As Iron Sharpens Iron

An ongoing and online discussion between: an Orthodox informed Ecumaniac without a denominational home, an ordained Baptist youth pastor with an open mind, a Calvinist worship leader/seminarian with a staggering vocabulary and ability to make a point, and a cradle Catholic with a love/hate relationship to Rome.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Lightener of the Stars

F

FEUCH Sorchar nan reul
Air corbha nan neul,
Agus ceolradh nan speur
Ri luaidh dha.

Tighinn le caithrim a nuas
Bho an Athair tha shuas,
Clar agus farcha nan duan
Ri seirm dha.

Chriosd, a chomairc mo ruin
Corn nach togainn do chliu!
Ainglich is naomhaich chiuil
Ri luaidh dhut.

A Mhic Mhoire nam buadh,
Is fire finne-ghile snuadh,
Liom bu shon a bhi an cluan
Do shaoibhreis.

A Chriosda mo chaoimhe,
A Chriosda Chro-naoimhe,
Bithim gach la agus oidhche
Ri luaidh ort.

BEHOLD the Lightener of the stars
On the crests of the clouds,
And the choralists of the sky
Lauding Him.

Coming down with acclaim
From the Father above,
Harp and lyre of song
Sounding to Him.

Christ, Thou refuge of my love,
Why should not I raise Thy fame!
Angels and saints melodious
Singing to Thee.

Thou Son of the Mary of graces,
Of exceeding white purity of beauty,
Joy were it to me to be in the fields
Of Thy riches.

O Christ my beloved,
O Christ of the Holy Blood,
By day and by night
I praise Thee.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Calormene Soldier

My mom called me tonight and we talked about my Uncle. He is suffering from some severe physical ailments and she is concerned about his salvation. I tried to tell her why I was not particularly worried about him, but I feel like what I said was largely unintelligible, even to myself. In retrospect, I should have used the example of the Calormene soldier in Lewis' The Last Battle.

Emeth is pure of heart (even though he has worshipped the “false” god Tash), and Aslan appears before him and speaks to him as the kingdom of Narnia comes to its end. Here is the exchange in the words of Emeth:
Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him. But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son thou art welcome. But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me. Then by reasons of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one? The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath's sake, it is by me that he had truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, Child? I said, Lord, thou knowest how much I understand. But I said also (for the truth constrained me), Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days. Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.

"Then he breathed upon me and took away the trembling from my limbs and caused me to stand upon my feet. And after that, he said not much but that we should meet again, and I must go further up and further in. Then he turned him about in a storm and flurry of gold and was gone suddenly.
I've written about this before, relating to Josiah. I started with these two a priori principles:
  • Christ is the ONLY way
  • Those who have not been presented with the Gospel are not automatically condemned to Hell.
I then followed with the following statements:
  • Even though someone may be presented with the Gospel, that doesn't mean they are automatically convinced of its Truth.
  • All people who present the Gospel are, at best, fallible messengers. Some so much so (like abusive parents or priests or crooked televangelists) that they poison the message they are presenting.
  • No one can know, with absolute certainty, of the Truth of Christ on Earth.
I mixed in an address to the inevitable objection:
  • It is not certain that everyone would choose Christ after death. Lucifer knew God face to face and rebelled anyway. It is quite probable that many humans would do the same.
  • Also, there are those like Nietzsche who summed up Christ and the Christian faith beautifully, only to negate it wholeheartedly. He, too, would reject Christ at sight, I think.
And came up with this conclusion:
  • Christ is the only way to salvation. However, that doesn't mean that if you don't choose Him before death, you are automatically doomed to Hell.
I return to the story of Emeth, the Calormene. It is obvious that the Calmormene's are meant to mimic the Arabic culture and religion, specifically Islam. Emeth had heard of Aslan, but believed Him to be what we would call Satan. Yet, according to Lewis, Emeth loved Aslan from first sight and Aslan accepted him into paradise. I wonder why many Christians, who love Lewis so much, seem to ignore this. If we were to put that into modern context, it would be like a Muslim, who knew of Christ and Christianity and who had fought against England, dying and, when coming before the throne, loving Christ instantly. Apparently, most "Bible-believing" Christians postulate that God would say, "Tough cookies, buster. Your bound for your master. Enjoy Hell!" But that's not what Lewis is saying.

This leads me to two conclusions. First, many are fearful of Islam taking over the world. I would say that might be exactly the thing the Church needs. It blossomed most under intense persecution by the Romans and, it stands to reason, would do so again under Muslim persecution. And, for those who fear that their children would become Janissaries and stray from the Faith, look to Emeth. Lewis most certainly has a God who is MUCH more loving than most Christians give Him credit for.

Second, regarding my uncle, I believe that he will know and love Christ when he sees him. I believe that in Him is everything my uncle has been seeking his entire life. The message of the Gospel has been polluted by a complacent, selfish, lazy, hypocritical Church. I don't think Christ would hold anyone having known Him from our witness, certainly not mine.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Proctoring and Liturgy (written two years ago)

I'm preparing to administer the EOC field test to my class next week. I've administered one other test this year. The students all make fun of teachers when they proctor because they sound so robotic and precise. But, of course, that's exactly what we're supposed to sound like.

As I was administering the last test, I began to think of similar problems that people not used to liturgy have with the ceremonialism and ritual contained therin. All of a sudden, I understood it. The most "dynamic" churches today are dependent on dynamic pastors, speakers, worship leaders, etc. These people construct worship services and sermons with meaning and which involve and challenge the laity. But that's not really the way it's supposed to be. It's not a show and it's not a motivational speech.

The best priests are those that empty themselves of themselves and do the work of the Church. In the same way, when I proctor a test, I'm not there to be fun. I'm there as a representative of the school system, not to project my wittiness and creativity into the test taking process, but to be as formulaic as possible. Granted, worship is not a test. But neither is it a show. It is us, not focusing on ourselves, but on God. To do this, we don't need something directed to us and our particular tastes, but which empties us of ourselves so that God can move.

The priest is not being himself either. He is being Christ, representing us to God and God to us and, therefore, a certain amount of ceremony and ritual is needed.

St. Caedmon's Creation Hymn

Now (we) should praise the Guardian of the Heavenly Kingdom
the Ruler's power and His understanding,
the work of the Father of Glory, how He, eternal Lord
established the beginning of every wondrous thing.
He first created Heaven as a roof
for the children of mankind, the holy Creator;
then the Guardian of mankind,
the eternal Lord, afterward adorned the earth —
the Lord Almighty (adorned) the world for men.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Y Fendigaid Fair / The Blessed Mary

This is a poem in Welsh with a translation into English in which the author, former miner and librarian Einion Evans (1926 –), a Nonconformist, makes a tender and perceptive apology for his own and for his contemporaries' lack of reverence for the Virgin Mary. In so doing he speaks for so many of us, Catholic and Protestant.

The Blessed Mary

We turned our backs on you, Virgin Mary,
And respected you less than a rag doll from a fair;
In the blazing light of Christ and his eternal radiance
Our eyes were blinded to your great part.

Your sincerity we doubted a hundred times, yes,
And we treated you like some cheap local girl.
We had forgotten that you were God’s means
To place his only son among the living.

Your sleepless nights, who has counted them?
Your son was mocked, yet you loved Him more,
And no one but He and you can really know
What anguish was yours on Calvary.

Listen to us tonight in your heaven above,
Accept your due respect, holy virgin,
And forgive now every disrespectful word
That came from our lips, O Blessed Mary.

Y Fendigaid Fair

Troisom ein cefnau arnat, Forwyn Fair,
A’th barchu’n llai na doli glwt o ffair;
Yng ngolau llachar Crist a’i fythol wawr
Dallwyd ein llygaid i’th gyfraniad mawr.

Amheuwyd ganwaith dy ddidwylledd, do,
A gwnaethpwyd di fel merched rhad y fro.
Anghofiwyd mai tydi oedd cyfrwng Duw
I ddod a’i unig fab i blith y byw.

Dy nosau effro, ‘oes a’i rhifodd hwy?
Gwawdiwyd dy fab, ond ceraist Ef yn fwy,
Ac ni wyr neb yn iawn ond Ef a thi
Pa ingoedd ddaeth i’th ran ar Galfari.

Gwrando ni heno yn dy nef uwchben,
Derbyn dy barch dyledus, forwyn wen,
A maddau’n awr bob rhyw amharchus air
Ddaeth dros ein gwefus, o Fendigaid Fair.

©: Einion Evans, 1969.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

I didn't write it, but what do you think?

I've found another possibility for the top 10 Worst Life Verses:
Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones. (Psa 137:9)
Here's a question, how can this be a prayer that was pleasing to God? Of course, originally God's people held such views, and of course the people of God understood many things in the Psalms quite literally--until Christ perfected the Psalms in Himself.

But for Christians to cling to any sub-Christian understanding would be sinful.

The minds and hearts of the people of God under the old law were in general incapable of the enlightened life of the Christian. God worked with them on their level, first to restrain their evil, then to prepare them gradually for the full revelation of the Son of God. In fact, His command for them to kill all men, women, and children
in the cities of pagans they conquered, was to prevent endemic practices of these peoples, such as the sacrifice of one's own children to demons, from taking root amongst His own people. In other words, if God had not had them put all the pagans to death, a horror spanning one day, worse spectacles of evil and injustice and
murder and adultery and idol-worship would inescapably have taken root among His people, and these worse evils would have played out day after day, week after week, year after year. God's command represented, one might say, the lesser of two evils.

We can't begrudge God that He worked so patiently with these impossible people of the Hebrews, to get them just a little less evil, so that He might at last send His Son amongst them (and the Gentiles were even worse!). First, God told them "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth," because at that time they could scarcely refrain from taking all the eyes and all the teeth of all their enemies' kin. Had God told them to "turn the other cheek," it would have been, in the reality of their situation, nothing but a cruel joke. They could never have pulled it off. Once He had tamed them to an extent, He could finally lead them further on, into love and forgiveness. But first He had to bridle their habits of boundless revenge and animalistic bloodlust.

So God was not "in error" in His economy towards an impossible people. To make light out of dark, one must of necessity traverse the grey.

But that a Christian, in our day and age, could go backwards, and drag the understanding illumined by Christ back into the darkness, is unthinkable, and unconscionable.

We have the Holy Spirit. We are held to a higher standard.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

America Is in SUCH Trouble! (Zechariah 7:8-14)

Then the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying, "Thus says the Lord of hosts:

'Execute true justice,
Show mercy and compassion
Everyone to his brother.
Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless,
The alien or the poor.
Let none of you plan evil in his heart
Against his brother.'

But they refused to heed, shrugged their shoulders, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear. Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. Thus great wrath came from the Lord of hosts. Therefore it happened, that just as He proclaimed and they would not hear, so they called out and I would not listen," says the Lord of hosts. "But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations which they had not known. Thus the land became desolate after them, so that no one passed through or returned; for they made the pleasant land desolate."