Thursday, 22 February 2018

Fickle hearts

Life bumbles on, it has its ups and downs but somehow, God's purpose does manifest itself, God's delight breaks through, and God's love makes the heart ever bolder yet ever more sensitive. 

Most days are just a fog of ordinariness and anonymity and most days are simply too demanding to feel in the slightest bit "spiritual".  Ordinariness is very needy,  but there are programs running in the background of the consciousness that occasionally break out and seek answers.  One program running in my consciousness has been to understand Michal, King David's first wife.  And it is Lent and Lent is always a good time to read more scripture. So this post is about how I see Michal.  Obviously it is coloured by my own experiences, but it is my experiences that make her special to me, in the same way Ruth is special to me and I am forever seeking a Boaz, but good men are so hard to find.....

David is Everyman.  David's Psalms are the songs of the heart of Everyman.  David is the Lord's Anointed.  There is no denying David's greatness or his love of God.  But David is human and David's relationship with Michal reveals so much about human nature.

Michal loved David.  It says it clearly in the scriptures and I think it is the only time (it is certainly the first time) a woman's love for a man is mentioned (unless you read Mgr Knox's translation, which  renders it somewhat different  but is out of kilter with all the others). Yes she loved him and it showed, and her father Saul saw political capital that could be made from this.  David needed to provide a bounty (Philistine foreskins) to get the woman who loved him.  David did the necessary.  And Michal loved David.  And then, when it became evident that Saul was out to kill David, she sacrificed everything to help him live.  You do that sort of thing when you love someone.  She helped him escape knowing full well that she was putting both her life and her happiness of being together with David on the line... she may never see him again.

David is gone and Saul marries her off to another man.  This man loves her, scripture tells us this is so, and he loves her despite the fact her heart yearns for someone else.  So she settles down to what she thinks will be a life of anonymous domesticity with a loving man. Life's not too bad.

Meanwhile David meets the rather lovely Abigail on his travels and she becomes wife number two, they are well matched in intelligence and vivacity, nobody can deny the goodness of the match and it rescues Abigail from a klutz of a husband, Nabal.  All good fun.  Unless you are Michal (or Nabal).

Sometime later and even more wives later, David remembers the bounty of foreskins he laboured to obtain for Michal and wants Michal back.  He does seem far more concerned about the foreskins than any affection for his first wife. Michal is removed from her husband who is distraught and brought to David.  David's sense of righteousness is  never out done.

How will Michal have felt to see David and Abigail so close?  How does Michal feel knowing full well that the care and protection of a man who loved her has gone just so that David can have what he is owed. How will Michal feel, knowing that she is just the value of a heap of Philistine foreskins. We are told  how she feels because her reaction to seeing David dancing half-naked around the Ark of the Covenant tells us exactly how she feels. Michal sees David at his most fickle, and she is horrified that his display of love for God may also be as fickle as his love for women .... and this time he has the gall to be getting the attention of the serving girls. Constancy not show would be nice from him..  Quiet fidelity is all she desires from him and he has failed to deliver either to her or to God..... her heart is broken.  She may be his wife, but that relationship will never be consummated......

But this is not the end of the story.  It is good that Michal has no children. Her father had broken a very old covenant, a covenant made by Joshua and for breaking it reparation is sought.  Seven grandsons of Saul are found and hanged by David to make amends. David's righteousness is never outdone.  Unlike her elder sister, Michal was spared such a mother's heartbreak as she had no offspring. And David would have had to have killed his own sons had he and Michal had children

God looks after her. God looks after all of us whose lives aren't quite our own, whose lives are very much shaped by the decisions of others. God is not fickle.

But is scripture telling me that David's righteousness, upholding covenants, and remembering pledges are more important than Michal's sacrificial love?

No, I don't think so because we see that it is in Christ that the marriage of covenants to sacrificial love truly takes place and they become one and the same. It is only Christ who can truly love the fickle heart that resides in each and everyone of us.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Metaphysics on the Metro

There is an oft seen piece of graffiti in the Metro here.  It is written with silver paint and an educated hand.  It can be seen at several stations. It reads (in Romanian):
Do not worry yourself. All will be well.

Today at a station, I saw that somebody had scrawled underneath one of these the word:
When?

I nearly laughed out loud.  However that would never do.  Romanians are quiet people and the Metro is often quieter than the public libraries of my childhood in England.


All will be well.  Our Faith tells us this is so.  All will be well BUT we can not say when.  Things are already well, the battle is won.  There is not some moment in time when things will be well. The frustrated "when?" on the Metro is unanswerable and the writer knows it. All will be well when time ceases.  All will be well when all wills well.  All will be well as all is drawn to God and God is the Eternal Present.

Time is not linear.  We do not make progress towards some golden future.  I've said before that Holy Mass is the cosmic alignment of now, eternity and history into the "singularity" of our Redemption. It is the foretaste of heaven, not a cookery show.

You see folks: Time is NOT greater than Space (though some say it is and I have no intention of judging those who do).  And Space is NOT greater than Time.  Time and space are part of Man, given to us to bring about knowledge of our Eternal Creator. But there is an endless interchange between them and the lines between space and time are blurred.  Physics is full of these dancing shadows, it is the beauty of the subject.  I may be a lousy Physicist but nothing I have studied could ever induce me to embrace the linear, Cartesian, rational, "sensible" world of the Enlightenment. That way brings only death; God becomes irrelevant and Man a machine.

The late Scots poet, Harvey Holton understood this.  I've included a few stanzas of his poem Thinkan an Daen below.

A few glossary notes for you before you read.  Any direct translation ruins the beauty of the metaphysics.

harn: brains, whummelt: upset,  swee: swing,  end rigs: the last furrow in the field, syne: since, gowd-licket: gold laced, aiks: oaks, spairan: asking

Atween the blink o' the ee an the harn 
Atween the seean an the thinkan,
Time and space whummelt in the swee. 
Dykes rise, Fields, end rigs nae pleuchd syne, 
rummel intill the lift. 

Gowd-licket cloods 
Aw black staunan aiks,
Awe the gap atween seean an thinkan, 
Thinkan an Daean 
That oor word micht come 
Speiritan oot o' thon gap 
Speiran at the yird an a' its cronies 

To summarise: between seeing and thinking, thinking and doing, time and space whummelt in the swee, and through it all a word is generated that pierces the emptiness...... surely this word is the Word?

Can we please euthanise the Enlightenment and do it quick?  Surely better brains than mine could act as executioner and funeral director.  The Enlightenment is dying, put it out of its misery so that we may thrive.


 

Friday, 16 February 2018

not so dog days

Happy Chinese Year of the Dog!

The Rooster year has passed and we roosters remain trustworthy, loyal, brave, frighteningly honest and smugly well dressed (but nothing fashionable or costly you understand)..  The terrifying thing is the next Rooster year is my big year, the Chinese Zodiac will have gone full circle and I will be 60.

My grandmother always refused to show me the Chinese horoscope she got done for me when I was born.  However I can guess it wasn't great, I am a rooster born in the late afternoon, and this is not a great time for roosters.  She would always say that as I was an induced baby, the horoscope didn't mean much.  By that I think she meant I was thrust into a horoscope of some ill. Her own horoscope turned out to be extremely accurate so she treated them with respect. People say to me"you've had it rough", suggesting that life has been somewhat unfair on me.  But as I know nothing else I cannot comment and I remain singularly grateful for God's unstinting love and mercy.

So what does a rooster do in Bucharest for Chinese New Year in the run up to Postul Mare?  Not a lot.  I had a celebratory trip to the supermarket to buy some toothpaste, and the only eventful thing was seeing someone who was better dressed than me... Roosters notice these things ... not that we get jealous or anything.... indeed I just looked admiringly at her, she smiled back and I just hope that my 60 year old self is able to look as elegant as her.

Despite moments of craving "freedom" from the workplace and my desire for a quiet life and "40 acres and a mule", I am content.  I made a lot of roosterish noises this last  year.  I have said things frankly and openly; both personal and less personal and there are no regrets. It goes beyond the words used. We roosters love too well and too deeply to ever believe we could be wrong in the judgements of the heart.  My heart brought me to Bucharest and my heart is happy here, because as the wayside pulpit on the A420 back home used to say: only Jesus mends a broken heart.




Saturday, 10 February 2018

Post

I had no intentions of writing anything on here tonight. I had planned to do a stash of ironing but I blithely poured a generous amount boiling water over my left hand rather than into a cup so I'm somewhat handicapped from doing anything that involves gripping anything.  My reaction times haven't really got any better even though the blood glucose problems have ceased so I continued pouring the water over myself long after it had started to hurt!  Perhaps it was a lesson to instruct me not to get a car.  I had been toying with the idea of getting a car, but now I've shown myself that my coordination is still so lousy, I'll stick to public transport.  Besides, Bucharest is officially the worst traffic jam in Europe.... what would be the point?

I was out today with one of my few Catholic friends in the city.  Neither of us wanted to talk about the current state of the Church, indeed the Ostpolitik with China hurts people so much here; living under Communism only feels like yesterday. Whatever good intentions Rome has, there seems to be no wisdom in it.  Conversation drifted onto Bl John Henry Newman, Dominican spirituality, the joys of plainchant and Latin liturgy and we both felt better! It is all far away in space and time, but we can still be inspired by such things.

And so the Great Lent looms.  I'm busy emptying my freezer of its stash of Russian ice cream.  Doing the "full Byzantine" will be a challenge but one that strangely fills me with joy.  Going Greek-Catholic is practical, it means I don't have to take extra days off work, it means I am in step with my Orthodox chums; fasting and feasting when they do and praying for the dead when they do.....  The joy I feel is something that I can not describe; it is the joy I feel whenever I see the icon of Christ standing on the crossed, ruined gates of Hell, pulling Adam and Eve out into the light....

I'm not feeling at my strongest right now.  My dragon is defiant, smug, very irritating and doing its best to fill me with darkness and despondency. Thanks be to God! I am exhausted by my job and that little voice that I used to hear back in Blighty that said I must do something else with my life, has not gone away, indeed it is getting louder.  It isn't my employment, it is me..... my heart is in something else...... I'm just not sure what... but I want to be creating something beautiful, and doing something with my hands (when they aren't wrapped in damp linen and witch hazel), or doing something with words, I like words.....

Lent will sort things out; sift the fantasy from the reality, the natural desires from the supernatural...
May it be profitable to all of us irrespective of whether we have buried or multiplied our alleluias.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Put not your trust in princes

Somebody, please wake me up from a very bad dream.  Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, I read this bit of muppetry.

http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2018/02/06/china-is-the-best-implementer-of-catholic-social-doctrine-says-vatican-bishop/

This is like praising Ceaușescu for banning contraception in Communist Romania.  And no Catholic nutter would do that ........would they?



Saturday, 3 February 2018

On being a gannet

I express gratitude to the Catholic blogworld's favourite Archdruid for bringing the lonely life and death of Nigel the Gannet to my attention.  Reading the Guardian is something that has completely slipped off my radar here in Romania.  My take on the poor bird's plight however is somewhat different.

In case you need enlightening, scientists were trying to lure a gannet population to a particular remote island by using concrete replicas and solarpowered sound recordings of real gannets.  Poor Nigel was the only real bird who turned up.  Poor Nigel tried to befriend the concrete birds and when finally some other real gannets turned up, he died.

The thing is, I think the spiritual life is very like Nigel's sad life.  We all desire love, real love and we give of what we have and the response we get is just like that off the concrete gannets.  We get nothing back, but we keep on trying.  Something makes us try even harder, but the concrete wins every time.

I find myself slightly more fortunate than Nigel.  I have found some other real gannets and the shock hasn't killed me.  There are more here in Romania than I have known elsewhere.

How do you spot a real gannet?

Well, you must be a giver and prepared to give to the concrete.  You must assume every bird you meet is not made of concrete.  Your first glance must be made with that assumption.  You will never see it if you don't see it with the first eye contact. It is always a surprise and is always brings joy.  I have seen it in old men on the Metro, and the young shabby Orthodox priests who loiter on the streets like tramps in cassocks, I saw it in the eyes of a religious sister at Candlemas last night, I've seen it in the eyes of the young children out shopping with their mums. The glance becomes a smile and the smile is playful.  And most of the time that is where you leave it; happy in the knowledge that there are other gannets doing their thing, battling as you are battling, being gannety in a world of pastiche gannetry. 

Very occasionally it goes further and you strike up a conversation.  Even rarer still, you find a gannet who you can call a friend, one whose life is inexorably linked to your own, one who helps make you the gannet you are meant to be.....

It can of course go the other way.  You can become concrete. You can embrace the pastiche gannetry, pose like the concrete birds, adopt their mannerisms, block the truth from your life but be happy and comfortable in your safe concrete world. The solarpowerd recordings of real gannets are the only reality you need. View and listen to life through the digitally recorded world and make-believe it is real. You can become convincingly concrete and you no longer even desire the company of real gannets.  The concrete birds can be really charming, sweet and even appear "affectionate", it is easier than you think to become concrete and become unable to tell concrete from the real thing.

There are also some very sad real gannets, they return the glance with a "leave me alone, I can't do this, I can't stay real much longer"... they look at you almost accusingly, as if you cause them pain. Sadly you must avert your gaze and leave them be.


Saturday, 27 January 2018

Vocation

I wrote many years ago on this blog the following about vocation.  I wrote it in the context of how I think the Iconostasis in the Orthodox churches represents Vocation, and it is something that hasn't left me. Nor am I talking about vocation in its narrowest sense; the calling to the religious life or the priesthood.  I'm talking about God's call to each of us: the call to us to "cut the crap" and be who we are meant to be

Vocation isn’t all sweetness either, there are long encircling shadows and vast dark empty chasms to traverse…and vocation can’t be reached by the light of reason, only the light of faith, hope and love.

Total loving silent stillness
The marriage of longing and union
Desire and understanding
Lightness and depth
Solitude and communion
Prepared for now
Awaiting in eternity.

Now that Orthodox churches are so readily available to simply pop-into, I still find myself drawn to the Iconostasis: the desire to see beyond, the desire to see everything from the perspective of those in the icons gazing into our world.

Romanian iconography is not classic in any way, it doesn't seem to care for the rules of iconography, the figures often look more akin to those from the Western Christian tradition and can look decidedly Baroque or even Mannerist.  But Romanians do things differently.  I have been surprised by how many Orthodox churches here have very Latin crucifixes in them.

Yesterday I popped into one Orthodox church near me.  It is busy enough that one can be anonymous in there, but small enough to be well off the tourist trail. It has a food bank, it is busy with ordinary people praying and when Confession is on there are always big queues. You enter the church via two heavily carved wooden doors: St Michael carved into the left door, St Gabriel into the right.  It is a favourite place of  mine out here. I can stand before the Iconostasis and feel drawn "beyond", it is a place where the Laudem Gloriam is so very much at home. It also contains a lovely icon of the Pantocrator.  I often go to pray before that.

Yesterday, the experience was uncomfortable.  The icon of Christ Pantocrator seemed to have been crying.  There was something so very sad in the Majesty of Him who reigns.  I found myself saying: why are you so sad, the victory is won, why do you cry, please don't cry!  The eyes moistened even more.  So I said: I don't understand, I don't understand, this is not right.

So I go onto my knees and say the words from the Divine Liturgy:
"Let me not kiss you like Judas"
and repeat them over and over again.

I still don't understand, but it makes me more determined to keep the praise of God on my tongue and accept my lack of understanding. Yes the world is a mess, yes the Church on Earth is not at her strongest and most edifying, yes we are all tired and finding it harder and harder to see what God sees in us, to love each other as He loves us.  And later I remembered what I had written all those years ago. Vocation never really goes away, it just gets darker and more intense. 

Glory be ...... 

Thursday, 25 January 2018

ciorba de burtă

This post is a ramble about tripe.

Ciorba de burtă is a Romanian, rich, creamy, sour tripe soup and I love it.  Indeed I have formed friendships based on a common love for this delicacy.  Those of us who like it do gravitate towards each other. Everyone else seems to think us weird.  Looking back at old cookery books out here, I do think the diet has become much more restricted than it used to be.  Meat wise, you can just about get beef, but it is mainly pork and chicken and turkey. There is no lamb, and nobody seems to eat duck or hare or rabbit or goat anymore. Pork is ubiquitous and very poor quality, it is nearly grey in colour and has not been allowed to hang for any length of time so it is watery and unpleasant tasting.  Those in the south of the country don't seem to make use of the blood products either, there is nothing even resembling a black pudding, and this is a shame.

Meat is certainly disappointing out here, so much so that (apart from the tripe) I am nearly vegetarian.  I have no interest in salamis and smoked meats, so unless I get the opportunity to dine with a family who have recently slaughtered their own pig, I stick to cooking for myself and cooking vegetarian. Interestingly the Romanians got an exemption from the strict EU rules on pig slaughtering when they joined because it would be unenforceable as pig killing is part of the culture. I was a little annoyed when I heard this. I used to know one of the last independent pig slaughterers in Gloucestershire, he was good at his job and respected the animals, he was prevented from doing his thing so the poor brutes on the many smallholdings had to travel uncomofrtable distances to EU approved giant slaughter houses. It is worth noting that many abattoirs no longer slaughter pigs in the UK, so they can be "halal".

Strangely I don't miss English meat, as good as it was, but there are a few English things I'm beginning to miss.  Marmite is one and I need somebody to come out here with real luggage to get hold of that, it gets confiscated from hand luggage. I also miss Lancashire cheese; simply the most fresh, tangy, versatile, beautiful cheese in the world.  There is a fresh, wet cheese out here called telemea, it is good, but not that good. I also miss fish and chips with mushy peas and a mug of hot tea made with proper creamy milk from a glass bottle....

The longer I am out here the more I loathe the whole "European project".  I feel the Common Agricultural Policy is  at least as devastating to agriculture as Stalinist Collectivisation. And the multinational food corporations ride on the back of it. Every crap Dutch tomato and cucumber, every tasteless French Golden Delicious apple, every lousy Eurobeer, each plastic container of French or Swiss owned insipid multinational yogurt or plastic cheese.... kills the soul of the country into which it is imported...... And Romania is no exception..... food choices, the choice of buying local produce are getting more and more limited... For example, Romanian apple growers seem as beleaguered as British apple growers, they can't get their lovely fruit into the supermarkets, they are not uniform or bland enough, they are odd shaped, tasty, wobbly apples that simply won't conform to "standards".  If I can't get Romanian produce, I will seek out Turkish stuff rather than Euro produce. I'm not romanticising Romanian food, their rice is ghastly, and there is lots of it... but that is what I will get out of choice.....

A businessman was telling me, it its cheaper for him to import raw material from Germany than to purchase the equivalent from here in Romania. How is that right?  I often get asked how I voted in the Brexit referendum.  I say that I didn't and I am understood. They understand that the question of leaving or staying was unanswerable.  They nod when I say I loathe the whole  European project as it seems to be run purely for the benefit of French and German banks.  Romania is in a mess, but the EU is more of the problem than the solution.  OK so the internal politics here are corrupt and not much to do with the EU, but within the EU she will always be "second class".  And the slow erosion of their deep seated morality, conservatism and Christian culture, the NATO agenda with its Russia-phobia not shared by the people are other threats from the West..... I feel they simply don't want to "annoy the Bear", the people seem somewhat indifferent to Russia (though the press do seem to be looking for anti Russian stories, especially if the Russian Orthodox Church is involved).  The Moldovans I know, even the young ones, have grown up with Russian food on their plates and Russian films in their cinemas, she is part of who they are, more than any French apple or Dutch tomato or American blockbuster. A far as I know Soviet troops never had a base here in Communist times, and the Romanians were more than capable of their own horrific persecutions and policing without the help of their powerful near neighbour. It is a complex land, but one that I feel is on the edge either finding itself and flourishing because it stands up for itself or losing itself completely, and the EU will only let it do the latter.

I do ask if there are any nations they don't like much.  The answer is always the Hungarians, but they say it with a half-smile on their faces.

I'm talking tripe, I know..... but this place is just like that soup: warm hearted, rich yet poor, and totally under appreciated.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

If...

If there is truth in this article, then I have never read of a more hurtful, unwise, irresponsible and un-loving thing to ever come out of the Holy See.  They are playing politics with the Truth and it sucks.  I am left feeling physically sick.

 http://www.asianews.it/news-en/The-Vatican-asks-legitimate-bishops-to-step-aside-in-favour-of-illegitimate-ones-42896.html

I am nobody.  My views don't mean a thing, my anger means even less.  I can only pray....
But even the angels are powerless in the face of stupid.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Trees

I think we are more like trees than we realise: firmly rooted to earth but reaching out to heaven only for our physical substance ultimately to find itself crashing down back to the earth and obliteration.  However this is not a bleak prognosis, I will attempt to explain why.

Trees in winter are wonderful.  In some ways they are more magnificent  when stripped of their leaves because their "personalities" are laid bare for all to see. It is as if the trees are in their confessional state: look at me, this is what I am, I can hide nothing and right now I am good for nothing.  And what is it that each tree confesses to us?  We see the imperfections.  We see how each tree is a product of its environment and its shape has been twisted and even damaged by its proximity to other trees or objects.  We see the injuries, the scars, the broken branches, and most clearly we see the tree can not escape its past.  The tree is how it is because of all the things that have happened to it, and this makes it beautiful.  It is beautiful because it is unique, damaged, imperfect and vulnerable, it is beautiful because it lives and submits to totally to the life it has, it does not fight its existence, it fights for its existence.

The only difference between us and trees is that we run around trying make things better, trying to achieve things and make progress; grow up, become a better person, make a living.  All our running around achieves is to give us scars and twist or break our branches.  Unlike a tree, our scars are mainly self-inflicted.  Our confessional state is a state of admitting (when stripped of all our fakery) that we are broken, damaged, good for nothing and most of it is our own fault.  We always have two paths to follow, one towards the light, one towards the dark.  Either we grow towards the light (and be more like a tree) or we die inside, rotting our core. We seem to be hard-wired to do a mixture of the two, but our free-will is there for us to avoid the wrong path. And damaged, twisted trees, trees that have been hit by lightning, trees that have survived forest fires, trees that have been knocked about and battered by the elements are the stuff of life.  There is no such thing as a magnificent perfect cedar of Lebanon or English oak.

Perhaps we need to spend a bit more time being rooted to the spot (metaphorically atleast), a bit more time in a more tree-like state. We have self-awareness, we should stare at our damaged twisted trunks and realise that the sap rises through them (through our darkness and interior pain) to our leaves and fruits; towards any good that we may do, indeed towards the good we are made to do.  Trees are not here for nothing.  We are not here for nothing. And notice how the good a tree does never stays with the tree; the leaves that produce oxygen die off, the birds it shelters go away, the fruit it makes are intended to leave it and start new life somewhere else..... we too can not store our "goods" on Earth, that is not their home.

Trees make a mockery of the Modern world (and modern religious expression); the world of progress, self-improvement, achievement, goals and change through life-style choices and consumerism to make us feel better.  Trees now are pretty much as they have been before we ever existed, yet they can fill us with wonder.  Generation after generation we are pretty much as we have always been, the fantasies of modernity are just fantasy.  Our existence really is as simple as a tree's; draw our nourishment from the dirt of the earth and the light in the sky and live, truly live and feel alive; taking the jabs, hooks and crosses, the pain, the scars, the hurt and the damage, and transfiguring them into something beautiful.  True beauty is eternal.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Discourse

Amoris Laetitia just won't go away and therefore neither does my blogging about it.  I read what the bishops of Kazakhstan had to say about the document and I sighed to myself and said "ahh clarity".   But that is not the point.  AL has not been written as a document for clarity, but a document designed to take a discourse further, for understanding to evolve and discernment to grow, because there is only Immutable Truth and we must grow in our understanding of that truth through discourse.  AL only makes sense within a discourse that is essentially Hegelian in nature: thesis - antithesis- synthesis (in endless cycle).  It is evolutionary and creative.  The bishops out East take an essentially Scholastic view: there is Immutable Truth, this is how it is expressed, these are some "counter-truths" and these are some objections to these "counter-truths" to prove how real the Immutable Truth actually is.

Within the Church, Scholasticism is viewed with distrust and even loathing.  The finger of blame can be pointed squarely at Pius X, because his heavy-handed insistence on it as the only method of teaching led it to be delivered so appallingly in the seminaries and in such a didactic manner, that its essence was lost and it became an object of hatred. Scholastic discourse should be creative. I have a theory that the reason why the Devil's Advocate was abolished as a means of assessing the worthiness of a candidate for sainthood, is that it is a form of discourse that is essentially scholastic.

We have to discourse with what we have. If the Church will not abide scholastic discourse and will only indulge in discourses that see progress and evolution as a real part of understanding the Truth, then we can not be scholastic and expect to get anywhere. I think that this is actually quite widely understood already within the church and that is why the old school Scholastics have been so out on a limb (and looking like they don't have much support).  I think that most realise that there can be no discourse if there isn't a common set of rules for that discourse. The Hegelians simply can't discourse with the Scholastics. The Scholastics don't believe that Hegelian dialectic leads anywhere. There is the most horrific stalemate and the Church is suffering as a consequence.

I work with what is in my toolkit.  I make a living out of reason, logic and working from first principles.  My abilities with memory (recall and retention) are poor.  I have little love for emotive arguments, because I see little need for them.  My toolkit leads me to favour Scholastic discourse.  I will however accept that others have a different toolkit wholly unsuited to this and much more suited to a Hegelian pattern.  If someone is wishing to develop a creative understanding of an issue and their toolkit is based on emotion and on looking at the circumstances people are living under in an emotional way, then they will not turn to Scholastic thought for deeper understanding.  They will be looking to find a creative truth in their feelings and intuition, balancing potentially conflicting ideas to synthesise new possibilities. It doesn't work for me, but that doesn't mean it doesn't work at all.

To me the only possible solution is to reinstate Scholasticism within mainstream Church discourse.  Then simply all that will be necessary for those involved in theoligical discourse is for them to say under which rules they are playing: Scholastic or Hegelian.  Once we have this then we can begin to get somewhere.  Scholastic work will lead to restatement of timeless doctrine and will form the basis of the living and eternal Magisterium.  Hegelian work is about the development of ideas, but can never be magisterial and can never have the status of such.  It has value, a value in recognising that we live in a fallen, messy world and we can see the mess.  It is not a method of teaching, but it is a method of learning with some benefit, provided it is open and sees its own limitations.

*****
What do I care!  My Papa Stronsay Calendar for 2018 finally found its way from my mother's house to my home in Bucharest. I can gaze on those cold, pale blue skies and seas I love so much and those sumptuous pictures of good Liturgy done well. I can't change the Church.  I blog out of frustration but it is futile and I know it.  The best I can do is pray within the liturgical cycles of the Church and pray with confidence to the loving God who has given us so much and so much variety.


Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Charity

A rage  (and yes it is a rage) wells up in my heart whenever I hear anyone saying we must give more to migrants and refugees.  Then I start to feel so bad that I have got so angry, but the anger will not go and I know that somehow I need to work through this and make sense of it.  Rage does not happen without a reason, and the only way to calm it is to find the Truth.

Hospitality is something that is a mark of civilised society, but it is something that has to happen on a family by family basis.  Opening up one's house and treating someone as a guest is a mark of a wholesome family and wholesome families build civilised societies.  Often it is the poorest in society who are amongst the most generous in their welcome.

You make yourself vulnerable by opening up like this.  You let someone enter your space, where everything that is precious to you resides.  There is a risk involved, especially if you do not really know your guest.  Your hospitality could be scorned, mocked or taken advantage of.  

As Christians we are expected to do this, indeed we may be entertaining angels without our realising.... and we must always be on the look out for angels. Once, when I worked in  a hostel for the homeless, three rent boys came to the door looking for food.  Their world is the underworld beyond the underworld of the hostel users, it was very unusual to get such a visitation. One had a face very badly disfigured by crack use, the other two hid their faces within cowl-like hoods.  They had rucksacks on their backs with well used magazines of homo-erotic pornography sticking out of them.  Yet I do believe they were angels, they wanted no more than to sit on the front step to the hostel, they wanted food and they needed respect. It was a simple thing and one doesn't ignore a knock on the door like that, though in feeding them I was guilty of breaking some guidelines somewhere....

The thing is "communion".  It is about responding to souls in need because they are brothers and may be angels.  They cease to have a label which has been bestowed on them by society.  You help someone if you recognise a brother. And the thing is we can't help everyone.  It is not that we are making a judgement about who is a brother and who isn't.  It is just that we can only do what we can do, we cannot help with the liberality of God, because we cannot give like God, we give of what we have, and what we have is what God has given us. We must recognise our limitations.

I can not help the poor and somewhat distressed old lady that stands at the corner of my street making noises like the seagulls.  I cannot help the beggar outside the department store with the ulcerated legs and heavy drink problem.  I cannot help directly because I can not see exactly what it is that they need.  Often what they need is not what they are asking for.  We cannot give to everyone.  But God does call us to give to some.  You know when there is a beggar you are to give something to.  You know when you see the man beaten up on the way to Jericho and it is YOU that is being asked to  help him in his plight.  You know when you have met a brother, someone who clicks with you at a very deep level, someone you can share the path with, carrying each other's crosses for a while. You meet, soul to soul, you see Christ, and it has to be a two way thing, they see Christ in you, you see Christ in them.

Charity is personal.  It makes you vulnerable.  It is a risk but you have to give unconditionally, irrespective of how it is received.

And this is why I fly into a rage.  I feel like I am being asked to do the impossible: give to a group of people simply because they exist as a group.  It is as absurd as saying: give to city bankers, they have so much money but so little love, give them all the love you have..... but nobody ever says that.... and yet there will be city bankers more in need of love than nearly anyone you can imagine......

All we have to do is welcome the stranger.. but it is a thing of the heart, the thing of a heart at peace, and it is a soul to soul thing.  Refugees and migrants arriving en masse in a country are a socio-political entity created by worldly injustice and bad politics, those are labels for individual governments to deal with in the way they see fit, it is the broad brush of whatever passes as the welfare state in the country they find themselves in that has to help and if it can't it must say so and it should have a right not to help......  Charity starts at home, our homes, our hearts and the individuals God places before us as individuals (some of whom may be refugees or migrants).

There are some who demand charity .... you know the ones..... they are looking for money, they see you as a soft touch,  you give and then a load more take advantage of your generosity and all start asking till you have nothing left and you regret giving anything in the first place.  You've been had.  When my grandfather said to me not to give to the child beggars in India for this very reason, was this the mark of a cold man or a wise man? 

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Holidays

Two "firsts" have happened this week. I had my first experience of a Romanian train and I made a trip to the local Ikea.

The train was fun.  I'm  a big kid when it comes to trains and railways, they are an endless source of fascination.  As with most things in Romania, the signage is dreadful.  You have to second guess everything (even most of the stations seem to be unnamed) but that adds to the ambiance.  Travelling to see some good friends in Ploieşti was about the most fun you can have for 6 RON (about £1.20).  The train had 2 decks and this was just brilliant, the 5 year old in me was saying "look I'm in a train and I'm going upstairs, wow!!!". It was not fast and it was not swanky, but it worked and it had character, and that sums up why I love being here.

I have been putting off the trip to Ikea since I arrived but the need for a standard lamp had got too great.  I had struggled in vain to find a local shop that sold lamps of any description so a trip to Ikea became inevitable.  It is not my favourite place, indeed I see it as a portal to Hell. They sell the same tack everywhere and most of it is made in China, they are killing individuality and independence.  Every Ikea is the same, I could have been in Warrington, indeed, I suddenly felt I was in Warrington and the desire to run out again and find somewhere a bit more life-affirming was rather strong. However, I bravely made my way through the displays and was pleased to see one woman make herself at home on an Ikea sofa happily breastfeeding her baby surrounded by the contents of a large travel bag of baby blankets, soft toys and hygienic wipes.  I am however delighted with my standard lamp so I have appeased the Swedish gods of interior design and they smile on me from their heavenly halls on their 'Landskrona' leather sofas, sipping nectar from their 'Svalkar' champagne flutes with a sickly, smug benevolence:  you can't avoid us, they say, worship us, they say, we are the future, they say.....

One of my Romanian friends just laughed at me when I was telling him how horrid I find Ikea.  He said: look at it, was anybody buying anything?  No? We only go for the food and to play.

What is there not to like about this place and its people?


Thursday, 28 December 2017

Light

I remember about six months ago, telling myself not to forget the sheer unpleasantness of the light and heat that could be experienced on exiting the Metro at the nearest stop to my apartment. It was all simply too bright and uncomfortably and unnaturally hot: that heat that is only produced in conjunction with the thermal storage properties of concrete.  The heat and light in midsummer here in Bucharest simply knock the life out of you.

Now in the depths of winter things are altogether different.  I love the winter sun. I love how low lying it is. I love the way it penetrates things that are left unnoticed in summer. I love how it can be cold but intensely bright.  I love the way it seems to ask questions of us. I love its pale colour.  I love the way it plays with the bare trees.  I love the fact that wearing a fedora is simply the most practical means of functioning on the city streets without being unsighted by the glare and blithely wandering into the path of oncoming traffic.  I am a wee bit vain when it comes to hats, but the older generation out here smile so beautifully and give me such warm greetings because they like my hats, it is simply good fun.

So  what are the questions the winter sun asks?  Each year irrespective of where I am it asks the same questions.  It asks me to interrogate myself to see if the Incarnation and Nativity are alive within me.  It asks me whether I trust.  Is asks me whether I am alive.  Today I couldn't face that last question.  There is some serious unpleasantness lurking and I am not sure I have the courage to embrace it, though I can't avoid it.  Such things seem easier to face if you are more dead then alive, like Eowyn riding into battle with the Rohirrim. So I felt less elated by the winter sun than usual and felt something of a fatalistic coward.

But just like my old Irish grandfather could always find the best remedy for his aches and pains in the local hedgerows, my remedy for cowardice is always less than a 5 minute walk away.  I go to pray and touch the relic of some Orthodox saint in one of the nearby churches.  It doesn't matter which.

In the same way that you don't so much as look at the icons in an Orthodox church, rather they look at you, the reliquaries are there to be touched and it is them touching you.  And in the poorly lit gloom of the Orthodox churches,  you touch a relic as one dead and you are given some elixir to help you live.  Supernatural light. [and follow suit dear Catholics, get your relics out, make them easily accessible, make them part of the day to day function of the churches, let them get grubby, let all and sundry come up to venerate]

So back home, sleep on the couch until the divine medicine kicks in and I can answer in the affirmative; that I am alive but it is not "my" life.

Light, indeed.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

You want it darker

I do like today.  I like the fact the feast of St Thomas the Apostle (that great empiricist and positivist) is held on the darkest day of the year. The light of belief and the reality of darkness: it is not a paradox.  I like the darkness, I like the unknowing. There is something comforting in not looking for evidence, in letting go, in freeing myself from the need to know, from the need for proofs and facts. Today feels like the most liberating day of the year.  The day to plunge into the darkness to the point of near blindness and cling to the words of Our Lord echoed in the collect for today's feast.

Blessed are you who have not seen and yet have believed. 

Today is the day to strip all belief of  its trappings; of every sentiment and colour, every cosy thought and good desire.  Pure belief is something that is only found in the darkness of blind trust surrounded by the shadow of death.

It has been an eventful year for me and it is good to remember what has happened, but it is better to let go. 

I was so ill, I did not feel I could continue working so I resigned from my job.
I was in love but it was hopeless to even consider it so did not pursue it.
I had an operation that was supposed to be cosmetic but which caused me to be cured of the condition that had stumped doctors for 9 years.
I seriously consider going to Ulaanbaatar and end up in Bucharest.
I find coming out to Bucharest just about the most wonderful thing that has happened to me, but I don't know why.
I know I am meant to be here and that is all I know.

There is a bigger picture, my insignificant little world is just a part of a much bigger picture of darkness and forgetting that we all need to do in Advent if we are to see the True light that will shine on us. Tonight I just wish to let go of all, even the happiness.  I don't wish to trade on my memories, they are such false and unreliable friends.

****

Leonard Cohen's "You want it darker"

There's a lover in the story
But the story's still the same
There's a lullaby for suffering
And a paradox to blame
But it's written in the scriptures
And it's not some idol claim
You want it darker
We killed the flame

I am ready my Lord.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Requiescat in pace




Absolve, quaesumus Domine, animam famuli tui Mihai, ut defunctus saeculo tibi vivat: et, quae per fragilitatem carnis humana conversatione commisit, tu venia misericordissimae pietatis absterge. Per Dominum nostrum.

Regele Mihai 1921-2017  


“Monarhia salvează România!”

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Audi, filia

On my table to read this Advent has been St John of Avila's Audi, filia. I have to admit that I haven't got very far with it.  It seems to defy being read from cover to cover. I am determined to read it however because it was a present from a priest when I left the UK.  Presents from priests are rare indeed .....

However, the book does lend itself to being picked up at random.  It fell open on the following pages about temptation and I want to share these with you. Nothing has disquieted me more in recent months than the Holy Father's desire to change the translation of the Our Father with regards to the phrase "and lead us not into temptation" and replace it with  “do not let us fall into temptation".

St John of Avila writes in Chapter 29 of Audi, filia.

The Lord does not allow these wars and temptations to come upon his own except for a greater good.  As it is written "Blessed is the man who suffers temptation, because, when he has been tested, he will receive the crown of life that God promised to those who love him" (Jas 1:2).... 

... you must exert yourselves manfully in the wars waged against you for the purpose of separating you from God. But He is your help on earth and the one who will reward you in heaven.

...In this way the Lord treats His own.  Many times he leaves  them in situations of such danger that they find no place to stand and do not find within themselves one hair of strength on which to depend.  They are not able to benefit from favours they received from God in times past. ..... But suddenly, when they are not expecting it, the Lord visits and frees them.  He leaves them stronger than before and puts their enemies under their feet.

As I see it, there are two extremely healthy types of "fear of the Lord".  The first is the one I always say to anyone I have been preparing for Confirmation.  You should fear the Lord like the fear you have when holding a small baby.  The fear that you might do it some harm and even drop it.  This fear is the full knowledge that you are simply not worthy to be entrusted with such a precious gift.

There is also another wonderful "fear of the Lord".  This is the fear of the battle hardened soldier.  This is the fear that you simply aren't up to the job any more, that you are serving your King and Country, but that past combat and honour count for nothing. It is a fear you will be found out, that you are not the decorated hero people think you are.  You are simply a weary pilgrim who is always just one step from a massive calamity. It is the fear that is humility. You've seen it all, done it all, nothing shocks you and you know that you have no strength of your own.

To me, it is this second fear where  "lead us not into temptation" is so apt.  No battle hardened soldier is  going to say "bring it on, I want another fight", well not unless he is a fool.  He is more likely to say "I am in your service, I will serve You the best I can, but there are some missions I'd rather not have, unless they be Your will and You are with me every step of the way. Even if I am not conscious of you being there, I am obedient to You."

But REJOICE IN THE LORD ALWAYS! What is happening in Rome may be disquieting, but it simply doesn't alter in any way the fact there is only Unum Necessarium.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Romancing Orthodoxy

Well, dear reader, what am I to do?

Orthodoxy is simply so very appealing and it is larger than life out here.  Why should I remain a Catholic?  What does it mean to be a Catholic?  What exactly is the Church over which the gates of Hell shall not prevail?

I could write loads on why Orthodoxy is so appealing, but I won't.  Words can not do justice to what one feels in one's heart.  I am not a sentimental person. Orthodoxy is definitely devoid of sentimentality whereas Latin Catholicism wallows in it.  Both are passionate, I just like my passion devoid of sentiment.

I could write loads on why Catholicism is so unappealing.  I could write loads on why Catholics are so unappealing. I could write loads on why I loathe the fact that quite so many pixels have been devoted to news of what is happening in Rome.  I loathe the politicising of the Roman Faith.....  I can't find God, only humans..... what is going on?  There is a sickness in the Roman Church and even those who think their Traditionalism will save them, are completely infected.  Do I have to be locked up with you all by association?  Do I need to be sealed into the plague house with you all and left to die?  I want to live.  I really want to live!!!!!

I will tell you why I remain a Catholic.  It is the Immaculate Conception.  The Immaculate Conception really is "everything". The Blessed Trinity is infinitely bigger than "everything", therefrore it is not wrong to say that the Immaculate Conception is "everything".  Through Her but not because of her, God cleanses and sanctifies Nature. Nature is enchanted and She is the summit of that enchantment.  She shows forth purity, wisdom, obedience.  She was conceived naturally by two human parents who fully cooperated in the act of conception with the Divine.  Therefore the Immaculate Conception elevates true chastity to its rightful place.  Chastity is the total surrender of the natural instincts to the will of God and His purpose.  The Immaculate Conception shows so clearly the link between the natural and the supernatural and the link between Grace and Nature, without blurring their distinctiveness. The Immaculate Conception is the sumit of all Metaphyiscs; time, space and matter find their meaning through her. The Immaculate Conception shows us the love of God for His creatures and shows us what He loves the most in us. The Immaculate Conception shows forth beauty as well as purity, wisdom and obedience.  The Immaculate Conception is cosmic yet insignificant in a way that is a pattern for all the works of God.  The Immaculate Conception crushes Satan because there is no death in her. There is nothing in Her that Satan can get a handle on because she is FULL of grace, and there is no death in Her because she is the Mother of God.

In writing, I do no justice to the Immaculate Conception, She is far simpler and more radiant than my clumpy words.

So whilst the 8th December  is a special date only for Catholics, I am a Catholic.





Saturday, 2 December 2017

Dragonul meu

This post is about my dragon. We all have one, it is our constant companion, it snarls, mocks and fights our better nature.  It gives a near incessant foul stenched diatribe about how everything is useless, how we're useless, how there is no point to anything and everything is there to be parodied or scorned. Sometimes it gets so personal that it has the power to make me physically ill.

Thanks be to God!

I have come to see my dragon as a gift from God.  It is a special gift that stops me believing in myself.  I would be unbearably arrogant without it.  I would not have the faith I have without it.

Thanks be to God!

What is important is that dragons are tamed.  You are aware of them, you even listen to them, but you never engage with them.  Like a court jester they often speak truth like nothing else can, often they are extremely observant and genuinely funny.  But the rest of the time they are just sick.  They are never to be trusted.

Romania has tamed my dragon.  There is something here it genuinely dislikes.  It no longer accompanies me to church, mocking the priests and the liturgy and screaming  Nazgul-like when I try to pray.  It comes to work with me.  It loves interfering with my teaching, making me lose my concentration and good humour and it likes arousing les petits diables that hang around our children making mischief. However, it is considerably weakened from what it was in the UK and I don't feel I have to fight it, something else is fighting it for me.

At home, I am amazed how little it pesters me.  It can be found, belching and scratching itself on the sofa. Most of the time it seems content to be inert and lethargic, like an over-weight, antisocial lodger with "personal problems" and bad habits. My dragon has not left me.  But I do wonder what the bigger picture is all about.

If it simply "can't be arsed", this would suggest one of two things. Either that I am about to fall big time.  It doesn't need to do any work because I am staring perdition in the face, some serious fall from grace is just around the corner and I am blithely walking into it without a care in the world. Or secondly, I have a "St George", fighting with me and for me to keep my dragon in check because they can see my dragon and they "know" it and know how to tame it. I actually think it is  a mixture of the two.

Either way, my dragon is a gift from God.  My dragon's current inertia is keeping me alert and awake to dangers and somehow I really do feel I am very much loved out here, it is a passionate but silent , unconditional and unobtrusive love, just what dragons need to keep them in check.

Thanks be to God!

And what about your dragon?  Do you know that someone out there loves you so much that they are willing and able to tame it at whatever cost by the grace of God?


Sunday, 26 November 2017

End Times

I have got out of the habit of looking at the readings for the Sunday that many of my friends would be listening to back in Blighty; those from the 1962 Missal.  However, for this final Sunday of the year, saying Lauds reminded me all about it.  The Liturgy of the final Sunday of the liturgical year in the older Roman rite is decidedly End Times.

Here, I am just writing down my thoughts about the Gospel for today: Mat 24: 13-25.  They are just thoughts, but as this Gospel passage has bothered me for years and I have finally reconciled myself to it, I thought I'd share them with you.

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: When you shall see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of by Daniel the Prophet standing in the holy place; (he that readeth let him understand:) then they that are in Judea, let them flee to the mountains; and he that is on the housetop, let him not come down to take anything out of his house; and he that is in the field, let him not go back to take his coat.

It struck me today that the Vulgate does not say the abomination is standing in the Temple.  I had assumed that Our Lord was talking about the abomination of desolation visiting the Temple.  The Vulgate clearly says stantem in loco sancto (standing in the holy place).  I feel this is important.  Too often this passage is used to justify historical desecrations of the temple in Jerusalem or indeed the stoking the fantasies of those who currently see  "abomination" in Rome. In loco sancto...... perhaps that is us... just perhaps, this is the abomination that visits the Lord's Anointed, that comes surrounded with smoke and mirrors, that we give free passage to and fail to see the corruption it visits upon us. Just perhaps we need to wise up to the abomination that is standing with us and see it for what it is.

Our Lord's advice would seem like total chaos unless this interpretation has some merit.  He seems to be suggesting different things to different people, but to me what is being said is: run from your attachments, flee that which makes you feel secure.  He goes on to say, that yes it will be difficult for those that have legitimate attachments to being comfortable or bringing up children or even to holiness and the keeping of the Sabbath.  Yes we are to pray that our legitimate attachments are not corrupted by the abomination, because even they can be... and that ought to terrify us.

So how do we recognise the abomination at our side?  Most of the time we don't and this is a good thing.  Most of the time Our Lady and the Angels keep it from our sight and battle the worst of its spite that it wishes to deliver to us.  And provided we keep praising God, "who has delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the remission of sins," as it so clearly says in the first reading for today, then all is good.

But there are times when we need to wise up to the abomination's own desire to remain hidden, obscure and beguiling.  There are times when the veil he chooses to surround himself with needs to be lifted.

It is not an every day sort of thing, but be ready for it and be prepared to flee, be prepared to run from every attachment of things on earth and throw yourself entirely on the mercy of God.  When the abomination is revealed, all you will see is emptiness. Throw yourself to the ground in poverty of spirit and meekness of heart and then you will see Christ.... and the Angels will do the rest.

The recognition of the abomination is a grace from God.  We are fools and resist grace.  However this is a grace that perhaps those of us with some degree of spiritual maturity ought not to fear.

Praise God, fast and go to Confession!
Happy Advent.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Wake up, sleeper

At the Divine Liturgy today we had this wonderful passage from Ephesians (5: 9-19)

For the fruit of the light is in all goodness, and justice, and truth; 
Proving what is well pleasing to God:
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. 
For the things that are done by them in secret, it is a shame even to speak of. 
But all things that are reproved, are made manifest by the light; for all that is made manifest is light. Wherefore he saith: Rise thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead: and Christ shall enlighten thee.  
See therefore, brethren, how you walk circumspectly: not as unwise,
But as wise: redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 
Wherefore become not unwise, but understanding what is the will of God. 
And be not drunk with wine, wherein is luxury; but be ye filled with the holy Spirit, 
Speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual canticles, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord;

And whilst my new home is a wonderful country, it is not immune to darkness and dark things. Right now I needed to hear more about the light.  This was good to hear. 

Heretic that I may be, I do not think the so called "Traditional Latin Mass" per se will cure everything from the vocations crisis to hemorrhoids. I fact I don't think it can "solve" anything.  All times are evil, nothing changes, our only remit is to make melody in our hearts to the Lord....... why are we so keen to look for problems to solve?  Crosswords and Sudoku are for solving if that floats your boat, but life.... no that is for living and being alive is about what is in our hearts, not what we do or how we like to do things.

I'm learning the Romanian National Anthem, I fear I will be asked to sing it shortly, it is jolly good, you can listen here.  Two verses stick out.(for which I have given the English below).... and in these days of a Europe dominated by the ideas of George Soros and his money, perhaps the words are as prescient as ever. The new evil may well turn out to be a far greater threat than Nazis, Soviets or Ottomans ever imposed for the simple fact that most are asleep or so fixated with 4G that they cannot see it... and sadly those that can see it seem to be heading down the path of obnoxious Nationalism rather than a genuinely Christian response.


 Wake up, Romanian, from the sleep of death
 Into which you have been sunk by the barbaric tyrants
Now, or never, make a new fate for yourself,
 To which even your cruel enemies will bow.

 Priests, lead with your crucifixes, for our army is Christian,
 The motto is Liberty and its goal is holy,
 Better to die in battle, in full glory,
 Than to once again be slaves upon our ancient ground!










Friday, 17 November 2017

Cyril says ....


Those of you who have not trawled through the archive of this blog, may be unaware of my existence.  I am Cyril Bonaventure d'Wombat. A year or so after the death of the owner of this blog's husband I was commissioned to take control of all things practical relating to the running of this household.  I was sent to live the Tigersh-One and have been part of her staff ever since. My exact remit is:
  • to make sure finances run smoothly
  • to do the cooking on a Saturday
  • to keep the mistress of the house stocked up with oven chips
  • to oversee practicalities like the paying of bills
  • to remind her to do things as she is prone to forget
I am extremely good at my job and financially independent. I trade in "Square Poo", and dump some of the profits from this enterprise into her account on a regular basis so in effect I pay for my keep.

Now that business has transferred to Eastern Europe, there has not been much in the way of change to my role. Dealing with bills now involves me having to open the door to Mr Popescu once a month who comes to read the meters, he returns few days later with a hand written bill in neat a copperplate. Finances are finances, cooking is cooking and reminders are reminders wherever you are, but oven chips are not universal.  The only ones I can find are Polish and they are unpleasant in taste and texture.

She-who-pays-the-rent is in good spirits.  She likes it here. She wants to stay for many more years and even says to me she wants to die out here. Arranging funerals may go beyond the capabilities of a wombat (apart from the ability to dig a damn fine hole). I'm hoping that such an event is a long way off. I'm actually hoping that husband number 2 reveals his identity at some point, I'm sure he is out here somewhere, though she is more fiercely independent than a wombat and seems to scare most men off  either by her brutal honesty or because they perceive her as some sort of mega-brained know-it-all.

I have no desire to return to darkest Wessex either.  I like the new abode, it is clean and bright and there isn't a clerical item in sight, she's not mending or cleaning anything for the Men in Black out here. Perfect oven chips and husbands can wait.  She doesn't seem that desperate for either but she doesn't tell me everything.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Let's Talk About Sin

If we are to sin, we are usually tempted first.  God does not tempt us directly, but there are times when He allows the world, the flesh and the devil to do their bit and tempt us away from the narrow path. We are never tempted beyond what we can overcome, or (in other words) beyond our ability to call on God for help. As Adolphe Tanquerey so succinctly says in his marvellous manual "The Spiritual Life", the sin only takes place when the following three things happen in order: suggestion, pleasure, consent.

Suggestion is the proposal of some evil.
Pleasure follows suggestion, where the person feels a sensation of being drawn towards the suggestion. Pleasure does not have to be pleasurable, indeed in sins surrounding despair, bitterness and emptyness, the sensation is far from pleasant and may indeed be an absence of all sensation and a horrific, all consuming staring into the abyss.
Consent is where the will delights and acquiesces to the suggestion.

It is an act of great heroism to withhold the acquiescence and combat the temptation and we are not really up to it.

OK so much for the text books.  I'm not so sure real life is quite so straightforward and the massive problem we all have is a belief in our own morality and the way we confuse morality with the Divine Law. Morality is usually born of disgust and therefore not part of our higher faculties. Morality is not strong enough to stand up to temptation.  The thing about the spiritual life is that our moral compass disappears when tempted.  The suggestions we face and which are coloured by the world, the flesh or the devil so often feel right, feel just, and indeed feel heaven sent.  Our conscience, so called, doesn't have a chance.

In the field of love this is particularly problematic.  Love is a good.  Love comes from God.  How that love is demonstrated is up to us and we are pathetic at truly loving and aiming as high as possible with those expressions of love. The flesh alone wants to be the theatre in which the acts of love take place. There are other dimensions to love which will be neglected if this is the case.

Today in the Greek-Catholic church we had the Gospel story of the Good Samaritan.  If we claim to be Christians in Communion with Our Lord then it is not enough to avoid sin like the Levite who passed by and did not help the dying man. There are times when avoidance of occasions of sin is not enough.  There are times when we can't walk on by.  There are times when  we see Christ in someone so beaten up by life's horrors and the offering of our love may well be misinterpreted and an occasion for sin, but to ignore them would be a greater sin. We too are beaten up, broken and worthless but we have something to give, something that will help, we are made to be generous.

And marvellously the Byzantine Rite comes to the rescue and as we say before Communion: I will not kiss You as did Judas.

Think on that.  Think hard.  If we see Christ in our love, then we must respond accordingly and not be a traitor to His Love.  We must not kiss as did Judas.

The heroism is in knowing our powerlessness and in handing everything over to God.  The heroism is remembering the First Commandment (remembering Love) and turning everything 100% over to God who is Love when every petty imagining is drawing us further and further away from this.

We then overcome sin without realising.  We do not realise we are doing so, because it is not us that is doing so, it is Christ.  However, the fruits of this will be visible for all to see: peace, chastity, patience, honour, manliness, wisdom and a light heart..... 

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Remnant-ology

There is a movement within the Church of heart-breakingly sincere, well-educated, passionate Catholics with whom it is easy to have every sympathy.  However this doesn't stop them from being wrong.  They see themselves as a remnant of the True Faith, like small furry, lace loving mammals hiding in dark places till the big brash polyester dinosaurs of the 1970s have died out and they can reign supreme. They rally round their pet Bishops and have a good self-support network.  They are a good and wholesome bunch of folk and I don't dislike them in any way.  But they are wrong.

The notion of the remnant is simply not Catholic.  Catholic means universal, it is not to be found in any one style of the Mass, any one method of prayer, any one group of like-minded individuals. The universal Church is simply that, universal.  It is found wherever souls are grafted onto the Living Vine.  All that is not of Christ will wither, and it doesn't need our help to do this, it will happen all by itself.

I am writing from a country with no Traditional Latin Mass, and I do wonder if it would be welcome here. There are a significant number of the population who are familiar with Latin.  There is a genuine religiosity about the people, a reverence and an unblinking acceptance of the numinous and supernatural.  Modernism has very little hold over the hearts and minds of the faithful.  Yet a TLM community will probably never happen and the idea of the TLM and traditional custom and practice being parachuted in to "save" the good folk of this land, is absurd.  They are faithful and they are not part of the remnant, they are very much mainstream. And for myself, cut off form my own access to the TLM which I love, I have been made only too aware of the power of the sacraments irrespective of the rite.  It is the priesthood and the sacraments that matter.

The vast majority of Catholics throughout the world are living faithful to the Gospels and teaching of the Apostles, yet they are not Traditionalists.  The traditionalist remnant is a response to "first world" problems: the lack of faith and the problem of cutting God down to size to "fit" our human concerns. To my way of thinking the remnant's response is a very protestant response.  It involves believing you are right, it involves conviction, it involves some notion that progress and change happen.  They don't.  The Catholic Church has always been a mess, and filled with corruption.  It is simply a miracle (or is it The Miracle) that She keeps going.  And they make the grave error of cutting God down to size to fit into their way of thinking, they see problems and solutions, not the Glory of God.

Each and everyone of us is a microcosm of the Church.  Each and every one of us has within us access to the means of salvation and eternal blessedness, and we have the free will to choose to do this, access to the TLM makes no difference to this fact.

That the Church is tired and that Modernism has brought Her to a sorry state of internal conflict are irrefutable facts.  There is no solution.  We are fighting the long-defeat and it is about time we started living this reality and stopped trying to make things better.

Let God arise!

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

What is love?



What is love?
I’m talking about the stuff that overwhelms a pair of adult human beings with surprise and heroism and engulfs the pair in emotions from the most base to the transcendent.  Normally I write about the more unrequited version of the same thing. Here I write about what happens when it is devastating on both sides. It arrives unbidden, leaves some indelible mark and either fades back into the shadows or feeds like a welcome parasite on the stricken pair, who often submit in total powerlessness to its desires.

I am far too scientific and genuinely unromantic to pay too much attention to the emotions involved.  They are like waves on the shore, they can be of any strength including utterly overpowering.  The feelings can be sweet agony or a simple lightness of heart.  I will not feed them and nurture them as I don’t ever wish them to be my own; a thing I have crafted, an idol of my own making.  That way is the way to narcissism. So, the feelings and all the bio-chemical confusion therein do their worst, I can detach myself from that, heartless bitch that I am. 

But there is something else there, and the eyes of the lovers find a home in each other...

I am fond of echoing the Church Fathers and saying “love is an act of the will”, and this is where I seem to be out of step with the modern world. However, love is desiring what is best for the other, whatever that “best” may be.  It is total dedication to that cause, no matter how futile it may be for yourself.  Most of the time we do not know what is best, only that there exists a best and that we are part of that “best”.  This is an act of the will.  No base emotions, lust or sentiment  will take you there because emotions  are transient.  Loving as an act of the will has to happen when feelings have fled, when nearly anything but loving may seem preferable, when there is no pleasure in the act of loving, when there is darkness, or when the futility is at its most pronounced or when it seems to be simply absurd.

But if I don’t know what is best, then how does this come about?

Love must involve a complete distrust of self at the same time as ensuring the beloved must have total trust in you. This seems to be a paradox, but one we must live in its entirety. It involves detachment from self and it involves God.  It is impossible for any relationship to be lived in its fullness without God.  God is the source of all love and goodness, there is no love without God.  The genuine love two people will have for each other will either become idolatry or it simply will not last unless its Author is guiding every step. And this doesn’t involve some massive religious conversion, just trust and a deep down acceptance of the Law He has written in our hearts. We do know how we should behave and when we do, we know it is for the best.

The romance occurs when the heroic chastity and self-restraint are mutual, when there is total self-giving, unconditional love and above all a delight in the beloved because they are a creature of God. A creature, who for some inexplicable reason your own growth and own journey to heaven is inexorably linked.

It is a darkness yet it is light, it terrifying yet gentle, it can be sad beyond words yet full of joy. Love is the eternal ecstasy of heaven already germinating  within us, why do we so often make such a mess of letting it grow?