such a way that both together constitute one being, "the reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting." Even so, (if not quite so precisely) signs and symbols are not mere combinations of color and line, words not mere combination of sound. But each contain within themselves a fullness of history and usage. (This is why I'd often rather have a used book than a new one. Used books bring love with them in dirt and scuffs, in yellowed repair tape, and reglued pages.) This culture has cheapened our words and symbols by both a reductionistic approach and an approach that denies a real reality. To weed a garden is not the mere mechanical motions by which a hand grasps a plant stem by means of muscular contractions and extracts it from the earth, but rather an action comprehending and participating in the weeding of all gardens by all women, the nurturing of family, the tending of soil, yes, even suggesting an icon of the work of the Ministry and unseen Spirit. In the same way, a cross is not two intersecting lines alone, but comprehends every crucifixion and death, justice and injustice, pain, ridicule and shame, culminating in the one great crucifixion which implicates life, justification, vindication, glory, and resurrection in the one word or symbol of a simple cross.

As Hugo says of the Guillotine, the Cross is a living thing, three dimensional in its function, physically and metaphysically. And more than that. In each dimension, the Cross is a paradox as justice meets injustice, sin enounters holiness, glory transforms shame, life conquers by death, perishable is raised imperishable, as the immortal God-who-is-Man dies in order that He might not live without us and that we might live as He lives, sharing the same body.

And Arg! It's 11:57pm. It so annoying to have a brainwave the night before church. I so hope I'll still be alert tomorrow for the sermon. Someone, just slap me. :P

*Luther (in The Freedom of the Christian does say, " And so it will profit nothing that the body should be adorned with sacred vestments, or dwell in holy places, or be occupied in sacred offices, or pray, fast, and abstain from certain meats, or do whatever works can be done through the body and in the body... On the other hand, it will not at all injure the soul that the body should be clothed in profane raiment, should dwel in profane places, should eat and drink in the ordinary fashion, should not pray aloud, and should leave undone all the the things above mentioned, which may be done by hypocrites."
But to say that this passage corroborates the prevalent Protestant position refered to above, is to ignore the sentence which sits between these two preceding and clarifies them: "Some thing widely different will be necessary for the justification and life of the soul, sincethe things I have spoken of can be done by an impious person, and only hypocrites are produced by devotion to these things."

Luther does not say that the soul and body are disconnected or that nothing done to the body can affect the soul and vice versa. He was not so foolish. Indeed, we are saved body and soul by Baptism - a sacrament of water accompanied by the Word and Spirit of God applied to the body to convert the whole person, marking them as redeemed by Christ Crucified for the life everlasting. (See Luther's Catechisms on Baptism) No, the simple point Luther aims to make is that justification is not meritoriously gained by a man's actions. Man is justified by faith - not a belief he works up for himself, but the gift of God which simply receives the forgiveness freely given into its hands by Christ. It is not a striving or reaching for, but a bodily open mouth into which another delivers sustenance. The soul is not removed from the body, but lives in the body and through the body.
Would we assert that what is done in the body is unrelated to the soul we might expect Luther to respond, "Not so, impious men, I reply; not so. Tht would indeed really be the case, if we were thoroughly and completely inner and spiritual persons; but that will not happen until the last day, when the dead shall be raised. As long as we live in the flesh, we are but beginning and making advances in that which shall be completed in a future life," etc. Not that in heaven we shall be bodiless, for what then would be the purpose of confessing that we believe in "the resurrection of the body"? As Hugh of St. Victor says (refer to Treasury of Daily Prayer, Writing for Friday, Easter 7), "But if I shall rise in an ephemeral body, then I shall not be the one who rises. For how is it true resurrection if the flesh cannot be true? Therefore, clear reasoning suggests that if the flesh will not be true, without doubt the resurrection will not be true. So also, our Redeemer showed His hands and side to the disciples who doubted His resurrection He offered them His bones and flesh to handle, saying: 'Handle and see: for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as you see me to have.'"
All that to say that this Protestant idea is by no means an orthodox one nor can it be properly ascribed to Luther.

Friday, June 12, 2009

I Would Not Be Afraid.

I do not want to be afraid any longer.

Pain, I will endure - it is my lot here on earth.
Longing, I will contain - it sustains my hope.
Love, I will give and not withhold - it nourishes the spirit

But Fear,
Fear corrupts Love, kills and squelches it.
Fear twists Longing, by strangling hope of fulfillment without abating the yearning.
Fear manipulates Pain, diverting it from it's proper end, and sealing lips that should pray.

Where shall I run from fear?

When I was small, I would run to my mother's arms, snuggle beside her in bed to escape nightmares. But she would always send me back to my own bed after the initial calm. Now I am too old to snuggle up in her lap. The fears I have now, my mother cannot calm.

But I am still a child of God. And I still have my Mother the Church. What then shall I do? Shall I run to her? I would - inasmuch as I am still a child. For only as a trusting child can I receive her comfort. And here is the sadness of it all. When I think myself begun to be wise, I begin to doubt my Mother. When I begin to doubt her, her gentle ministrations fall on skeptical ears. Ears which would believe her, but into which the wisdom of the world has whispered doubts concerning the wisdom of God. Kyrie Eleison!
So the child in me would cling to her skirts, would cry out to the Virgin's Son for His forgiveness - and does so. But when He bestows His blessed mercy and forgiveness, why does the upstart fool in me scorn His grace by doubting His absolution?

Our God's mercy is infinite, but how if I should fail to see Him? How shall my eyes be turned from seeing my own sin to beholding the righteousness of Christ? How shall I cease to call "unclean" what God has declared "clean"? And how shall I trust His Word that it is so?

God has not given us a spirit of fear. God the Holy Spirit drive out this fear which does not fear, love, and trust in God above all things, and fill the vessel of earth.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Book Lists

Hey Dear Reader!

I'm getting ready to write a ton. Not just to write, but because I have an opportunity this evening (I think) to actually put to page some ruminations which I've been waiting a chance to blog. So, if new posts get a bit thick here, don't worry. They'll calm down soon. And, as always, remember that this blog isn't for you to keep up on my life: it's for me to have a place to spew and share the spewtle (It's a word now...).

So, I'm going to lead into this series of posts with some lists.

What I hope to read this summer:

Summa Theologica - Thomas Aquinas (at least parts of it. Yeah, I haven't been very faithful as of yet.)
Augsburg Confession and Apology Thereof
Iliad and Oddesy - Homer
War and Peace - Tolstoy (Courtesy of Mr. Rhein)
Phantastes - George Macdonald
Phantom of the Opera - Gaston Leroux
Selections from Midieval Philosophers - ed. Richard McKeon (a garage sale book)

And others, as they turn up...

And now that the Lord of the Rings trilogy is out of the way, as well as The Man Who Was Thursday, I've had to pick the next books for my family/sibling reading aloud adventures. My goal is semi-classic/family friendly (read in "thinks will be Mom approved in language and taste")/ thought-provoking lit. that's comprehendable (in maturity also) by all sibs. Here's a tentative list.

The Scarlet Pimpernel - Baroness Orczy
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight - unknown (if the boys don't get bored with the poetry.)
A Man for All Seasons - Bolt

I don't know what to read them after that, but by the time we get there, they might be old enough to launch into some C. S. Lewis Space Trilogy or take on some more hefty fare.

I'm going to try to read Les Miserables with Lukie. He wanted to read it for family reading, but Mom wanted to hear a plot she hadn't heard before. I'd like to read the whole thing myself, but if I can do it with Luke, that'll be even better.

So I'm off to write some more....

Friday, June 5, 2009

And I Am Seized Once More by the Blogging Urge

Dear Reader,

This is one of those nights wherein I ought to sleep instead of holding tryst with my computer keyboard in the dark hours of the night but in which I find that my mind is o'er brimming with words, though I am exhausted by my day. Hence, I take upon myself to write a short post. Hah! A hopefully short post which I may expand upon later.

I'm going to try to explain why I like the painting The Justice of Emperor Otto III by Dirc Bouts C 1460.

This particular diptych moved me greatly and I've developed a deep admiration for and attachment to it. In fact, I selected it as one of the paintings on which I wrote for my Augustine College Art final exam. Yet, when I mention my appreciation for this painting to family and acquaintances, I'm met at first with curiosity and then with, after I mention the subject of the painting, a sort of aversion and incredulity. You see, the two panels are titled, The Wrongful Execution of a Count and Ordeal by Fire.

What do I see in a work of art with such titles? First, take a look.

Prior to Augustine College, I probably would have barely glanced at these images or simply passed over them in disgust at the subject matter. But, thanks to Dr. Tingley, I was not able to treat this diptych so.
Such pictures, one would suspect, must certainly tell a story. As Dr. Tingley explained to the class, this diptych was painted for the wall of a hall of justice in the Lowlands. Strangely, the first panel depicts a miscarriage of justice - apparently historical.
Otto III, shown with his wife, gazing from the wall, has just sentenced a count, depicted in white below, to death. Otto's wife accused the nobleman of attentions to her after the count refused her overtures. The count walks to his death attended by executioners, priest, and his own wife who listens to him with downcast face. He swears his faithfulness to her and charges her to vindicate him. As the apathetic courtiers watch, the count is beheaded and the countess receives his head from the executioner.
In the second panel, the scene changes as the countess pleads her husband's innocence. To decide the point, she undergoes an ordeal by fire, meant to test in her own body the word of her husband against the Emperor's queen. If she is hurt by the red hot iron bar, her husband has played her false and deserved his death. If she is unharmed, he will be vindicated. The hot iron mars her not, the Emperor is aghast and his court astonished. In the background, the false wife of the Emperor burns at the stake for her slander and unfaithfulness.
At this point, please don't be repulsed by the tragic tale. True, it is tragic. It is sobering. But it is also beautiful in two points. One of these, Dr. Tingley brought out in his lecture: Human Justice ultimately accountable to Divine Justice.
Human Justice may be miscarried. Human Justice may be executed in anger and from false witness. Human Justice is fallible and may be twisted. Human Justice may condemn the innocent instead of aquitting him.
But Divine Justice will not and does not falter. Human Justice is accountable to Divine Justice. It is to Divine Justice and not Otto's Justice that the Countess appeals to as she confidently enters her ordeal. (Not that I'm advocating ordeals to determine guilt or innocence. Though, come to think of it, imagine how many criminals would continue to plead innocent if guilt were determined by ordeal!) Those who administer Human Justice ought to tremble before the Divine Justice to which they will be called to account. For those who such ministers condemn, fully believing them guilty though they were actually innocent, will be vindicated by the One who entrusted the sword to them.
Imagine being the judge who had to hear cases sitting before this diptych! What serious weight would it add to your judgements by its silent reminder of both the frailty of your justice and the Divine Court of appeal.
But there's another beauty to this painting-narrative which Dr. Tingley didn't touch on. This diptych could also be dubbed "A Tale of Two Wives" - one a faithless adulterer, the other a trusting, obedient wife. Both husbands trusted their wives. One betrayed and used his trust while the other upheld him even in his death.
Frankly, I'm quite amazed at the Count's wife. Her acts testify to a marriage of implicit trust between the partners. Honestly, how many women would first of all, believe a husband's assurance of fidelity when he had been condemned to death for unfaithfulness? And after that, how many women would trust such a husband to the extreme of testing his word in their own flesh?
Yet, this woman doesn't merely "trust" her husband in thought alone, or "hope" that he was faithful. She hears his promise as he's led out to die for breaking it and believes him. Not only does she believe him, but she quietly receives his final charge to prove his innocence. Her loyalty remains even after her husband's execution, nor does the shame deter her from keeping his trust. She appeals Otto's judgement and, moreover, does not satisfy herself with mere pleading. She offers her very body to test the Count's innocence. She trusts him not with her words alone, but with actively, she still trusts her very flesh to her husband just as she did in his life. The Countess enters the ordeal with a double confidence: a confidence in her husbands truthfulness, and a confidence in God as the just confirmer of the truth and vindicator of the innocent. Without such confidence, she would have reason indeed to tremble for her body. Yet neither of her confidences betray her - the faithful wife, obedient to her husband's last charge, passes the trial scatheless.
It is this unquestioning, undoubting trust and confidence in God and husband which marks the Countess' marriage in this pictoral narrative and so endears the diptych to me.
My brain isn't working well tonight, but I hope that was intelligible. Am not going to review before posting.