Friday, February 29, 2008

And again I say "shame"

I know, it leaves you speechless, but it bears contemplating, long and hard.

Meanwhile, Caminante was posting the Vermont side of the same picture. Vermont. Who knew? That's right, it's not all Bernie Sanders and Ben & Jerry.

Friday food blogging

No time to write, but time to procrastinate... Someone write a tune for that one, please.

A short break to visit the local supermarket to replenish the supply of kitty litter -- and there on the discounted vegetable cart were several extra cheap and perfectly acceptable bags of portobello (or portabella) mushrooms. I bought two bags, for a grand total of not quite four dollars, and let me tell you, that's a lot of big fat portobello (or portabella) mushrooms. They don't look pretty, but they're fine otherwise.

Let's have a recipe contest. I tend not to cook with recipes, even though I have posted some here and do follow directions when I bake or when I make Thai peanut sauce. Otherwise, it's improv all the way since I know what tastes go with what and I like to use seasonal and local foods. Heaven knows where these mushrooms came from but they were too cheap and interesting to resist. (Another tune, please for the words "too cheap and interesting to resist," which can surely be used in many contexts.)

Ideas, anyone? Post 'em in the Comments section. JohnieB? TCR? Dennis? Ormonde? Clumber? Paul the BB? (Have you noticed the trend of Guys Who Cook among this crowd?)

You may not suggest cream (heavy or whipping or half and half) (oh, Lord, another tune needed here) because I do not have any in the house and am not going out again. Plus, I rarely keep cream around.

What I do have in the house right now: a little garlic (not as much as usual, but enough to use in a recipe), onions, carrots, a little leftover steamed kale, flour, oil (olive, canola, toasted sesame), a couple of eggs, brown rice, pasta, lentils, rolled oats, somewhat stale whole grain bread, a little butter. No cheese left in the house except a little blue cheese. Fresh ginger. Avocados. (Expensive purchase that cancelled out the cheap mushroom purchase, but hey, it's payday and I am craving avocado.) Milk, wine (red) (but I'm not drinking any this weekend, I have to write, though in a sauce is fine), vodka, maple syrup. Bottled organic lemon juice and lime juice (that's two different bottles). Cashew nuts, walnuts, almonds (in freezer, ready to use). Yogurt (organic plain nonfat). And almost every herb or spice you can think of. Also fresh parsley. I think that's it but OCICBW, I am scanning the fridge and the shelves from memory here in the back of the house.

How long I like to take to fix a meal (not counting washing the vegetables): 15 or 20 minutes tops. That's these days. I'll gladly cook for an hour when I'm not having One of Those Weeks, but there is an accumulation of Those Weeks this winter. Which doesn't mean I should eat badly especially on weekends. (The nutritional balance was fine this week, but I acquired it with some things that required little or no cooking.)

Saddle your horses. Off you go.

If no one suggests anything by suppertime (I eat late, European style, so there's time) I shall have to improvise. I may leave half the 'shrooms till tomorrow, though, so post away. There are enough for two recipes. After tomorrow, though, they'll go bad if they remain uncooked.

P.S. ALSO (found it later in the fridge): one Tofurkey Italian sausage. Never had such a thing in the house, but never say never; see the Comments section for the how and why of the never say never. It's not bad, actually. Portobello stuffed with a mixture of fake sausage, fresh onion, and fresh parsley? There's already sun-dried tomato, a bit of basil, and garlic in the Tofurkey thingie.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Jeff update; prayers, con'd

Our colleague Jeff who is in hospital is still hanging by a thread. There's sepsis apparently and in consequence, a host of other complications, not just the pneumonia. Keep up the prayers. Thanks.

P.S. I'm brief not because of this but because of all the other stuff I mentioned in my previous prayer request. P.P.S. Thanks to MadPriest for the prayer orders. I love it when you get bossy, Jonathan.

We're number one... in rate of incarceration

Shame, shame, shame. One in a hundred U.S. inhabitants is in prison.


Among the details:

One in 30 men between the ages of 20 and 34 is behind bars.

One in 9 --yes, one in nine-- Black men is in prison.

h/t to truthout for the article in the Toronto Globe and Mail. (And thanks to Our Neighbors to the North for reporting the news and to the Pew Center for the States for conducting the study.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The woman at the well

When I was Social Justice Minister at Boston's Paulist Center, a welcoming and lively Catholic community, back in the 1980s, I preached the one homily that folks told me they remembered for years afterward. (They also laughed when they talked about it.) This was way, way before computers, but I did save my homilies or sermons from those years, typed up and filed away, and this past Sunday, after hearing one fine sermon about the Samaritan woman and reading a few other fine ones online, I went into the files and lo, there it was, the old Samaritan woman sermon. I could hardly believe I preached it back in 1984 when I wasn't even 32 years old. Twenty-four years ago! Good heavens! It seems like the day before yesterday.

So it has taken me a few days to type this thing into my computer, but it has been a nice break since I am meditating on parts of the Gospel of John because I am preaching this coming weekend (at last -- I had taken a break because of the pressures of academe, but a couple of weeks ago I decided I couldn't stand it, so back in the pulpit I go).


The Third Sunday in Lent (Year A), 1984.

I came out in a long loose dress and shawl carrying a big jug and spoke these words:

I still come to the well.

I come here to remember.
What it was like that day.
It was high noon – so hot,
even the crickets were tired.
The wheat fields down in the valley were shining
in the sun.
Up here
you could smell the herbs and the hot dust,
and sometimes you heard
just the tiniest rustle of wind
in the olive trees.

Give me a drink,
he said.
I didn’t know whether to get angry
or laugh.
Get your own water, I felt like saying,
I’m tired.
Isn’t that just like a man.
They sit in the shade,
telling stories and watching
as we women go by, carrying
buckets and jugs
up and down
the steep paths.

But of course he was different.
He was
a stranger—a Jew;
I could tell.
And I was so surprised
I wanted to laugh out loud.
Jews don’t talk to Samaritans;
and men don’t talk to women
in public.
It’s just not done.

No, he wasn’t like other men –
and I’ve
known plenty of them.
He wasn’t
like other men,
and he was more of man
because of it.
Not a coward, for sure,
but gentle, as if he could feel
what a woman feels.
Strong though.
I could tell.
He could have picked me up if he tried,
water jug and all.
And then the power
of what he said..
and the way that he said it…

Living water, he said,
I’ll give you
living water.
All I could think of at first was thirst
and heat
and breathing in dust day after day
and my aching feet on the stone path
and my arms heavy from the water jugs,
and how much I would love
to get away from the well.

I didn’t realize he was speaking
of another thirst
and another

We talked
about my men.
You know they called me a bad woman
down there
in the town.
Not just because I had had
several men.
But because
I was bold.
I talked back.
I wonder
if he liked that.
I think he did.

He did make sure I knew
who he was,
And that he knew the truth
about me;
and that
what we were about up here
by the well
was truth –
plain truth.

I was confused about the truth–
their mountain and our mountain,
their worship, our worship.
But he got me thinking
in a whole new way.

Thinking – that’s another thing I do
when I come up here
to the well.
I come here to think
about the things he said.
About living water
and God the Spirit.
That’s what I felt inside me when he spoke
and I had to go and tell everyone…
As if my life and the world
were changing, as if
they could really change.

I think about what keeps me
from the living water,
too –
do you think about that? At first what kept me
is that I didn’t even know
my own thirst.
I think he knew
my thirst for truth
and for hope
and for
a new world.
He helped me to know it
and name it.
Before him, I wasn’t sure
what to call it.

Sometimes what keeps me from the living water
is that water in the jug.
The sheer weariness,
the burdens of every day.
The men who still laugh at me,
and the women who are still suspicious of me
and my children’s demands on me.
I get tired and forgetful
and discouraged.
I get to feeling
What keeps you
from the water?
What keeps you
from his truth?

I’ve got to tell you again,
when I realized the truth,
when I realized who he was,
I left my jug right here
and ran off to the town.
I felt a power I had never felt,
God’s power and mine all mingled together!

I often wonder why he chose me, of all people,
to tell
who he was.

Did he think people would listen to me
because I was different?
He said himself
“salvation is from the Jews,”
and then he went and picked
a Samaritan,
as if anyone in the world
could know the Messiah
and talk about him!
Did he know I was smart and bold
and he could trust me?
Did he know
that we women aren’t afraid
to feel what we feel
and say what we mean
and go and do
what needs to be done?
Why didn’t he send one of his buddies to tell my townsfolk?
Of course a Jewish man from Galilee
wouldn’t have gotten very far
with my people.
I, on the other hand, had nothing to lose
by being outspoken.
They’d already
called me every name they could.

The thing was, when I came
barreling down the hill
they listened,
Oh, did they listen.
They were so fired up that they ran to him and begged him
to stay for a while.

He stayed two nights and two days,
and more and more people believed in his word
and his power,
and in that Spirit God.
Even the children --
especially the children.
My daughter acted as if she’d known all along
who he was
and who God was
and how fine she was.
She’s only
seven, and bolder than I am
Smarter, too.

She comes up here with me most of the time
That’s the third reason
I come to the well.
We still need the water,
and women
still draw it.
Oh, things did change
when he came
and after he came.
It felt
like an old world coming to an end
and a new one being born.
I could feel it. I still can.
he left,
and we stay on in the village.
It feels
like the middle of time.
People look at me in a new way,
but they haven’t forgotten
the names they called me.
They still have a little trouble
with the people on the other side of the hill.
Women still draw the water.
I think it will take us a lifetime
to change our ways
Maybe longer.

But I can still see
When he left, a crowd
walked him to the edge of town.
I walked down the road a piece with him.
We didn’t say anything.
I was all talked out, for once,
so was he.
We grinned at each other.
I never thought of the Messiah as smiling
that way.

when my daughter looks up at me with her dark eyes sparkling
I see him too.
I pray
that she will know more than the water jug
and the laughter behind her back.
I think she will –
and so does she.
She will know a new world
thanks to him.
And so will you.

Copyright (c) Jane C. Redmont
Bloggers may link freely.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Dear all who pray, please hold us in your hearts and before the heart of G*d. We have a faculty member suddenly and gravely ill with aggressive pneumonia in hospital. His life is hanging by a thread. He is a deeply committed teacher and advisor and much beloved and respected. His name is Jeff.

I also humbly ask your prayers and thoughts for various trials I have been going through including the loss of a computer (not here, back in California, long story) with vital and irreplaceable data, two major life challenges (one in church, one in academe, sorry I cannot give you details), and our still open search for a faculty member in our very small religious studies department. (Where everyone is healthy right now, physically anyway...)

Thank you.

March 19 blogswarm

I'm in.

Monday, February 25, 2008

This one's for MadPriest

We are continuing our blogiversary series at Acts of Hope, and this song by Georges Brassens made us think of the one and only MadPriest. It's not really the kind of music he likes, and it is --horrors-- in French, but the theme of the song and its words are pure MP. The song is called "The Bad Reputation" and it is about the consummate outsider. It also has a little bit toward the end about "taking the paths that do NOT lead to Rome." It speaks of the author's mocking of the self-righteous and their dislike for him. Brassens was a great poet.

The tune ain't exactly soul music, so we will be back in this space with something more worthy of MadPriest musically and rhythmically, but time is short in the crazy groves of academe, so best to post the first half of the tribute pronto. MP, Maya Pavlova and I send our love and solidarity to you. Keep up the bad reputation!

Our man Jesus had a bad rep, too.

And now for the second half of the dedication: a young Miriam Makeba in 1966, deep in the apartheid years, singing "Khawuleza."

Nkosi sikelel' iAfrika

Sunday, February 24, 2008

"A little cantata" ("Une petite cantate") by Barbara - and various grumpy updates and a senior freak-out dinner

This is one of my favorites among Barbara's sadder songs. The words speak of piano-playing and grief (at the loss of a daughter or younger person)

I'm in the mood for sad music because 1) Ralph Nader is running for President, and though I get the point (and even agree) I still think it's going to play right into the hands of the Republican Party and 2) Our chosen candidate from the three finalists at the end of our year-long faculty search has turned us down, not because s/he didn't like us (s/he did, and we would have made a great team) but because we pay much, much less than the other place that offered him/her a job. And there's more I can't discuss on that score. I am not a happy puppy.

I'm not sure what this will mean or how we will proceed, and I probably won't be at liberty to say for a while.

[Note from the technical staff at Acts of Hope: YouTube is up again and the link to the song above works. Take a listen.]

I am having a bunch of seniors over later on for what I have called the "senior freak-out dinner." (Note to non-U.S. readers: a "senior" in this case is a fourth-year college student, completing his or her bachelor's degree, the first U.S. university degree, at the end of this academic year.) I invited every senior I knew and told them to bring friends and come and spend a couple of hours here (early, before they and I all repair to our studies and libraries to do the usual Sunday night hours and hours of homework) eating soup and talking about what it's feeling like to be a second-semester senior. I remember that when I was an undergraduate at a small liberal arts college not unlike this one, this time of year my senior year was exactly when I freaked out. Endings, beginnings, life decisions, going or not going on for further study, identity crises and all the rest. So, I ran the idea past one of my former teaching assistants (a senior herself) and she thought it was dandy, and I sent out a big group e-mail and a reminder, and the little darlings are coming over in a few hours. One group is even bringing homemade cookies. I told them they didn't have to be freaking out to attend; all the better if they are feeling happy and relieved to be graduating. But there is such a mix of emotions at this time in one's life that it's good to have a place to acknowledge this.

We also have adult students (about half our students actually) but these are, except for a few younger "adult students" who are in their twenties, people in a different situation when they graduate. They usually have clear reasons, professional and financial, for getting a college degree at age 30 or 40 or older, so the issues senior year are very different -- and they are rarely full time students. So this will be a group of the young 'uns.

I'm going to go weep into my mug of organic fair-trade locally roasted coffee now.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Barbara: "Ma plus belle histoire d'amour"

Some of last night's listening pleasure: the great French singer, Barbara, singing one of her greatest hits, "Ma plus belle histoire d'amour, c'est vous." ("My most beautiful love story is you." She could be singing this to the love of her life, or to her audience; the language allows for both. She dedicated the song to her fans.) Bear with the Sixties make-up, her song is magnificent.

She was a composer-writer too, not just a singer. Born 1930, died 1997.

More Barbara coming; I'm on a roll.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Friday cat blogging: winter nap

Taken two months ago, but the pose and mood are almost the same as tonight, except that she's curled with her head to the right and is on the desk in front of me under the lamp, where she is warm and I can see her as I write. Click to enlarge.

And for Paul, a little drama

I know, Paul darling, you are Swedish and not Norwegian, but a Norwegian composer played in Jerusalem is kind of fun, and you are the flag collector and international observer and welcomer. Enjoy.

And this one, for some reason, is for Mimi

I think it will go with your glass of Shiraz.* Have a listen and a look.

*Or whatever you and Grandpère are having this evening.

This one's for JohnieB

who has a boo-boo on his Jupiter, and NO (Eileen! PJ! Stop it right here!) that is not a euphemism for anything, see the Comments section in the post below and go listen to some Jerry Garcia -- or to this:

Jupiter Symphony Part I (Rudolf Barshai conducting -- never heard of him, should I have?)

Jupiter Symphony Part II

Jupiter Symphony Part III

Jupiter Symphony Part IV

Jupiter Symphony Part V

(JohnieB, I have no idea whether you were talking about three inches into the symphony on vinyl or on CD, so I'm posting the whole blessed piece.)

And this, because it's just one movement but it's with Jeffrey Tate and the English Chamber Orchestra and it's delicious to listen to and a hoot to watch. Love those woodwinds. And Maestro Tate's hands and facial expressions.

Friday not so random music: "So Many Roads"

Link to YouTube video rather than upload.

If you had told me even two months ago that I'd be posting this to my blog I wouldn't have believed it.

But there you are, things happen.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Howard Zinn on election madness

Okay, okay, so I read The Nation and I love Howard Zinn. No one is surprised at this point.

This piece of Zinn's is in the latest issue of The Progressive, which I read for years before I even knew what The Nation was. It's still alive. The piece came to me via Truthout.

An excerpt:

I’m talking about a sense of proportion that gets lost in the election madness. Would I support one candidate against another? Yes, for two minutes—the amount of time it takes to pull the lever down in the voting booth.

But before and after those two minutes, our time, our energy, should be spent in educating, agitating, organizing our fellow citizens in the workplace, in the neighborhood, in the schools. Our objective should be to build, painstakingly, patiently but energetically, a movement that, when it reaches a certain critical mass, would shake whoever is in the White House, in Congress, into changing national policy on matters of war and social justice.

Let’s remember that even when there is a “better” candidate (yes, better Roosevelt than Hoover, better anyone than George Bush), that difference will not mean anything unless the power of the people asserts itself in ways that the occupant of the White House will find it dangerous to ignore. ...

Can I hear an "Amen"?

Read it all here. And click to enlarge the photo. Handsome fellow.

Calendar blogiversary: one year

A year ago today I began blogging. It was Ash Wednesday. (I already mentioned the liturgical blogiversary a few weeks ago on this year's Ash Wednesday.)

I've a busy day today, in office hours most of the afternoon and then teaching all evening till late, with a meeting afterward (!), but will offer thanks for the blogging community and other joys either late tonight or sometime during the next few days! For now, THANK YOU for visiting, reading, commenting, and so much more. A special shout-out to those who read but do not comment on-blog. Some of you have told me off-blog that you visit this space, others among you just visit silently. Blessings, all.

There's more to this poem by Denise Levertov, but the beginning of the poem is enough for now.

But we have only begun
to love the earth.

We have only begun
to imagine the fulness of life.

How could we tire of hope?
–so much is in the bud.

How can desire fail?
–we have only begun

to imagine justice and mercy,
only begun to envision

how it might be
to live as siblings with beast
**and flower,
not as oppressors. ...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

February 18: Luther, a day late, with sermon

Yesterday was the feast of Martin Luther, reformer, pastor, scholar, husband, father, servant of the Word, friend of Christ.

This is a sermon from four years ago. I'd forgotten I preached it till I remembered yesterday's feast!

February 18, 2004
The Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Berkeley
Bilingual Eucharist

Isaiah 55:6-11
Psalm 46
John 15:1-11

During my seminary studies, back in that era I am now teaching as history, the 1970s, I took one of those intense surveys of the history of Christian thought, during which we were required to read a book by the 6th century Roman scholar and man of public affairs, Boethius. It was called The Consolation of Philosophy. I disliked that book.

I have since repented, having revisited the book in my wiser, grey-haired days. I also realize that a good part of what bothered me –and in some ways still does– was the title. I don’t find philosophy that consoling. What I do find consoling is history. The fact that Boethius wrote this book in prison and that it was in part an effort to articulate a response to the turmoil of his times –Remember the Ostrogoths? Remember the days of hard-core doctrinal heresy?– warms my heart as much as the content of the book, worthy as that content is of our attention.

History is consoling.

Take the 16th century, for instance, a millennium after Boethius wrote his Consolation of Philosophy. This is the century we remember in today’s liturgy. You think we have religious turmoil and civil disturbance today! Study the 16th century: several reformation movements in Christian Europe –in Germany, France, Switzerland, Spain (yes, Spain, which had not only the Inquisition but Teresa of Avila and Ignatius of Loyola), England, Scotland, the Low Countries; and what we now call Eastern Europe wasn’t exactly religiously quiet either. Then there were religious wars, civil wars, Holy Roman Emperors, feudal lords, shifting borders and political alliances, epidemics and witch-burnings, Popes and princes, the Council of Trent.

And that’s just Europe. As Professor Alejandro García-Rivera of JSTB once reminded a group of us, if you ask a group of people of European descent what the major religious event of the 16th century was, they will say "the Reformation," of course. If you ask what the major religious event was for people with roots in this region of the U.S., California, in what is now Texas, in Mexico, and in an entire continent south of here, the answer is "the Conquista." Yes, the Conquista as religious event. The 16th century, century of religious reform, of marrying monks (like Luther) and remarried kings (like Henry), was also the century of military and religious conquest, the century of cultural destruction and cultural blending, the century of Juan Diego and La Virgen de Guadalupe.

This century is Luther’s century.

And here we are, thinking for a few minutes in English at a bilingual Spanish-English liturgy in the chapel of an Anglican seminary on the feast commemorating a 16th century reformer –biblical scholar, Catholic monk, priest, husband and father, teacher, pastor, vigorous actor in the church and in the maelstrom of what our century calls "culture" and "politics." Luther: a lover of good beer and heated conversation, a man schooled in Hebrew, Greek and Latin who offered his theological gifts to his contemporaries in the vernacular German of his day.

Martin Luther: a man of his time, he married at first reluctantly –he was 43 and knew his life was often in danger, not good family potential– and not out of passion –few people did in those days– but grew to love his beloved Katharina von Bora, a.k.a. Katie Luther, with a force we recognize from his later letters as both deep respect and tender intimacy; we might even call it well-seasoned romance.

We honor a reformer whose traces are present –in ways he might find surprising– in one of the books from which I am teaching, edited by a Methodist from Ghana and a Lutheran from Kenya, both women. Katie Luther, no intellectual slouch herself, literate in both German and Latin, might well approve of this recent development. (She was, by the way, both while Martin was at home and while he was off being Luther, the manager of a household that was more like a convention center, hotel, restaurant, brewery, study hall and seminary all rolled into one. Yes, she read Latin and made beer.)

Martin Luther, complex actor and thinker, challenger, brooder, pastor, tender father who with his beloved Katie mourned the death of two daughters, is a reformer for the whole church, the church universal.

Still, we might wonder why he is in our Episcopal calendar, why we claim him as ours. Our own reforming ancestors, those island people, when they imported theology from the Continent, got it shipped in from Geneva –not, for the most part, from Wittenberg.

The reasons we honor Luther with a feast could fill many books. But one of the strongest, which is closely linked to the consoling power of the study of history, is right here in today’s lessons, brought to us by the architects of our lectionary. It sings to us from the Scriptures today. And I do mean "sings," because both the passage from Isaiah and the excerpt from the Gospel of John are vivid and lively, full of images from nature, biblical language at its poetic best.

Luther’s life and work, Luther’s faith, Luther’s struggle and leadership, with their genius and their flaws, are pervaded with a lived and felt sense of the presence, the reality, the truth and the power of the Word of God.

And Martin Luther, far as he may be from our contemporary ways of reading the Bible, was no mere biblicist. The Bible was his byword, but the Bible was not his God. Christ was his God. And Christ for him was God’s living Word. The Bible was God’s word inasmuch as it brought people to Christ. And it did so in history and through history and with the good news of a God of unimaginable grace alive in history. Martin and Katie Luther’s history, Frederic the Great’s history, the history of the conquerors and the history of the conquered, our history.

The Word for Luther is alive, alive as the rains that drench the earth and the seeds of spring carried on the wind, alive as the sap flowing from the heart of the vine to its branches. (1)

The Word is in history. The Word moves history. The Word of God isn’t the word on the page, it’s the power of the Word that leaps off of the page and grabs us. Or draws us in.

This may be hard for us to grasp on days when "word" and "words" evoke for us the burdens rather than the joys of study, scholarship, committee meetings, reports and papers, not to mention the beating that language is taking at the hands of its handlers in politics and media –and, yes, in religion too. This is why we need poetic language, this is why we need sung language, this is why we need the silence between the words. And this is why we need the live memory of Luther, servant of the Word. This is why we need Luther, a man of his time, reminding us that the Word who lived and lives in the world, our world, is an enfleshed word.

You want incarnation? You’ve got incarnation in the life and teaching of Luther. At the same time, paradoxically, along with the Word enfleshed, Luther stressed the otherness of the Word, its distance from us. Just as in Luther’s thought, we have in the reading from Isaiah, along with the images of rain returning and watering the earth, of sprouts and new growth, the language of the otherness of God:

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Let me share with you Luther’s own words, taken from an essay on what to look for and expect in the Gospel:

The chief article and foundation of the gospel is that
before you take Christ as an example,
you accept and recognize him as a gift,
as a present that God has given you
***–there’s the otherness of the Word–
and that is your own
***–there’s its intimacy–.

This means that when you see or hear of Christ doing or suffering something,
you do not doubt that Christ himself, with his deeds and suffering,
belongs to you.
On this you may depend
as surely as if you had done it yourself;
indeed it is as if you were Christ yourself.

See, this is what it means to have a proper grasp of the gospel,
that is, of the overwhelming goodness of God,
which neither prophet, nor apostle, nor angel was fully able to express,
and which no heart could adequately fathom or marvel at.

This is the great fire of the love of God for us,
whereby the heart and conscience become happy, secure, and content.

This is what preaching the Christian faith means.
This is why preaching is called gospel, which in German
***–Luther wrote, in German–
means a joyful, good, and comforting "message"...(2)

On this day when the birds sing after the earth has been drenched with rain, let the Word in all its richness find a home in us,(3) as we remember Luther, servant of the Word, friend of Christ.

1. The Gospel for the day was the passage from John about the vine and the branches.
2. Martin Luther, "A Brief Instruction on What to Look for and Expect in the Gospels" [1522] in Timothy F. Lull, ed., Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1989), 104-105.
3."Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly..." Colossians 3:16a.

Note: This sermon was dedicated, with gratitude, to the memory of my teacher, friend and colleague Tim Lull, who died the previous May, and to his wife, my friend Mary-Carlton Lull, who that week was mourning the death of her father in Georgia. I commend to you, besides Tim’s edited selection from Luther’s works, his small and lively book My Conversations with Martin Luther (Augsburg Fortress, 1999).

Monday, February 18, 2008

On the social nature of forgiveness and the community of the church

From the early writings of Dorothee Sölle (1929-2003). Emphases mine.

No one can save [oneself] alone and no one is forgiven alone, if forgiveness is taken seriously in the sense of being born anew.

But how does that happen? To experience the forgiveness of sins, we need a group of human beings who make it possible for us to begin afresh; at the very least we need partners who accept us as we are, who have faith in our repentance, who believe we are capable of communion. In the ancient church this social role was filled by the Christian community, which criticized and absolved the individual. But where do we find comparable groups in the Christian church today?.... It is out of the fear of making ourselves dependent on others that we appeal to God as absolute Lord and link our forgiveness and conversion to [God] alone. But can there be a nonsocial forgiveness?

Reflection on a forgiveness that is accomplished here "below" resolves this difficulty: damnation in fact occurs even here, consisting in the total isolation of the individual for whom a new beginning is no longer believed to be a possibility. In Germany those who have become aware of their sin from experiences in the Nazi era have scarcely any chance of conversion if they are alone.

Conversion is more than forgiveness because it includes the future. Our world obstructs the possibility of conversion, for its principles include the isolation of [people] from each other and their segregation according to privilege. People live as much as possible in small, intimate units; they organize their work in terms of meaningless and unrelated fragments, and their needs are reduced to those of the consumer. Pressure to achieve, built-in competition, loneliness and inability to communicate, and insistence on privileges are characteristic of a society in which we are not permitted to make a mistake or at least not to admit it. It is a society in which conversion is excluded.

The liberation of all, which is the intention of the gospel, suspends the isolation of modern capitalism. "Jesus wants us to be friends" – thus runs the first sentence in the Catechism in the Community of Isolotto. Thus in the groupings of [people] established by the gospel the theistic, private meaning of forgiveness of sins will become superfluous, because forgiveness has once again become a possibility in the common life. There is a turning away from isolation and from thoughts of achievement, and the experiences that men have with the gospel of liberation can be talked about.

Dorothee Sölle, Political Theology (first U.S. edition, 1974)

Speaking of the preferential option for the poor... Krugman's NY Times column today

Poverty is poison.

Right here in the U.S. of A.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A night prayer by Erasmus

I'm not much for Father-God language, or at least for its dominant or exclusive use. But this is from the 15th/16th century and in that context it's different. I also love the gentleness of the language in the entire prayer. And I'm fond of Erasmus. This is one of the prayers I included at the end of a chapter in When in Doubt, Sing. (Each chapter is thematic and has a few resources at the end --prayers, spiritual exercises, et al.)

Lord Jesus Christ,
you are the gentle moon and joyful stars,
and watch over the darkest night.
You are the source of all peace,
reconciling the whole universe to the Father.
You are the source of all rest,
calming troubled hearts,
and bringing sleep to weary bodies.
You are the sweetness that fills our mind with quiet joy,
and can turn the worst nightmares into dreams of heaven.
May I dream of your sweetness,
rest in your arms,
be at one with your Father,
and be comforted in the knowledge
that you always watch over me.

Desiderius Erasmus (1469-1536)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

More stuff you can't make up: lefty Love Boat

Speaking of radical chic (a remark I made in the Comments section a day or two ago c/o the wonderful janinsanfran, keen observer of politics progressive and other)...

Delightful New York Times article about The Nation's Alaska cruise.

Full disclosure: I'm a reader of The Nation.

But I certainly can't afford the cruise. I had to figure out whether I could afford the subscription again, after having lapsed for several years.

Friday, February 15, 2008

You can't make this stuff up

Cloning a pet pit bull. And his name was Booger.

I'd rant and do a theo-ethical analysis, but I have reports to write, and I spent part of the morning praying the Lorica and I think I'll stay there. All y'all do the talking.

A Saturday P.S.: FranIAm, bless her heart, has posted on this and started and discussion about it over at her place. Do visit.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Maybe it was the atmospheric pressure

Or the barometric pressure. Are they the same thing? I am an adult and ought to know these things.

I have a student athlete with a bad shoulder injury and his shoulder (with pins from surgery a few months ago) hurts him when the pressure changes. He predicted yesterday's snow hours before it came, he told me. Another student, who is ultrasensitive on all sorts of emotional and mental levels, gets horrid sinus conditions when the pressure changes. He's had a hard time of it since last Sunday when the winds came.

So I'm thinking that maybe the pressure affects my mood sometimes. Of course this morning's joy in the woods might have to do with the beauty of the snow, the clear light, and the fact that we made a decision about our search yesterday. But the pressure had changed too, and I am always happier during and after precipitation (rain, snow) than before.

It was probably a combination of the search decision and the grace of Godde.

No, I can't tell you our choice, because it went to the dean and then after the dean approves she calls the candidate, and then it's the candidate's choice to say yes or no to our offer, so it's all out of our hands now. We're holding our breath.

These tenure-track searches are decisions of huge import in small liberal arts colleges like ours. Our department only has three full-time tenure-track people (there are also a couple of part-timers) right now and we often spend more time with our colleagues than we do with our spouses and partners due to the demands and practices of work, and if we all get tenure and decide to stay (we are all untenured right now -- all two of us and the person who is leaving and the person who will replace her) we could be together for a long, long time, like the crew of our predecessors who retired within a few years of each other not long ago. So it's a bit like being married to each other. For better, for worse, in sickness and in health, for long hours and many resolutions of challenges and conflicts, for decisions involving basic values, for lots of care of other humans. I don't know where I will be five years from now. I could be tenured and here, I could be refused tenure and not here, I could be in parish work again, I could be somewhere else entirely. But we could all be a little team here for many years and are assuming we may well be. And even if we are not, the decision of whom to hire in the field of religious studies will have an impact on students, and on the institution, for many years. It's not like hiring the best widget maker you can find; not that widgets aren't important.

Small talk. I am turning into a minor Samuel Pepys again with all this detail... (Speaking of which, someone has Pepys's diary on a blog!) Not very profound writing, this, but it's life right now. I did write a bit more of my New Preface by the Author in my head during my walk, and also got some thoughts (thank you, Holy Spirit and beautiful snowy woods) for my sermon of March 2. I need to put them to paper. But first I must finish proposals for the Educational Policy Committee. They were due today and I got back from class an hour ago. There are a lot of faculty members up late tonight finishing their proposals. More details of why we have to write these proposals you really don't want to know. The short version is it's not optional.

A nice Valentine's Day, though, with joyful solitude and beauty to begin the day. It made all the difference later.

And tomorrow night, on stage!

Arthur Eaton, RIP (spouse of liturgical dancer Carla De Sola)

A dear sweet man has died, in the fullness of years after a good life. Arthur Eaton was the husband of my friend and dance teacher Carla De Sola, one of the great liturgical dancers and choreographers in this country and founder of the Omega West Dance Company and earlier, of the Omega Dance Company in New York. (That company is still alive and well at St. John the Divine Cathedral.) A retired social worker, Arthur was a merry soul and he adored Carla and always supported her work. I have fond memories of seeing him on walks with his dog Kelpie (an equally sweet soul) and also of his and Carla's presence at my annual Mardi Gras crêpes bash during my years in Berkeley. He died this past Saturday in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Carla has written friends to thank them for the outpouring of love and care from across the world on this sad occasion. Her letter continues: Your words, phone calls, visits, gifts of food, time and prayer have been unbelievably helpful as we come to terms with the earthly loss of this wonderful man - his spirit, of course, lives and dances.

Arthur's funeral will be held on Sunday, February 24th, at 4:00 P.M. at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco. Arthur asked that in lieu of flowers, he would appreciate contributions to the Omega West Dance Fund, Center for Religion, Arts, and Education (C.A.R.E.), 2400 Ridge Road, Berkeley, CA 94709. Please contact Margaret Simpson at if you have any questions regarding the service.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory. And may his and Carla's many friends continue to surround Carla with love and care.

New primate for Sudan

An exquisite walk in the snowy woods this morning, half an hour of bliss, a real gift. And no time to write about it. Deep in Curriculum Committee deadline bureaucracy, six proposals to write. Office hours later this afternoon. Class all evening. Stack of exams and short papers to correct, sometime somehow.

But this just in from the Anglican Communion News Service. I am doing a quick cut and paste job. See below.

Daniel Deng Bul is a good man. He is also the father of one of my students, about whom I have spoken before and for whom I have requested prayer. Please pray for my student Peter, for his brothers and sisters, for their mother Deborah, and for their father Daniel, bishop and soon to be primate, and for the new responsibilities, burdens, and joys that are upon them in a country beset by war, famine, and other challenges. Pray for the people of Sudan. Pray for the Church.

-----Forwarded Message-----
From: Anglican Communion News Service
Sent: Feb 14, 2008 12:00 PM
Subject: ACNS4371 The Episcopal Church of Sudan elects Bishop Daniel Deng Bul as Primate
The Episcopal Church of Sudan elects Bishop Daniel Deng Bul as Primate
The Episcopal Church of Sudan (ECS) has elected the Rt Revd Daniel Deng Bul of the Diocese of Renk to serve as its next Primate.

Bishop Deng will succeed Archbishop Joseph Marona, who retired on December 31st 2007 after serving eight years as Sudan's Primate.

Bishop Deng was elected February 14 on the first ballot out of a field of three nominees during an emergency General Synod at All Saints Cathedral in Juba, Sudan.

The 75 voting delegates included bishops, clergy and laity, and a two-thirds majority of 50 votes was required to elect the new archbishop. The other candidates were Bishop Ezekiel Kondo of Khartoum and Bishop Francis Loyo of Rokoni.

Bishop Deng recieved 39 votes, Bishop Loyo 21 and Bishop Kondo 15. Kondo was eliminated and before the Synod could proceed to the second ballot, Loyo withdrew and asked all delegates to support Deng.

Addressing the Synod following his election, Rt Revd Daniel Bul pledged to work together with the whole people of God to build up the country and unite people. "We have a challenge ahead of us," declared the Archbishop-elect. "We need to teach our people for unity and love. We will do that together."

He also warned that the task ahead required commitment and perseverance.
"We should not be divided along tribal lines. We are Christians. We should lead our people in peace. We must give a strong message to the people of Sudan that the Church of God is united."

Bishop Daniel Deng gave special thanks to the partners of ECS who had stood alongside ECS through difficult times, in particular the Bishop of Salisbury, Rt Revd David Stancliffe, who had led the pre-election retreat. The Archbishop-elect declared his readiness to work with the Church's partners for the building up of the nation. He also thanked his wife, Mama Deborah Deng, for her strong support since the beginning of his ministry.

The new Archbishop is due to be enthroned on 20th April 2008 in Juba.

For further details please contact the Provincial Secretary, Revd Canon Enock Tombe, on +249 1120 9844.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

February 13: Blessed Absalom Jones

I must get back to the calendar of the saints sometime this spring. What has happened to all my good habits* ?

Nevertheless, I remembered Blessed Absalom on and off all day and now that I have had my
snow meal and gone for a little stroll around the cyberhood, I rejoice that, as I had hoped, Padre Mickey honored this holy man, whom Mary Sue rightly calls priest and prophet.

* The Lenten discipline is sticking so far. I went for a walk in the rain this morning under a big umbrella. (Light rain this a.m., heavy snow this p.m.) Saw a beautiful bird skimming the surface of the pond nearby.


Yup, in North Carolina. Used to happen once or twice a year, but none of it the last couple. This here snowstorm is the real thing, coming down thick and white and good for packing into snowballs. We let our evening classes out early. (Most of the students in evening classes are our adult commuter students.) I still didn't get out of the building till nearly 10 p.m., but usually when I teach in the evening I don't get home till 11. So I got an extra hour and we didn't get to talk about early African American Methodists and Baptists.

Pasta with gorgonzola and toasted hazelnuts, I think. To blazes with diets, it's snowing. Padre Pablito will absolve me, I am certain of that. The pasta is whole wheat, anyway.

We watched the rest of the Romero movie in seminar today. Stunning. Literally: the students couldn't (and didn't want to) speak for five minutes afterward. We just sat in silence for a while.

More from Monseñor Romero

The world does not say, Blessed are the poor.

The world says, Blessed are the rich. You are worth as much as you have.

But Christ says, Wrong. Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, because they do not put their trust in what is so transitory.

January 29, 1978

There is one rule by which to judge if God is with us or is far away --
The rule that God's word is giving us today:
everyone concerned * for the hungry, the naked, the poor,
******************* for those who have vanished in police custody,
******************* for the tortured,
******************* for prisoners,
******************* for all flesh that suffers,
has God close at hand.

February 5, 1978

The guarantee of one's prayer is not in saying a lot of words.
The guarantee of one's petition is very easy to know:
***How do I treat the poor?
*****--because that is where God is.
The degree to which you approach them,
and the love with which you pproach them,
or the scorn with which you approach them--
***that is how you approach your God.
What you do to them, you do to God.

The way you look at them is the way you look at God.
February 5, 1978

from James R. Brockman, S.J.'s

The Church Is All of You,
a collection of excerpts from the homilies, letters, and interviews of the martyred archbishop of San Salvador

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Non-meme meme

Does "meme" stand for "me, me, me" ???

I know, the word existed before the blogosphere.


Lenten practice: To take a half an hour walk first thing in the morning or whenever I get up (which is sometimes much later than first thing in the morning since I teach all evening, till late, two nights a week, and work late at least one other night). Just that. As I wrote over at Sharecropper's, this get me outdoors in nature (I live near some beautiful trees and don't hang out with them enough); gives me some time for quiet prayer; exercises my body and offer me a chance to breathe deeply; and in general, starts my day in a contemplative way and not at my desk (not even reading the Daily Office online, which now comes later). It's small and simple but I think it's what I need. And it's not so huge that I can't do it. Also, it will probably affect the rest of the day. (I'm still waiting for that, but the point of Lenten disciplines is NOT "results.") It changes the gateway to the day and does it with body, mind, soul, heart, environment, and time. It involves some discipline; even something that small is taking some rearranging, perhaps as much inwardly as outwardly. It was a struggle this morning. Even after plenty of sleep I woke up cranky. I was still cranky during and after the walk -- a rarity, since walks generally dispell crankiness.

Current crankiness: Our departmental search for a new faculty member. This is a major decision since we are a grand total of three tenure-tack faculty in the Religious Studies department. (There used to be four in the old, pre-budget-cuts days, and we may return to four, but that is a long-term project.) So two of us are bearing the burden of decision (the current third, who is leaving, is not part of the search committee) though of course we are consulting the students (who play a real role in the search here), other colleagues, members of various committees, and representatives of college governance; the dean and president, of course, will have to approve our decision. The third finalist has come and gone and now we are in discernment mode. I am trying to read what last night's and this morning's crankiness are saying; I know they are saying something. My Ignatian training is kicking in. Anyway, I will be glad when it's over. But we can't rush such an important decision. And we have to rush in a certain sense since the candidates are not only competing with each other: we are competing with rival institutions in other parts of the country who are after some of the same candidates. More I cannot say but there is a lot more.

More crankiness: I am neglecting church committees (which I much prefer to academic committees, although a committee is a committee) and some of my work for them because of the above and of a couple of other things I don't talk about on blog. I have also taken a break from preaching for some weeks. This won't last forever, but it's a necessary sacrifice right now and I don't like it. Someone did cheer me up earlier today though, and it helped.

Current joy: Teaching liberation theologies to a very small seminar of students: reading texts by Gustavo Gutiérrez very closely, this week in conjunction with watching the movie "Romero" and pondering a few excerpts from sermons of Oscar Romero. I get to copy and read those excerpts as my spiritual reading. (Next week: a bit of Ivone Gebara, just one text, plus some first-person accounts from other Brazilians and a text by Mary Judith Ress; and some poems and meditations by Helder Câmara and Pedro Casaldáliga. On to South African writings late in the month.)

Fun at the end of the week: like many colleges around the country, ours is producing "The Vagina Monologues" the week of Valentine's Day, and this year I'm in it. Yes, I am too busy, but I skipped it the last two years and I am a professor of Women's Studies as well as a professor of Religious Studies, the segments are small and rehearsals have only been half an hour long, and more to the point, I'm a ham.

I also like the play. I first saw it in off-Broadway (but very near Broadway) with my 80-something parents several years ago and we howled with laughter -- and were moved nearly to tears by the more poignant of the Monologues. Yes, I am the only person on the planet who went to see The VMs with her 80-something parents, and it was their idea, too. I was surfing around the 'net a day or two ago to see what sites were saying about the play, since it is now related to V-Day and colleges especially are very involved, and I discovered that a lot of people think this topic is obscene. One place (in New Jersey) even replaced a billboard advertising the show with the words "The Hoo-Hah Monologues." !! Folks, this v-word is a descriptive word, it is not a swear word. Oh, don't get me started.

This year V-Day has a big New Orleans and Gulf Coast focus; in fact our show is a fund-raiser for projects there. (With the V-Day attention to violence against women.) Anyway, I'm on stage twice this weekend (there is a companion play the two other nights of the four-evening run of shows) as a member of a three-person team with two wonderful young women students. We are having a blast.

Bonus questions:

Number of overdue writing projects: Four. One long, one short, two medium.

Next preaching date: March 2.

Writing projects to finish by then: Two. Not counting the sermon, of course.

Supper tonight: Disgustingly healthy and sufficiently delicious. Stir-fry (kale, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, tofu) with brown rice and peanut sauce (the one for which I posted a recipe way back, with plenty of garlic and ginger in it).

Snack later in the evening: Yes.

Last night's supper: Paid for by the college, at local restaurant, with candidate and department-mate and spouse. Crab cakes.

Student assignments to correct before tomorrow night's class: Two weeks' worth of reading notes; one set of mini-midterms.

Dress rehearsal for the show: Tomorrow, before evening class. (It pays to be in the first scene; I can rehearse and still get to class on time.)

Back to some cranky work and then to wrap up this day. More Romero coming shortly, though. Peace out.

P.S. I'm not tagging anyone, but if anyone wants to share (1) Lenten practice, (2) current crankiness and (3) current joy, meme along! In the Comments section below or at your own blog, your pleasure. Oh, also: (4) fun at the end of the week and (5) dinner menu. Other questions tailored to your life and occupations; you name them, you answer them. Qualitative or quantitative answers, your choice. Don't be shy.

From Vermont to Ecuador

Our own Caminante, who juggles being a rector in snowy Vermont with a variety of national and international Episcopal responsibilities in a variety of climates, is in Ecuador at a meeting of the Episcopal Church's Executive Council. Read a first official report from Episcopal Life Online here.

... because we love both the sublime and the ridiculous...

... and because reading Monseñor Romero's words challenges us and warms our hearts, but because the rest of life these days is putting us in one very cranky mood, we bring you a copy of the card a dear friend sent us today, with exquisitely perfect timing.

And a small commercial: this card is from Olive Sandwiches, whose website you can see here. Very funny, biting, silly cards, which will be appealing to many OCICBW... aficionados, I think. Especially the ladies, though MadPriest will find some of the cards useful I'm sure. ;-) The cards are available in some stores in the U.S. since I am quite sure the nice man who sent this one to me didn't find it online, but somewhere in either Minnesota or New York City.

Sorry for the small size, but that's all I could lift off the site.

The Word in the world: words from Monseñor Romero

We cannot segregate God's word
from the historical reality
in which it is proclaimed.
That would not be God's word.
The Bible would be just a pious history book
in our library.
It is God's word
because it enlightens, contrasts,
repudiates, praises
what is going on today in this society

Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero
November 27, 1977
Some want to keep a gospel so disembodied
that it doesn't get involved at all
in the world it must save.
Christ is now in history.
Christ is in the womb of the people.
Christ is now bringing about
the new heavens and the new earth.
Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero
December 3, 1978
from James R. Brockman, S.J.'s
The Church Is All of You,
a collection of excerpts from the homilies, letters, and interviews of the martyred archbishop of San Salvador

Monday, February 11, 2008

Courtyard, Left Bank, Paris

Snapped this as I was leaving an old friend's apartment building after lunch.

Click to enlarge

Photo: Jane Redmont, November 2007

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Book meme

Tagged by JohnieB. .

The meme:

Pick up the first book (near you) of 123 pages or more.

Go to p. 123.

Read the first five sentences.

Post the next three sentences.

My answer:

Gustavo Gutiérrez, Essential Writings, ed. James B Nickoloff (Minneapolis: Fortress Press in collaboration with Orbis Books, (c) Orbis Books, 1996):

***"At the very thought" [that the wicked still live on]: Job recalls a fact of daily life, which anyone can verify. *The wicked prosper --that is, the very persons who neither serve God nor pray to God [Job 21:13-15, 17-18]...
***These cases show that the arguments of Job's friends in support of the theory of temporal retribution are in fact worthless; they also show the inadequacy of his friends' references to experience.

The stuff in brackets is part of the book.

Pastoral care alert: anyone know a good clergy or lay pastoral care giver in Milwaukee?

Hey, good people. Do any of you know a good pastoral care person in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area? Episcopal clergymember would be ideal; layperson fine (e.g. church worker, chaplain, pastoral counselor, spiritual director, anyone with training, experience, and a formal church affiliation) and Roman Catholic or Lutheran will do as well. Most important are good pastoral care skills, knowledge of and ability to share God's embracing love, and experience with grieving families.

Write me off-blog at my for-blog-folks-address, missmayapavlova at gmail dot com. Soon would be good. Thank you.

This one was not a happy return: pray for him and his family

A friend phoned me from another part of the country just as I was about to post about Wyld's return, rejoicing.

Her call was about suicide. She announced the topic before giving me the details. At first I thought she was feeling suicidal (it has happened before) and snapped into differential-diagnosis mode. Was she thinking about harming herself? No, she was doing all right and not thinking about harming herself. Good. The conversation continued.

The part of the conversation I can repeat, which was about a young man related to a friend of my friend's, went like this. My friend said: "He'd been to Iraq, he was back, and then he got the 'you're going to be deployed again' letter."

"Oh Godde," I said. "And he killed himself?"

"Yes," she answered.

More of the wreckage of war.

This past November, a survey by CBS was quoted on Alternet with this statistic: 120 returned veterans commit suicide EACH WEEK. The Alternet article was by Penny Coleman, whose husband was one of those veterans.

God of mercy,
welcome into your loving arms
your wounded child.
May he know at last
the peace that we could not give him.
In peace may he rest,
in glory may he rise.
Give your consolation to his family:
may the love of friends
and the knowledge of your boundless love
embrace and fill them.
Fill us with deep compassion
and righteous anger,
that with your help,
in the power of the Holy Spirit,
we may, with Christ whose disciples we are,
work for your kin-dom in our warring world.
**** *JCR

God of peace,
let us your people know
that at the heart of turbulence
there is an inner calm that comes
from faith in you.
Keep us from being content with things as they are,
that from this central peace,
there may come a creative compassion,
a thirst for justice,
and a willingness to give of ourselves
in the spirit of Christ.
****** **A New Zealand Prayer Book

Wyld is back from Iraq! Welcome home!

The blogging Marine who goes by the name of Wyld is home. Several friends have already posted welcomes to their blogs and encouraged us to write him. In case you're a reader who doesn't read the other folks and this is the first time you see this, go and greet Wyld if you have a moment and give him a big welcome home.

While you're at it, pray for his health. And send some well-pointed letters to your members of Congress. Wyld came back with injuries and has been getting the bureaucratic run-around. (Click that link and read one of the many episodes in the saga.) Trillions in the federal budget and we can't even take care of our men and women in uniform in a timely and appropriate manner.

But Wyld is in good spirits and enjoying being back in all kinds of ways. You can visit his blog here.

Hate the war, love the troops. Welcome home, brother. Stay safe, have a great time, be well. Thank you for your service and remember we're cheering and grateful for your safe return!

P.S. My Daddy is a WWII Marine veteran and at a friend's 90th birthday this weekend, so I can't talk to him right now, but I'm sure he joins me in welcoming you home.

What has happened to the Daily Office website?

I hadn't been on the Daily Office website since before Lent started and went there today, and lo and behold, they aren't there.

*****Sunday February 1o, 10 a.m.: they're back!

Does anyone know what has happened to them?

Somewhere I have Elisheva Barsabe's e-mail -- she's the webmistress there, or was -- and will try to dig it out, but meanwhile, can anyone check out the situation? The Daily Office people who run (or ran, sob) the site are in the Silicon Valley area, California, South of San Francisco. They have offered a wonderful service to the praying public. In fact I just recommended them to my godson and his partner and was about to send them the URL, and now it doesn't lead to the site.

I think there is another Daily Office website, but this was the best, and bilingual, too (Spanish/English), with saints' days and stories of the saints, and Rite One for those who prefer (though the quickest click leads you to Rite Two) and all kinds of other useful things.

Their site has been called Mission Saint Clare both because they are near or in Santa Clara, CA and because Saint Claire is one of the patron saints of the internet (along with Saint Isidore of Seville, but I digress and must return to my Saturday evening activities and contemplations).

Lunar New Year!

Yeesh, I have been so busy being sick and entering Lent and dealing with the faculty search that I neglected to honor the Lunar New Year of the Rat. Thank the heavens for Dennis, who as a good West Coast person duly noted the new year and did it in a timely manner.

On the West Coast of the U.S. the Lunar New Year is an established holiday because the East Asian and Asian-American presence is so strong. In San Francisco it is huge, and the traditional Chinese New Year Parade got renamed "Lunar New Year Parade" several years ago because in addition to Chinese and Chinese-American people we had so many other nationalities and cultures who celebrate the Lunar New Year, e.g. Vietnamese and Korean. The big event in SF seems to have gone back to "Chinese New Year" though. Maybe something about the commercial sponsorship of the parade? Or the desire of the Vietnamese and Korean and other communities to have distinctive events? Read about the San Francisco festivities here. The SF parade is a gorgeous event and televised in full on the local stations. In some ways you can watch it better from home since the TV cameras get great views, though nothing replaces being there, of course. People tend to go to each other's events in San Francisco and Oakland and the Bay Area. (Same thing in Seattle, Dennis?) So you won't see only Asians and Asian/Pacific-Americans at the Lunar New Year, or only Latinos at Dia de Los Muertos or Cinco de Mayo, or only LGBT people at the Pride Parade and related events, or only African Americans at Juneteenth (though they are still in the majority there, of course). I miss that. But North Carolina is changing and it is exciting to be part of that change and to help welcome it.

The change is happening in Des Moines, too. Hurrah. The more celebrations the better. Say amen, everyone.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Friday cat blogging and Haghia Sophia

So, I walked into Haghia Sophia (an earlier post tells me it was on December 13) and there, in the penumbra, was a cat. Right there in the church-turned-mosque-turned-museum, HUGE (the building, not the cat), dark and cavernous and ill-lit in the entrance, then glorious with its high, high vaults and windows and walls of marble and Byzantine icons and Arabic inscriptions. The two cat photos are lousy, but just so you know there really is at least one cat in Haghia Sophia, here they are.

Below them, though, are photos of some of the other sights. Mostly I didn't take pictures. I figured there were better photographs in books and online, and for the most part the things I wanted to photograph were too high or too far away or not really accessible or too large for the lens I had. Also, I spent the first hour or so looking up with my mouth hanging open because the place was so amazing, so I doubt I'd have been capable of taking photos. My second hour there, or some part of a second hour, I recovered a bit and took these few pictures. Some are, as you will see below, photos of photos.

There is scaffolding in Haghia Sophia. There is almost always scaffolding there. It's an old building and an architectural miracle, so something always needs repair or threatens to collapse unless it's held up by something.

By clicking the links above, you will see photos that give you a little sense of the vast space. With my camera, I only took close-ups. Haghia Sophia is even bigger than you can imagine. The Byzantines never built anything close to that size again.

I've already posted a photo of the tile below, but I want you to get a sense of sequence in which I saw and photographed.

Many kinds of marble were shipped here to make the walls. (Remember, this is back in the 6th century, so we're not talking freight trains.) This was just one among many of the marble slabs, though one of the most beautiful.

I went upstairs after this. To get to the second floor, you walk up a corridor that winds around and still has what looks like the original pavement and walls.

I kept imagining, both on the bottom floor and as I walked up this corridor, what liturgy must have been like here. The robes, the incense, the processions.

All men, of course.

The Empress and her ladies sat upstairs, in a special gallery with a balcony.

I imagined what it might have been like to walk to the upper floor in this very corridor, on these very stones.

That's not a dead end. The corridor turns left when you get to that wall in front of you.

In one of the upper galeries was a photo exhibit. This isn't as ridiculous as it sounds. The upper walls of Haghia Sophia have magnificent mosaics (icons made of mosaic really), but you can't see them up close. With the help of some sort of fabulous photographic technology and maybe some scaffolding, a photographer whose name I don't have handy made this set of pictures of the mosaics. The curators then put them up in light glass or plexiglas frames so that they would have the real thing just behind them and you could thus get the best possible perspective on the mosaics. So I took photos of the photos.

This here is the Theotokos with Emperor John II Comnenus and Empress Irene, his wife. (There was more than one royal Irene in Byzantium. This is not Irene the Icon Queen --not her real title-- who lived many centuries before.) The mosaic dates from the early 12th century.

Then we've got someone who looks like John the Baptizer, but I must check. Sorry for the flash, but it was dark dark dark in there.

And here again is Herself.

After the fall of Byzantium in 1453, Haghia Sofia became a mosque, so it has minarets, and this is a view of one of them from the outside yard.

An ablution fountain, which I have mentioned before, is outdoors. It is not used since this place is now a museum, but it was for the use of the worshippers at the mosque, and there are many like it, though much less ornate, around town in other mosque courtyards.

And then there was a not too happy looking cat in a corner, outside either Haghia Sophia or the Blue Mosque. It looks cold to me. It was a grey rainy day. The cat inside Haghia Sophia was happier, sheltered under the great vaults and clearly at home in the building. I don't know what this business is in Orham Pamuk's memoir about packs of dogs roaming around Istanbul. I saw cats, cats, and more cats.