Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Somewhere ...

Banal, whether to begin unremarkably with So or with Well or neither: that is the question. Problem solved. So, that was interesting. Three essays of sorts to start Tuesday before driving over to Linda Ave behind Cove School near the bike rack where we parked our bikes under the scrub oaks 70 years ago, and walk with Robert. Walk about an hour, one direction or other and back, remember who lived where, have breakfast.

First was an NYT article reporting life in Russian Crimea is hectic these days, chaotic. None of the social systems is working. Banking, government, courts, businesses. Will it be that way in Texas when they revert to Lone Star or return to Mexico? Do the rest of us get to vote in their referendum? Putin will vow to protect the Texans from the Americans, will he be their first president, or governor?  

The delanceyplace.com selection is about the origins of agriculture. We began thousands of years ago as hunter-gatherers, but agriculture evolved even though hunter-gatherers had a better life: more leisure, less stress, even better nutrition. As people settled, we started clearing and plowing, planting, weeding, watering, tending and harvesting. Baking bread, eating oats, domesticating animals that once had been our prey. Shifting from gathering to farming wasn’t natural, it was forced by population growth and running out of space to wander freely. Judging by earth after as known in the book Earth Abides, we’ll be going back to that, hunter gatherers. Frankly tired of the hassle, squabbling, hatred and warring, I’m rather looking forward to it. A basket for berries and a spear. I’ll use my old Easter basket. Basket, spear and a rock. After a couple generations there’ll be no firearms for hunting, because nobody will remember how to make ammo or how to repair a dynamo to provide electricity, besides, the hydroelectric dams will have crumbled. Spears, rocks, a stick. And a hammer. Hammer as a scepter of authority and mystical symbol of The Old Time. 

Oddly independently furthering the theme, in his thought for the day after defining bombastic, Anu Garg quoted someone who said aptly that nature does not need us protecting it, nature has survived millions of years and doesn’t give a hoot whether humans are around or not, this too will pass, we too will pass, they too will pass. Who or what will record what a relief it was to see us disappear with all our fighting and killing? Who or what will succeed us? I have a bad feeling that roaches are next. Wandering, mind, there are no roaches in my house, as Randy from pest control keeps them at bay, but they are out there, big ones. Kept At Bay. Bay is down front. Bay is also the name of the neighbor’s dog, maybe it was short for Baby, now it’s Bay. Bay loves to sneak out of their house and escape, roam our porch and garden, and gorge from the feral cats’ supper dishes at our daughter’s house next door. We don't mind, Bay is friendly. 

History Channel’s miniseries Life After People made the world seem horrible at first, grim, desolate. Weeds and grass spreading over streets and highways, vines beginning to cover buildings, slowly crumbling cities, bridges tumbling into the sea below, a wasteland. Vines, everything slowly returning to nature, green. Looked pretty good, eh, neither fire nor flood next time, just nature. Mother Nature.

8 And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, 9 And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; 10 and with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth. 11 And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth. 12 And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: 13 I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. 14 And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: 15 and I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. 17 And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth. (Genesis 9:8-17, KJV).

Touch of Insanity is good for the heart.


Monday, April 21, 2014

The New Ensign: Not Barnacle Bill the Sailor

Wandering on the Maui tarmac and picked up by security, a 16 year old boy is questioned by the FBI. He had climbed down from the wheel well of a jetliner from California, surviving a five hour flight at 38,000 feet. One source says the temperature there is 50 degrees below zero F, another says 75 below. Some will praise God that the boy is alive and unharmed. Some will praise God for the survival of several high school children on a South Korean ferry that capsized drowning hundreds of other children, what about them? Some who prayed for William will nevertheless pray without ceasing for an eight year old boy with a malignant brain tumor. In anguish, some will contemplate God, and wonder. 

In anguish, some will contemplate God, and wonder.

Monday in Easter Week
Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that we who celebrate with awe the Paschal feast may be found worthy to attain to everlasting joys; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Is that what it’s all about -- to attain to everlasting joys?

Some will wonder. Some will wander. Wondering, some have wandered and will never return. Some will keep at wondering, knowing they will never know; which is faith. I’m on the edge of that, not newly but constantly. Who's that knocking at my door? "Who or what is God?" my seminary theology professor kept asking us, and it was a question on the final exam. Who or what is it within me that wants or needs to keep on wondering, hopefully without wandering too far and not being able to find my way back? "Seek the Truth, come whence it may, cost what it will." Cost what it will? Am I sure about that? Am I certain that the seeking will prove worth the cost, if/once I find the Truth will I be glad of the journey? Maybe the Cost is the Truth. Or maybe the Truth is the Cost. Only fools or idiots are so certain they have found the Truth that they stop seeking. My only certainty is that the Truth is hiding under the cloak of invisibility, perhaps with Harry Potter in that pub at Hogsmeade, and I likely will never find it. But I'm not sure, I'm not Dumbledore, I'm Snape. No, in the end Severus proved to have been almost Christlike, I'm more that pompous ass Gilderoy Lockhart handing out portraits of himself.

Maybe I'll bring my portrait "The New Ensign" as a young naval officer downstairs and hang it in the dining room where I can admire it as I dine. 

Or, Oscar Wilde and The Picture of Dorian Gray, what would happen if I hide my portrait in the attic and hang a mirror in the dining room? I'm not sure.

I am certain of nothing except that I would trade my share of everlasting joys for the life of one child on the Korean ferry. Or for Brannon. Or for William. Or for Alfred, but then I would have had no life to trade. No matter, it doesn’t work like that, does it. How does it work? Who's that knocking at my door? Is that you, Sir Isaac?  

A terrible worrier about children, my children, everyone’s children, I’m not in control. At times, the anguish is almost unbearable. Who is in control? What about my prayer? 

Big, isn’t it. Not the moon, the Immensity, how does it work? Or, does it “work,” or is it chaos? It doesn’t seem to work like your clock, Newton. OK, maybe the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home, do go like clockwork; but the children, what about the children, what about the hundreds of children who drowned? What about Brannon? "Are we ants?" says the fair young maiden. I'm not into the "leap of faith," which is an escape to nowhere even if it's the only exit. And no answer at all, “Free Will” is nothing but apologetic, a self-satisfying rationalization of our piety. Or if FW is the answer, we need to wonder, wander and keep seeking. If the answer is FW, what can we believe? If God is in control, is Job atoned? Now on Easter Monday does God now understand where we’re coming from, and how it is?

Who am I? The boy's father at Mark 9:24. 

Who’s that knocking at my door?


Pic: online, Hubble

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter!

The toughest week of all on clergy (far more on the senior pastor/rector than on retired priest associates like me, but nevertheless), Holy Week is over for another year. 

Easter Week, which begins now, is customarily a week for short hours and days off for clergy and for church staffs. Enjoy your Easter morning and eating candy and chocolate eggs from the basket the Easter bunny brought. Come to church, 8:00 or 10:30, but we have no Sunday School class today, Easter Day. There is brunch between services though, so come enjoy. Linda is bringing an egg and ham casserole that looks beyond scrumptious.

Far my part, a friend sent me a piece about a historic Rolls Royce, which set the Easter bunny to cackling and laying colored eggs in my mind for several days while I participated in Holy Week agony; but pop here it bursts to the surface this morning like a breaching whale.

Rolls Royce had an American plant and built cars in Springfield, Massachusetts from 1920 to 1931, turning out 2,944 cars in that decade. One, the 1928 roadster above and below

(a roadster is/was a convertible with only the front seat like a bottom of the line business coupe, no back seat, and generally even after power tops were put on regular convertibles, the roadster still had a manually operated top for up and down. The only regular roadster that I recall being introduced and sold in my later life was the 1949 Dodge Wayfarer roadster, which I’ll see if I can come up with a pic to put on here -- yep, the red one below is a roadster, the car below it is a 1949 Dodge Coronet convertible, front and back seats like a club coupe, roll-down back window for the back seat passengers, and power-operated convertible top, top of the line model 

1949 Dodge Coronet convertible:

but I stray from my chosen path) -- was given to a young man by his father in 1928, and he drove and maintained it all his life, for 78 years, until he died at age 102 in 2005. 

He bequeathed his Rolls Royce and a million dollars to the Springfield museum so they could fix up space to display his car and keep it spiffy. 

The article Norm sent me was about that car and that man. Where did it take me? All the RR cars pictured here were made in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Online to Springfield, wup, that's a Stevens-Duryea:

and the museum, 

and a little exploration to discover that the Stevens-Duryea automobile, which I had almost forgotten, also has Springfield history; 

and that in fact, according to the report, the first gasoline car in America was a Stevens-Duryea that the inventors drove on the streets of Springfield in 1893. 

Several friends have told me that they read my blog every day except when it’s about cars. This one isn't about cars, it's about me.

No theologian or Bible scholar, my favorite +Time posts are the car posts, to write, and look at the pictures, and think back on. So this is my own Easter basket of multicolored Rolls Royce cars that were made in Springfield, and of several Stevens-Duryea automobiles, which were manufactured from 1901 to 1915 and then from 1919 to 1927.

Best you remember Stevens-Duryea, because St. Peter has two or three pics of them that you must identify in the test you have to pass to get beyond the lever that drops you straight to Hell. And you sure as Heaven better be able to recognize a Rolls-Royce. 

The red 1903 Stevens-Duryea above only appears to be a 2-seater; but the front opened up to accommodate two more passengers. The car had brakes, but no seat belts, so the front seat might be considered more of a launch pad:

Happy Easter.


Saturday, April 19, 2014


Death of God

With apology to self (to self because I meander this for myself as part of contemplating where the hell I am in life, not for any reader) for the typical wandering that ensues, I press “PUBLISH” anyway. 

Today is “Holy Saturday” of the so-named “Holy Triduum” of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday that precedes Easter Day, the Day of the Resurrection. To me, HS is an interesting day to contemplate that theologians in their [our] smoky mist of lofty haze actually know nothing. What they [we, because “theology” means “discussion about God, a word about God, study of God” and we become theologians ourselves when we -- deign or dare -- to enter the discussion whether it’s with a spouse, as Linda and I sometimes do, or in Sunday School class or Tuesday morning Bible study] do (sorry about the lost antecedent, but that’s why I added the bold brackets) is speculate, argue, debate, agree, and mostly disagree. I say “disagree” because those who “do theology” with me generally disagree with me altogether. And I say “do theology” because theology is not a shiny product like a new Buick, it’s a process more like what goes on in the Buick assembly plant. Thank God theology is not a product, because if it were, it would be the Deacon's Masterpiece, that one horse open shay.

A theologian from my seminary tradition would assert that, given the promise “where two or three gather in my Name, there am I in the midst of them,” (Matthew 18:20) God comes present in and as the theological discussion itself. (Rather intimidating, eh?, and you don’t even have to invoke the Trinity or open with prayer, God simply comes present, so mind your language)*. In my observation and experience and reading, professional theologians, those who write the books and textbooks and argue back and forth with each other in lofty language and various tongues, most notably German and English, and whose essays printed in journals nobody reads but themselves and whose books are bought only by seminarians who can be compelled to buy them, speculate boldly, with much confidence, even arrogant bluster. It may also be with wisdom, but (Hebrews 11:1) it’s still speculation, and it’s faith not knowledge. So don’t feel blown out of the water by any pompous theologian. 

Why do we do this, why do we do theology, why do we like to talk about God? I don’t know. One of my favorites, Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834), 
who wrote that within each of us is “a sense of the infinite,” might say that our penchant for doing theology is the spark of the divine. 

So then, Holy Saturday and the Death of God, eh? Theologically, on this day, God is dead. Jesus Christ, true God and true man, died yesterday on the Cross and today lies dead in the tomb. Were you there, had you been there, to roll back the stone on Holy Saturday, you would find a dead body lying in cold darkness. For Christians, that dead body was/is God. I’m trying to avoid being trite or simplistic, God is dead. Not so much in the Altizer & Hamilton sense, but in the stone cold dead body sense. Anyone who has, as I have many times, gone into the viewing room at a funeral home and gazed on the embalmed corpse of one once known and loved laid out in a casket knows the horrific realization that “that isn’t him.” I still visit Greenwood Cemetery about once a week, still drawn there by old feelings of loving friendship even though I know that wasn’t them that I buried, because I had that sickening realization before the lid was closed and we followed the hearse to the grave where I said the words. It’s the same with the theology of Holy Saturday: God is dead. God -- isn’t. Then the dawning: who’s in charge? Why are those stars still twinkling? Who will hear my prayer? Abandoned. No, not abandoned, we did this to ourselves; it’s more like having killed the goose that laid the golden eggs.

Yes, Sunday is coming, and Sunday solves it theologically, but that doesn’t answer the total stillness of Holy Saturday. We are forbidden to say Mass on this day, why? I reckon because the Mass takes us to Calvary, which is over and done, but it’s more than “respect for the Holy,” it’s that today there’s nobody to hear, come present, bless and consecrate. 

Is this nonsense? Everything I write and say I castigate as “my nonsense” because I realize that it‘s all speculation, contemplation, that I have chosen to be, as Steve Jobs said, “trapped by dogma, living with the results of other people’s thinking” ... letting “the noise of others‘ opinions drown out (my) own inner voice.” So, Holy Saturday: God is dead? Or, was dead that sabbath day and right through until that early dawn of the First Day of the Week when the women came to the tomb?

What does this mean for me, to me? For spiritual observance, this is a day when, until the sun goes down this evening, there is no one to hear my daily devotions or answer my fervent prayers. What about Brannon today? Well, closet transubstantiationist that I may suspect myself to be (the Body of Christ; the Blood of Christ), still and all I do know that we are not really there, Christ is Risen and God is Alive. I am neither Marcellus Gallio nor Demetrius, nor the Beloved Disciple. I may be more like Malchus. But this is not Jerusalem that Passover Sabbath of AD 33, I am not there, and God is not dead, I am simply remembering and commemorating and trying to live into it. Was God dead that day? I wasn’t there, I don’t know. I’m contemplating, speculating. My mind may say no but my heart says yes. It’s not knowledge, it’s faith: the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1) It’s part of the Mystery of Faith, which I find untenable, but I can preach it.


* Invariably, this takes me to a 1970 Spring morning at sea off Vietnam when I stood on the flight deck and watched as our Marine helicopters landed and tough Marines carried terrified little Vietnamese children to our ship’s hospital below decks, where our wonderful Navy doctors, plastic surgeons, would work to repair some of their horrific war wounds. A missing cheek, half a nose, ear gone, a stump for a hand, a mangled foot, and my heart prayed that no one would say “Oh my God,” or “Holy Jesus” or “Jesus Christ” and bring God present to see what our war did to his little folk. It was my first living sense of the Good Friday trembling rage of God the Father as he beheld what we had done. That line in one of Martin Bell’s stories about The Great Silver Wolf when Nenshu the messenger comes to report and the Wolf takes in the reality: “The boy had been crucified.” What I learned over the next several weeks, beside witnessing the skill of our Navy doctors, was that Marines aren’t as tough as I had thought, coming up with teddy bears and such for the little children. I guess you had to be there. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Spring Break in Jerusalem

Spring Break in Jerusalem

Today is Good Friday. The Christian world celebrates -- or rather honors, observes -- the trial, condemnation, crucifixion and death of a man called Jesus of Nazareth during the days of the Roman Empire. A Galilean Jew who had come down to Jerusalem in Judea for the Passover festival, he apparently had crossed both the Judean authorities in the Temple and the higher Roman authorities by having attention drawn to himself as too visible, too outspoken during the festival season. It was dangerous, not a safe time to stand out in the crowd.

Thousands of outsider visitors were in town for the annual celebration, and all the authorities, civil and religious, were on edge because there was always trouble of some sort from the crowds. Not from residents. Jerusalem itself, the year-rounders, were generally comfortably settled into life as usual under calm Roman rule. But passions of nationalistic fervor ran high among the crowd “returned home to the Jewish fatherland,” and there was always trouble of some sort. Special tension with stirrings of rebellion to overthrow Roman rule and reestablish the ancient throne of David and glory days of Solomon. It was tradition, part of annual revelry: reliving the old dream. 

The old dream. The outsiders always brought it in. And there can be no sensible doubt that it was fortified by wine. Nothing is as mighty to a drunken mob as itself empowered by alcohol, or as noble as its cause empassioned by inebriation, or as obnoxious to the year-rounders. And so, every year at Passover, Roman military presence was beefed up in Jerusalem, including the Roman governor himself arrived from his seaside palace in Caesarea, to make sure the crowd did not get out of hand. 

Every year there would be major trouble of some sort, and usually several crucifixions. Very popular, crucifixions served both the Roman purpose of cowing any uprising, and the local authorities' objective of keeping order. And, not coincidentally, crucifixions were attractions of bloody excitement, the crowd of spectators jeering as soldiers whipped the condemned through the streets, not unlike bloody gladiator fights and feeding enemies to wild animals in the Roman coliseum. Anyone who has been to American ice hockey will understand that the game is boring and the crowd is not happy unless and until there is blood on the ice. 

This is the usual perverse human scene. Any resident of my own hometown, Panama City, Florida, knows not to go to the beach during spring break. The police are beefed up, they are everywhere, ubiquitous, and not amused. The crowds are obnoxious drunken young fools. There are wet t-shirt contests, bloody fights, beer guzzlings; and of the young showoff males leaping like Tarzan from one high-rise hotel balcony to the next, someone usually plunges to his death on the pavement below.

One of my daily email arrivals is delanceyplace.com with an extract from some book or other. This one, copy and paste from yesterday, is apt and good. Scroll down!


Today's selection -- from Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore. At the time of Christ, Passover was a religious observance that brought Jews from throughout the world back to Jerusalem and turned the city into a colorful, teeming and dangerous spectacle:

"At Passover, Jerusalem was at its most crowded and dangerous. ... In the Upper City, across the valley from the Temple, the grandees lived in Grecian-Roman mansions with Jewish features: the so-called Palatial Residence excavated there has spacious receiving-rooms and mikvahs. Here stood the palaces of Antipas and the high priest Joseph Caiaphas. But the real authority in Jerusalem was the prefect, Pontius Pilate, who usually ruled his province from Caesarea on the coast but always came to supervise Passover, staying at Herod's Citadel. ...

"Josephus guessed that two and a half million Jews came for Passover. This is an exaggeration but there were Jews 'out of every nation,' from Parthia and Babylonia to Crete and Libya. The only way to imagine this throng is to see Mecca during the haj. At Passover, every family had to sacrifice a lamb, so the city was jammed with bleating sheep -- 255,600 lambs were sacrificed. There was much to do: pilgrims had to take a dip in a mikvah every time they approached the Temple as well as buy their sacrificial lambs in the Royal Portico. Not everyone could stay in the city. Thousands lodged in the surrounding villages, like Jesus, or camped around the walls. As the smell of burning meat and heady incense wafted -- and the trumpet blasts, announcing prayers and sacrifices, ricocheted -- across the city, everything was focused on the Temple, nervously watched by the Roman soldiers from the Antonia Fortress. ...

"The towering, colonnaded Royal Portico [was] the bustling, colourful, crowded centre of all life, where pilgrims gathered to organize their accommodation, to meet friends, and to change money for the Tyrian silver used to buy sacrificial lambs, doves, or, for the rich, oxen. ...

"Crucifixion, [the favored form of public execution in the region], said Josephus, was 'the most miserable death,' designed to demean the victim publicly. Hence Pilate ordered Jesus' placard to be attached to his cross --KING OF THE JEWS. Victims could be tied or nailed. The skill was to ensure victims did not bleed to death. The nails were usually driven through the forearms -- not the palms -- and ankles: the bones of a crucified Jew have been found in a tomb in north Jerusalem with a 4.5-inch iron nail still sticking through a skeletal ankle. Nails from crucifixion victims were popularly worn as charms, around the neck, by both Jews and gentiles to ward off illness, so the later Christian fetish for crucificial relics was actually part of a long tradition. Victims were usually crucified naked -- with men facing outwards, women inwards.

"The executioners were experts at either prolonging the agony or end­ing it quickly. The aim was to not kill Jesus too quickly but to demon­strate the futility of defying Roman power. He was most probably nailed to the cross with his arms outstretched as shown in Christian art, sup­ported by a small wedge, sedile, under the buttocks and a suppedaneum ledge under the feet. This arrangement meant he could survive for hours, even days. The quickest way to expedite death was to break the legs. The body weight was then borne by the arms and the victim would asphyxiate within ten minutes."

Jerusalem: The Biography (Vintage)
Author: Simon Sebag Montefiore
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Date: 2011 by Simon Sebag Montefiore
Pages: 105,6, 112

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Cantaloupe & Spontaneous Wednesday

I love life spontaneous. I like living life on the spur of the moment. While I studiously avoid starting a paragraph, much less an article, in the first person singular, just this once I'll do it as a symbol of spontaneity. Why do I avoid “I”? Because it marks one as self-centered and one’s conversation and writing as egotistical, and one's being as boring. (Humpty Dumpty would say, “yes, one, but not two, two can do it”. But HD is correct if for no other reason than that two would begin with we not one). But as I was saying, why not begin with “I”? "I" reminds me of the insufferably egotistical author who, having bored an acquaintance to death for half an hour at a cocktail party, said to his object, “But enough about me, I’m tired of talking about me, let’s talk about you, I want to hear about you. What did you think of my latest book?”

That’s where the “I word” takes me. But I do love life spontaneous. Fairly different, Linda likes everything planned, organized and working from a list. Her desk is like her life. I can’t even get to my desk. Which bothers me not at all. I didn’t realize it about myself my years in the Navy, because at sea there was always a sailor to keep things orderly; and on shore duty my secretary never let anything lie in my In Box or on my desk very long. But on 2 Feb 1978, the day after I retired from the Navy and set up a desk and business office at home, I realized that life was going to be chaos, as it has been so ever since.

Yesterday on the spur of the moment, we drove over to Pensacola to visit a friend of three decades, Mary Virginia Robinson. After many long and vigorous years of life in Apalachicola, and in the Trinity Church choir, and as cashier and senior vice president at the local bank, and as church treasurer at my recruiting 25 or so years ago after she retired from the bank at age 65, Mary Virginia is retired to Pensacola, where Fred and Frances live. The retirement home where she lives is top notch, and at -- I believe she’s 93 -- MV looks great and carries on as lively a conversation as ever. In fact, we arrived just at lunchtime, unplanned, unexpected, but to her absolute delight, so the staff moved her into the executive dining room for our visit, and served her lunch there. Baked chicken breast with mushroom gravy, red beets in a separate bowl. Ice tea, a glass of milk, and a slice of key lime pie. So vigorous was her happy chat with us that she only managed to eat a quarter of the chicken and beets, but she did sip the tea, and she ate every bite of the pie. Mary Virginia has been a dear friend for a long time.

After we retired from parish ministry, 1998, MV began dropping by here from time to time when she was in town, usually with a plastic grocery bag of recent issues of The Living Church magazine, knowing that we didn’t subscribe but enjoyed keeping up with goings-on in the Episcopal Church at large. From 1984 through 1998, every week when the weekly magazine arrived in her post office box, she had read it at the stand up table in the post office -- which was also where she paid her bills the instant they arrived, while also visiting with friends who came to the post office to get their mail -- read The Living Church latest issue, then drop by the rectory and give us that latest copy of the magazine. MV did not approve of waste, including the waste of only one person reading a magazine, and she told me that we should not subscribe. She gave up herTLC subscription several years ago, but in the years she did come by the house, if we weren’t here, she enjoyed visiting with my mother, and mama always enjoyed MV. If nobody was home at our house, we always knew Mary Virginia had been by when there was a plastic grocery bag of The Living Church magazines hanging on the back door knob.

Spontaneously then, leaving the retirement home after visiting MV, the traffic on Davis Hwy was too heavy to turn left, we turned right on Davis, drove north to the next light, turned right, drove to 9th Avenue, south on 9th Avenue to Cervantes in East Hill, and west on Cervantes, across the bridge to East Pensacola Heights at Bayou Texar (ta-HAAR), up the hill, left at the light, left at Strong Street down to the bayou and to the Oyster Barn.

Actually, that wasn’t quite our route, spontaneously, one block before Cervantes, we turned left onto E. Strong Street and drove through the East Hill neighborhood and past the house at 1317 where my mother grew up, and where I so dearly loved visiting my Gentry grandparents and cousins who lived there. The modest little house where my grandparents moved about 1914 is no longer as huge as it was when I was a child. But there was the sidewalk around the block where I learned to skate and to ride a bike (we had dirt roads and no sidewalks around Massalina Bayou in the Cove when I was a boy, where Robert and I walked last Tuesday morning). The corner at 13th Avenue and E. Strong Street where in my early years there always sat parked an enormous sedan from the late 1920s, a car with the wooden spoke wheels.

At the Oyster Barn, which is out on a pier we had a booth right on the bayou. The OB, BTW, has marks inside showing the water level for various hurricanes over the years. We had the mullet dinner, and I had two dozen steamed, the second dozen in honor of Madge, who telephoned me from the HNEC church office just as my oysters were arriving at table. Lovely, large oysters, but not Apalachicola oysters, and not salty, I had to add salt, but WTH I can take a lasix this morning, eh?

A spontaneous day, thence home, cup of coffee, a quick nap, and off to Stations of the Cross at HNEC. 

Fruit for supper: a dozen bites of whatever you call that orange melon, I never can remember the name of it. Pills, early to bed.


Cantaloupe, that’s it. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Making All Things New

 All Things New

It isn’t possible for Holy Week to become real for me until, after the horrific Palm Sunday gospel, for which no forgiveness should be pronounced except from the Cross, I watch Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ. It takes me to Jerusalem, from the Mount of Olives right through to the Place of the Skull. The movie is excessive only in the vicious, bloody beating, the time focused on it, the utter savagery of man’s hatred of man. 

But when it came out nearly a dozen years ago, Pope John Paul II viewed it and said, “It happened just that way.” I believe so, yes. Just that way. Oh my God.

Artist’s license is taken in the film story, yes, but neither more nor less than the four evangelists take in their presentation of the gospels. John’s gospel has intricate detail of what Jesus said, moves the events back a day so that Jesus, proclaimed as the Lamb of God at the beginning of John's gospel, dies the day before Passover, on the day the lambs are slaughtered, sacrificed as the Lamb of God. The Synoptics have it so that the Last Supper is the Passover meal. There are lots of detail differences, but as the pope said, it happened just that way. I cannot truly be there unless and until I live again through the horror of Gibson’s film. I did that last evening.

The artist’s license, which is so rich, includes the female demon hovering over Jesus at the Mount of Olives. She vanishes when Jesus crushes the serpent with his foot, but reappears here and there, sometimes drifting at the back of the crowd. And among the demons tormenting Judas.

Who is she? I’m thinking Isaiah 34:14, Lilith, the night hag of the wilderness, who terrorizes the darkness. 

The film’s flashbacks are incredibly moving. Early, Mary comes out to ask Jesus if he is hungry -- it seems to be lunch or suppertime -- and he, the carpenter's son, a worker in wood, is making a table, a dining table for a rich man (he hasn’t made the chairs yet). But it could also be a table for the Lord’s Supper, the Altar of Sacrifice. 

Carrying his Cross through the streets of Jerusalem, Jesus stumbles and falls. Desperate in the crowd, Mary sees him fall. 

The flashback comes of the time he fell as a little boy and she rushed to him, gathered him lovingly in her arms, and held him close. He was her baby. 

He will always be her baby. Mothers are like that. So are fathers, some of them. So are Papas, grandfathers. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us. Pray for me.

In Gibson’s film, the Beloved Disciple is shielding and protecting and helping Mary. She asks him to help her get to Jesus. One of the times he falls, she is able to rush to him, and their heads come lovingly together, perhaps for the last time. 

To me, the most overwhelming moment in the movie is when he says to her,

“See mother, I make all things new.”

The horror of the irony is almost unbearable.

The scenario on the hill is excruciating, to watch, to visualize, to imagine, to be there. 

I will be so glad when this -- week -- is over. 

Perhaps most foreboding, terrifying, is the God's Eye View, as the sky darkens and the earth begins to tremble.

Sunday is coming. Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus. Come.