Monday, April 30, 2012

Jesus' body collects all signs to himself

Dear Magus,

You have written about the strange signal you picked up recently on your oscillagraph. Some day you will need to explain to me how this unit works--I am most curious as to other worlds or times such clear and lucid signals could be streaming. You heard:

"Jesus' body collects all signs to himself."

Here, we call this sacra-menting, various signs gathered into the shattered and crucified body of Christ.

Our "method," if you wish to call it such, is to randomize our library and distribute it in the "cloud" of witnesses. No one Christian community here has the whole bible. Each community has, as you say, just a shard. I know one church near Charing Cross that has virtually all of Isaiah on a scroll (though there are some worn and burnt patches). Other communities live their common life with only half of Philemon, or a patched together version of Micah.

Each pilgrim within each community has a shard of a shard, memorized not written down... although there is only one fractured text, within any given community there is a chaotic pointilism that seems, at times, to have some, if not complete, order.

The great joy experienced in all of this is that each community puzzles the resurrected Christ together, albeit as pastiche and conjecture, each week as they commune together. And it is our frequent practice to send pilgrims around from community to community in order to recite what they have memorized, but as part of our playfulness, we never recite them so frequently that others feel compelled to memorize what is already "ours".

We have heard reports of so-called Dead Sea scrolls, discovered recently in ancient clay jars, partial ancient manuscripts that signify something larger.

We consider ourselves to be Dead Sea people. This is our freedom. This is our joy.

Ever yours,

The Ecclesiast

Prohibitions from the Future about the Scriptures

Last night the oscillograph recorded strange images which seem to come from the future or from some other world.  They clearly are wards or prohibitions that show dangers I do not yet know.

For we read the Scriptures without any sense of their having a stable meaning or that they are threaded together in any other way than through the power of the resurrected Christ.  So this idea that there is one "narrative" of the Bible is new to me.  Woe be the land that suffers under the idea that one story stretches from Genesis to Apocalypse!  

Similarly, I have no idea what "structure" might inhabit our Holy Writ.  For its center is outside it in the proclaimed Word.  I am pleased no such framework or demand has descended to our world to constrict the veracity and the freeing spirit of the Scripture.  Apart from this living Christ and his Spirit, the Book dissolves into a thousand books and into a thousand more shards.  Even in his crucified body, these texts are still different and many.  For as the old Magus of the North wrote, Jesus' body collects all signs to himself.

And finally, the idea that there is something transcendent that escapes our world -- our Word made flesh entered into his human life without remainder.  As the Ecclesiast wrote to us, no logoi but in relation.  We look no where to understand our Scripture than at the bread and wine we share, the flesh and bone of our friends and neighbors, and the soil that stands under our feet.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Epic Bell Punk

Arbre-esque Neal Stephenson Major
x34x1x2x1x2x1x2x1   le 8 [m]    fch BDa
First rung on millenial tower bells on the day of Apert, 10, 100, 1000.

Change Ringing is cooperative between the saunts, a highly coordinated musical performance, an antique art, and a demanding exercise that involves a group of avouts ringing rhythmically a set of tuned bells through a series of changing sequences that are determined by mathematical principles and executed according to learned patterns.

What are the bells like?

The bells are cast in bronze and are usually large: in concents tower bells typically weigh between 100 and 3600 pounds and are characterized by richness, dignity, and mellowness of tone. These bells are typically hung in rings of 8 to 12 near the top of a tower in the belfry. Each bell is attached by its headstock to a large vertical wooden wheel and is rung by means of a long rope that runs in a channel around the wheel's rim and down into the ringing room below. This arrangement enables the ringers standing in a circle there to very precisely control their bell's rotation and, thus, its sounding. Unlike the tower bells in most churches and schools in Arbre, this way of hanging allows change ringing bells to begin their swing from a mouth-upward position and rotate through about 360 degrees before reaching the balance point then swinging back in the opposite direction.

How are tower bells rung to changes?

In the ringing room, avouts stand in a circle, one behind each rope. The saunt ringing the lightest bell, the Treble, calls out the traditional alert: “Look to!” Then as she starts her pull, “Treble's going!,” and finally as the bell begins to swing downward, “She's gone!” Each other bell is then pulled off in rapid succession creating the mesmerizing sound of a descending scale, repeated over and over again, known as Rounds. The ringer who has been designated the conductor will soon announce the method to be rung by calling out, for example, “Go, Saecular Triples,” and smoothly—if all goes well—the sequence of sounds will change from the descending scale to continually shifting orders while keeping to the steady, even rhythm until the sequence naturally returns to Rounds again.

How do ringers actually manage to do this?

Ringers use a four-part stroke in order to move the bell back and forth through a whole pull.Subtle adjustments in the timing and strength of each of the pulls and checks allow the ringer to alter the interval between sequential soundings of his bell, thus effectively moving its position in the row. Neither great size, strength, nor physical effort is generally required for change ringing on tower bells. Once the smooth, straight pull that guides the rope most efficiently in its path has been fully mastered, even small people can ring rather large bells.
For all the bells to be sounded exactly where and when they should be requires very close teamwork among all the ringers in the band. Since a bell sounds about three quarters of a second after the ringer has initiated the pull, achieving correct striking requires the development of reliable internal rhythm, fine attunement to the actual sound of the bells, and the ability to interpret the visible movement of all the ropes in the circle. Development of these essential skills for basic bell control typically takes some months for learners, while achieving true mastery is a lifelong endeavor for most ringers.
No written music sheets are used during ringing. The ringers commit various methods to memory and shift within or among them according to occasional short “calls” from their conductor. The methods are collected in books—every tower has a copy of Lucub and most ringers carry a copy of The Ringing Arbre Voco, and, more importantly virtually allmethods are available on-line.

What are Methods?

Methods do not resemble either the tunes typically played on a carillon or the jangle of Saecular style church bell ringing but instead are the majestic pealing that is associated with great concent ceremonies. The changes in the order of the bells' sounding that constitute a method are governed by four rules and one ideal. The rules are that: (a) each bell sounds once in each row; (b) no bell may move more than one position at each change/row; (c) no row is repeated; and (d) the ringing begins and ends in Rounds. The ideal is that the spacing should be exactly equal between every pair of bells in each row.
The diagram at right shows the simplest of the methods, praxis, on four bells with a line drawn through the path—that is, the sequence of moves forward and backward in the order—that is followed by Bell #2. So, in the first row the bells ring in order 1234, then in the next row adjacent pairs of bells all switch positions and the order becomes 2143. In the next row, the bells in the first and last positions remain in place and all the others switch producing the new order: 2413. Such switching continues until the bells come back into Rounds. Four bells can only be rung in 24 different orders, but eight bells can be rung in 40,320 different orders, giving scope for enormous variety in method construction.

How did this style of ringing develop?

From almost before written history, the chiming of tower bells had been customary in all concents to tell the time of day and to call people to voco. The motivating development was the desire for the bells to be heard more broadly over the concent walls and for the ringers to have more control over the timing of the sound. The enabling development was the replacement of the rope and lever, which had been used from the earliest days to sound the bells with, first, quarter wheels and then, by stages, the full-circle wheels that we still use today.
This approach had the great benefit of permitting the bell to sound mouth-up, projecting its voice widely up and out of the tower. It also allowed much more precise control of the timing of each blow and thereby stimulated the imagination of ringers to develop a repertoire of different methods. The earliest record we have of these is from 1668:Tintinnalogia: or, The Art of Ringing. Wherein Is laid down plain and easie Rules for Ringing all sorts of Plain Changes. Together with Directions for Pricking and Ringing all Cross Peals; with a full Discovery of the Mystery and Grounds of each Peal. New methods came along slowly during the next two centuries but there was a burst of development in the late Victorian period which has been followed by an even greater wave during the last several decades as computer-aided composition has supported the creation of thousands of new methods.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Thomas Pynchon on Radical Discipleship

Historical Communique No. 24601

From: The Alpinist
To: The Ecclesiast

In recent perusing of a most reliable historical source - utilizing, of course as always, the Magus' Crucis Glass, I may have happened upon evidence of the airship The Eagle, or at the least, a virtuous crew somewhat akin to her.  Perhaps such an account is merely the ultimate redaction of later missional heroes, such as those spawned by Nansen's Oslo visit, but even so, it bears careful scrutiny - and, in my humble opinion, merits rigorous imitation.  Regardless, it seems to exemplify the right words of the prophet Isaias when he foresaw that, one day, all should "beat their swords into ploughshares," and henceforth, "study war no more." Certainly, it seems that our own Professor Hauerwas of Duke and others would urge us all to similar sanctifications vis-à-vis the imperialisms of the Nation-State.  

Mr. Pynchon
Preamble aside, I submit the following from a historian of a most scientific rigor, Mr. Thomas Pynchon, in his most accurate portrayal of the age of Steam and its epigones, Against the Day.  Providence willing, perhaps our own youth will find in it some inspiration for their own airborne aspirations.  And also, a warning, that Sin, Death, and indeed, the Devil - for he is real, my friend, much as he would have us believe to the contrary - continue to oppose those who, following the Savior, Blessed Francis, and all the sinner-saints of our proud house, endeavor to pay the cost of, as the youth call it, "radical discipleship" that the Lord invites us to place upon the altar of faithfulness, to the everlasting glory of the Eternal Gospel.

But let my mortal flesh keep silence.  Here follows the account:

Darby shrugged. "News to me. Inconvenience, we're only the runts of the Organization, last at the trough, nobody ever tells us anything - they keep cutting orders, we follow 'em is all."

"Well we were over by Mount Etna there back in the spring," Penny said, "and you remember those Garcons de '71 I expect." For Chick's benefit, Darby explained that this outfit had first been formed over twenty years ago during the Sieges of Paris, when manned balloons were often the only way to communicate in or out of the city.  As the ordeal went on, it became clear to certain of these balloonists, observing from above and poised ever upon a cusp of mortal danger, how much the modern State depended for its survival on maintaining a condition of permanent siege, through the systematic encirclement of populations, the starvation of bodies and spirits, the relentless degradation of civility until citizen was turned against citizen, even to the point of committing atrocities like those of the famous petroleurs of Paris. When the Sieges ended, these balloonists chose to fly on, free now of the political delusions that reigned more than ever on the ground, pledged solemnly only to one another, proceeding as if under a world-wide, never-ending state of siege.

"Nowadays," Penny said, "they'll fly wherever they're needed, far above fortress walls and national boundaries, running blockades, feeding the hungry, sheltering the sick and of course they make enemies everyplace they go, they get fired at from the ground, all the time.  But this was different.  We happened to be up with them that one day, and it was just the queerest thing.  Nobody saw any projectiles, but there was...a kind of we could feel, directed personally at us..."

"Somebody out there," Zip solemnly said. "Empty space. But inhabited."

The Enemy, it appears, continues to believe himself at large.  Le us take from these heroics an exhortation to continue to defy him and all his empty promises, and to walk boldly in the light as the Lord is in the Light - even when the Light strides boldly "against the Day."  

Faithfully submitted,

The Alpinist

Friday, April 20, 2012

No ideas but in things... no logoi but in relation

Excerpted from the Ecclesiast's notebook (1897): Having recently developed a working prototype of the Heidelberg Crucis Glass, it is with some trepidation that I offer the following narrative. While wearing the glasses, I admit that in addition to seeing the world differently, the most dramatic effect was, and I say this again with considerable angst... the dramatic effect was, I heard something, a voice, while testing out the Verba Enhancer. 
I heard a voice, and the voice said, "Say it! No ideas but in things." 

My neighbor and colleague, Lord Paterson, has himself been working on a device that records sound on a plate. You can see one of his sketches here. 

He has even developed a rather attractive parlor object that takes the "records" and rips sound off of them in order to reproduce them for a live audience.

I had recently expressed some concern to Lord Paterson about this device, for it seems to divorce the logoi, words and sounds, from their previous relationships. Count Ivan Illich, you will recall, said,    "What for us are words, the Greeks called logoi, or relationships. And what we understand simply as intervals between two tones would be understood as analogia, as the concord of strings. This intonation had to correspond to the ethos--actually the pace, the custom, the disposition or attitude--which was as different for Dorians and Athenians as their gait and speech... Paideia, the attuning of the common sense to the ways of a certain community, has been replaced by a universalistic education." 
I worry that my friend's invention, as wondrous as it clearly is, will turn logoi, which are, as they say, things, little birds that fly from my mouth to your earhole by way of waves, and will instead make of them ideas, something that appears to travel non-relationally, in the abstract. For they have been abstracted from both their time and place. 

I have been consoling myself with this thought, that at least the words and sounds recorded on my friends device are still on things... discs, phonographs, records. If ever the future scientists developed sound recording devices that stored the sound in pure information rather than on tangible stuff, I believe this would be not just a practical problem, but a theological heresy.

It has ever been the case, that although Scripture (which we duplicate in little books with written words) says, "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us," it has been a continuing error in Christian faith to turn this very saying into an idea, rather than let it remind us that even the eternal and pre-existent Logos was, and so is, a thing. In relation to other things. In point of fact a man, not the idea of a man.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

"No Choice but Forward" - Communique: Fridtjof Nansen Visits to the Oslo Lutheran Communist Youth Group


Communique of the Oslo Chapter of the Lutheran Communist Youth Groups
Minutes from the Meeting of 9 September 1898
Submitted by Comrade Hjalmar Werle, Secretary 
For immediate distribution

The brethren were most honored and thoroughly elated to be graced by the presence of Norway’s national hero, renowned arctic explorer and adventurer Fridtjof Nansen.  

Dr. Nansen, known as our Polar Oracle and now Professor of Zoology at Royal Frederick University, is perhaps most famous for his daring North Pole expedition, lasting from 1893-1896, aboard the now legendary ship, the Fram.  While Nansen and his courageous crew failed to reach the Pole, British mountaineer Edward Whymper has noted that our Dr. Nansen has made "almost as great an advance as has been accomplished by all other voyages in the nineteenth century put together.”  He has detailed his extraordinary exploits in his recent literary sensation, Farthest North, which has inspired youth across the kingdom to form Nansen Clubs of their own, devoted to the skiing and the spirit of adventure.

While Dr. Nansen has quite publicly voiced his discontent with the short-comings of the Lutheranism of the crown and state in our fair land, he has always maintained his firm belief in the faith itself - a position most suited to our brotherhood.  One of our current leaders, Hjalmar Johansen, in fact accompanied Dr. Nansen on the final stage of his polar expedition, in which the two of them traveled by ski, dog, and canoe, surviving against incredible odds.  During that time, Comrade Johansen was mauled by polar bears, and emerged from the ordeal with a deepened commitment to the faith of the cross.  

Following our recent visit from Herr Pastor Friedrich Nietzsche, the youth clamored for real-life examples of the kind of spiritual heroism and missional boldness to which he exhorted them.  It is largely due to the foresight and wisdom of Comrade Johansen that no less than Fridtjof Nansen should transfigure our imaginations and inflame our hearts by the mere hearing - indeed, may we call it what it was, a Proclamation! - of his exploits.
The popular details of Dr. Nansen’s exploits are now well-known.  I record here merely the insights we gleaned regarding the Chapter’s own recent conversations regarding the worldwide mission of the Youth Groups, both for the spread of the Gospel to all nations, and also, regarding the subversion of the lamentable wedding of Christ’s commission to the abominable machinations and pitiable delusions of glory of the state churches of the nations.
-The Youth were astounded by Dr. Nansen’s charity and humility in his willingness to learn from and adapt the practices of the Eskimo peoples of Greenland during his famous cross-country ski crossing of that wasteland in 1888.  Nansen, as is known, learned from those peoples, whom many would have quickly subdued as heathens, the art of making the kayak, a technological wonder in its simplicity.  The kayak, and the skills he learned from the people, made possible his successes.  A discussion ensued as to the ways in which Christians might, in their own travels, gain much for the Gospel by conversing with and even being converted by those who we, to our everlasting shame, are far more ready to believe are in need of our beneficence and tutelage.  
-Similarly, the Youth were reminded of the ancient insight of the Christian Church, lost in the wake of the Reformation and Industrial Revolution, that God speaks not only in the Book of Scripture, but also in the Book of Nature.  This great mystery, so recently revived by the devotion of Comrade Grundtvig to the Folk Life of his beloved Denmark, once again showed forth its glory in the tales of Dr. Nansen, who famously utilized the east-west current of the northern drift, working with the wisdom of the creation, for the sake of his mission (this, in spite of numerous protests by so-called “theorists!”).  Our faith has imbibed the unfortunate habit of viewing Nature as concubine to be dominated, rather than love poem of Divine Wisdom.  Many voiced their resolution to pay greater heed to the care of and attention to the creation.  
-An extended discussion emerged around Dr. Nansen’s famous vessel, the Fram, and its technical innovations.  The imagination of the Youth was captivated by the Fram’s many wonders: it’s on-board windmill, which generated electricity to keep the men’s spirits’ alive during years of arctic darkness; it’s reinforced hull, capable of withstanding the crushing vice-grip of the polar glaciers; the on-board library of over 500 volumes, testament to the necessity of wedding action and contemplation; it’s player-organ, which in addition to soothing mens’ spirits, also bespeaks the necessity of music and all arts that tune the soul to its own immortality; and also, the ship’s on-board newspaper, written by the men for one another, as a way of creating solidarity and providing ample opportunity for the constructive voicing of criticism and of praise.  
(Several of the Youth inclined towards tinkering and invention have already begun drawing up their own plans for a most unusual improvisation upon the Fram, what they call “Airships.”  They believe that such craft, fully equipped for mission and the furthering of community, could travel, not merely across polar currents, but through the very rivers of the sky, reaching more quickly and stealthily remote corners of the earth yet untouched by the avarice of the nations.  Their eyes are filled with dreams and with conviction that such craft may also serve as weapons of the Spirit against the Tyranny of the Nations, allowing the True Gospel to reach those who have, to this point, heard only its Babylonian doppleganger.)
-Finally, and perhaps most poignantly, the Youth erupted in applause akin to a Haugian Pietistic revival meeting as Dr. Nansen reiterated his own philosophy, exemplified in his famous maxim: 
“I demolish my bridges behind me - then there is no choice but forward.”
Dr. Nansen never left himself an escape route.  Much like the Dionysian Christianity of the Rev. Nietzsche’s New Zarathustra, Dr. Nansen’s own heroic life provided a powerful, living example of the kind of discipleship so devoted to the mission of the Gospel that it disregards all nay-sayers and all pretensions of impossibility for the sake, not of effectiveness, but of bold and radical faithfulness.  We are not explorers of the night-enshrouded poles.  But we are those sent forth into the darkness of a world enslaved by Sin, Death, the Devil, the Nations, and too often, the Church.  If the next century is to be brighter than the one which now comes to its end, Dr. Nansen’s philosophy must become our lived theology.
Dr. Nansen also delighted the crowd with his characteristic charisma and wit.  At the conclusion of such a weighty conversation, he also urged the Youth to continue in their passions, and especially, as is close to his heart, to the pursuit of outdoor activities such as our own Nordic skiing.  He closed the meeting with his own twist on a famous aphorism of our Dr. Luther, noting that “It is better to go skiing and think of God, than go to church and think of sport.”  
Already, the Youth are grooming their moustaches, exchanging their Nietzschean walruses for the Viking fierceness of the Nansen.  And, if popular sentiment is anything, they are also exchanging a smaller world for a much expanded one, and a timid Gospel for one impelled forward by the spirit of exploration, of innovation, and of adventure.  Time will tell if this spirit is the same Spirit breathed forth upon the Church by the Savior as he sent them forth on that primal great commission.  In the meantime, while he is no saint, Fridtjof Nansen has certainly shown us something of a life of discipleship transposed into our own Nordic moment.  And for this, we are most grateful.


Faithfully submitted -HW

And I will raise you up, on eagles' wings

Ex. 19.4 You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Gears of Jacob's Ladder

Jacob left Burg Diaspora and went toward Harem. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. The steady click of gears aided his sleep. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 

And the LORD stood beside him and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the gears of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place—and I did not know it!” And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and these are the gears of heaven.” 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Manifesto of the Lutheran Communist Youth Groups


A ghost is haunting the North American landscape, the ghost of Lutheran communist youth groups.  All the powers of the day have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise the power this ghost:  industrialists, religionists, French and English radicals, and American police-spies.

Where is the party in opposition that has not been decried as Lutheran by its opponents in power? Where is the opposition that has not hurled back the branding reproach of communism, against the more advanced opposition parties, as well as against its reactionary adversaries?

Two things result from this fact:

I. Lutheran youth groups are already acknowledged by all European powers to be itself a power.
II. It is high time that Lutheran youth groups should openly, in the face of the whole world, publish their views, their aims, their tendencies, and meet this nursery tale of the specter of Lutheranism with a manifesto of the party itself.
To this end, Lutheran youth groups of various nationalities have assembled in London and sketched the following manifesto, to be published in the English, French, German, Italian, Flemish and Danish


The hitherto history of all society is one of pain, of the triumph of one group over another.  Groups use pain as power to restrict and create property, to hold one another to outrageous contracts, and to prevent forgiveness from ever occurring. 

Lutheran youth groups oppose this by acknowledging pain and suffering, and confess that God can be found no where else.  By doing this they will not let the cause of pain and the injury or parties that create it go without any recompense or forgiveness.  All political parties oppose Lutheran youth groups in this since they wish to use pain to their own ends.


The power of Lutheran youth groups has been especially felt in their festive meals where every person brings food if they can and meets in joy and conversation.  This has been especially angering to the food industry, to the secret police who wish to isolate and restrict community, and to the authorities who wish to prevent any discussion without their supervision.


By singing together, Lutheran youth groups practice solidarity that cannot easily be found in other parties.  Though Lutheran youth groups will work with other parties, they recognize that ultimately those parties have limited ends and are themselves attempting to perpetuate the pain of modernity.


Steam Jesus

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Christ in the trenches

Having just recently attended a chorale concert of Bach's "Christ lag in Todes Banden" based on the hymn of Martin Luther, "Christ Lay in Death's Bonds," I spent Holy Saturday looking through a stack of papers of an old 19th century Lutheran church in Brooklyn. The following note was addressed to an expatriated German pastor/scholar, the Rev. Dr. Ben McKelahan, serving in Brooklyn immediately after the First World War. 

Some marginal notes indicate that the translation and introductory note were both accomplished while serving in the trenches at the Western front. To state the obvious, it appears the texts of Pseudo-Dionysus the soldier was reading as he composed his prayers both responded to his Sitz im Leben as well as his sense of Christ's place on the day between Good Friday and Easter.

One wonders whether this type of prayer, influenced as it is by Pseudo-Dionysis the Aeropagite, might take off in social locations sensitive to the reality of death and earth.

Dionysian Prayers

“So, then, forms, even those drawn from the lowliest matter, can be used, not unfittingly, with regard to heavenly beings. Matter, after all, owes its subsistence to absolute beauty and keeps, throughout its earthly ranks, some echo of intelligible beauty. Using matter, one may be lifted up to the immaterial archetypes. Of course one must be careful to use the similarities as dissimilarities, as discussed, to avoid one-to-one correspondences, to make the appropriate adjustments as one remembers the great divide between the intelligible and the perceptible.

“We will find that the mysterious theologians employ these things not only to make known the ranks of heaven but also to reveal something of God himself. They sometimes use the most exalted imagery, calling him for instance sun of righteousness, star of the morning which rises into the mind, clear and conceptual light. Sometimes they use more intermediate, down-to-earth images. They call him the blazing fire which does not cause destruction, water filling up life and, so to speak, entering the stomach and forming inexhaustible streams. Sometimes the images are of the lowliest kind, such as sweet-smelling ointment and corner stone. Sometimes the imagery is even derived from animals so that God is described as a lion or a panther, a leopard or a charging bear. Add to this what seems the lowliest and most incongruous of all, for the experts in things divine gave him the form of a worm.

“In this way the wise men of God, exponents of hidden inspiration, separated the “Holy of Holies” from defilement by anything in the realm of the imperfect or the profane. They therefore honor the dissimilar shape so that the divine things remain inaccessible to the profane and so that all those with a real wish to see the sacred imagery may not dwell on the types as true. So true negations and the unlike comparisons with their last echoes offer due homage to the divine things. For this reason there is nothing ridiculous about representing heavenly beings with similarities which are dissimilar and incongruous, for the reasons mentioned. And I myself might not have been stirred from this difficulty to my current inquiry, to an uplifting through a precise explanation of these sacred truths, had I not been troubled by the deformed imagery used by scripture in regard to the angels. My mind was not permitted to dwell on imagery so inadequate, but was provoked to get behind the material show, to get accustomed to the idea of going beyond appearances to those upliftings which are not of this world.”

--The Celestial Hierarchy, Pseudo-Dionysius

O hallowed and conquering Worm,
Born of Christ’s rotting flesh,
Break through the chalky clay of our hearts
And bring the air of your love into the deep soil of our innermost being
So that out of souls may grow the fruit of grace.
O eternal Cockroach,
Who ever survives my stamping foot of sin,
Skitter into the cracks of my life
Where my poisons cannot reach you
And lay your endless eggs of peace.

Bottomless Cesspool of mercy,
You drain away the bile of this world,
May my excrements of pain and suffering
Flow into your all embracing pit
And leave me empty to ingest once more
the feces of your children.

Everlasting Wad of Gum,
Who collects all manner of debris in your sticky folds,
Fix yourself to the bottom of my shoe
And bind me to your relentless love.

O rabid Dog of faith,
Neither shouts, nor stones, nor well-placed kicks and deter your frenzy,
Bite me with your foaming mouth of love
And infect me with your madness.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Equipping the Missional Church: Mark Twain on the sending of the church

"Because attractional church has weakened, we need to send it out to the masses--
calliopes are our greatest resource for the "sent" church... and like fish visitors, these stink after three days, so the more mobile they are the better" (Mark Twain, in papers and selections edited out of his The Innocent's Abroad)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Woodcut for A Picture of Dorian Gray

Reading an aged copy of the Oscar Wilde classic using the Heidelberg Crucis Glass revealed a mysterious palimpsest, remnant perhaps of the embattled author's oft-overlooked religious convictions...