Saturday, January 31, 2009

Matthew Parker's Library and the Origins of the Church of England

On Tuesday Feb 10th, renowned scholar and illuminated manuscript expert Christopher de Hamel from Corpus Christi College, Cambridge will discuss the manuscripts of Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1559-1575. Lecture to begin at General Seminary at 7:45 p.m. Reception beforehand at 7pm in the Hoffman Refectory.

Friday, January 30, 2009

JCC: Uncovering the Past

A new series "Uncovering the Past" begins next Tuesday at the JCC.

Tuesday Feb 10: 7-9pm--Adolfo Roitman — Magic, Demons and Satan in Early Judaism;
Wednesday Feb 10: 7-9pm --Adolfo Roitman — From Serpent to Satan The Original Sin in Literature and Art
Monday March 16: 7-9pm--Andrea Berlin — New Light on the Period of the Maccabees: Excavations at Tel Kedesh

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Inaugural Jesus by Martin Marty

We should devise some signal by which those who pray particular prayers (as I believe all are) let everyone know that while praying in their own integral style and form, they are aware and will at least implicitly assure their audiences that they are not speaking for everyone. They can then encourage others to translate what is being said into contexts they find congenial, and still share a communal experience.

Martin Marty's wisdom on the Inaugural Pray-ers.


I have a post on the movie Narnia at Episcopal Cafe today.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Mark Adamo's Opera: The Gospel of Mary Magdalene

San Francisco Opera announces:

Mark Adamo's The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, which the composer says “draws on the Gnostic gospels, the canonical gospels and fifty years of new Biblical scholarship to reimagine the loves and conflicts of the New Testament through the eyes of its leading female character," has been scheduled to premiere at SFO in June of 2013. The company plans to announce at a later date details about composer Jennifer Higdon's collaboration will librettist Gene Scheer.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

When Did Presidential Inaugurations Start Featuring Religious Elements?

As an immigrant to these shores, I love these kinds of questions. Megan McKee at the History News Networks opines:

The surprising answer is with Franklin Roosevelt. The addition of the Morning Worship Service was begun by FDR in 1933 and then repeated in 1937 and 1941, fixing the practice in inaugural tradition. FDR was also the first to feature an invocation by a religious leader (and a benediction). FDR also said a prayer at one inauguration.

My resident citizen mentions Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address:

The Almighty has his own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through his appointed time, he now wills to remove, and that he gives to both North and South this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to him? Fondly do we hope--fervently do we pray--that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn by the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, "The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Analyses of the religious rhetorical content of Obama's Speech

“We remain a young nation,” Obama said in his inaugural address, “but, in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.”

Already, we have analyses of Obama's use of I Cor 13. Here's Cathleen Falsani in the Chicago Sun Times:

St. Paul delivered a stern, yet loving, reproach to the Corinthians, telling them, essentially, to quit their bickering, grow up and get busy with what they were called to do in the first place: Love.

Love one another. Love their neighbors. Be God’s love in the world — the light of the world and a city set on a hill that cannot be hidden, as St. Matthew says in his gospel.

Be love with arms and legs — feeding the poor, comforting the sick, visiting the prisoners, sheltering the homeless.

How interesting that the Bible passage about growing up and putting away childish things (in the name of love) was chosen by our 47-year-old president and his 27-year-old chief speechwriter, Jon Favreau — perhaps the youngest team ever to craft a U.S. presidential inaugural address.

I wonder whether they chose the passage from 1 Corinthians in part to evoke another letter written by St. Paul. In 1 Timothy, the apostle Paul writes to his young friend Timothy, an evangelist in the city of Ephesus in Asia Minor.

“Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young,” St. Paul told Timothy, “but be an example for other believers in your speech, behavior, love, faithfulness, and purity.”

She has a point. However, the context for President Obama's use of I Cor 13 was this:

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

"Setting aside childish things" like fear, conflict and discord and particularly "false promises" and "worn-out dogmas" becomes an invitation "on this day" (repeated 2x) to "choose our better history" namely, freedom, equality and the chance to pursue a "full measure of happiness."

President Obama not only proclaims these values but he and his family embody them in new ways.

Then there was the way President Obama delivered these lines: at a higher rhetorical register. They occur after he outlines the challenges we face and as a demonstration of resolve following the: "Know this..." line. He says, "The time has come (pause, right hand makes downward stroke for emphasis) to set aside childish things. The time has come (pause)...."

Monday, January 19, 2009

Paintings from the Prado (via Google Maps)

Here's a link to viewing Prado Museum masterpieces using Google Maps. A new painting will be made available every day (from 1/13/2009). On the left is the Descent from the Cross, by Rogier van der Weyden.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Virtue of Kindness or Charity

Mary Warnock reviews Adam Phillips' and Barbara Taylor's On Kindness for the Guardian Review of Jan 11th 2009.

"Kindness" is a rough equivalent of the Christian non-erotic love, or charity, though it was embraced as a virtue and a source of pleasure by Cicero, for one, and by the Stoic emperor Marcus Aurelius, before it was extolled famously by St Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians. Kindness to others arises out of sympathy.

BBC Radio 3's Night Waves opens with an interview with the authors in a podcast available for a few more days. They point out a recent consensus that humans are fundamentally selfish based on a social philosophy of capitalism and competition. There's been recent attacks on our pleasure of feeling for each other which kindness presupposed. Obstacles to kindness include a fear of sympathy for the other and involvements in the lives of others.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

London City Churches

"S. Mary Woolnoth, London, was the least conventional of all Hawksmoor's churches. A basement, with both window and portal designed en niche has banded rustication extending round the two extremely tall Doric columns. Above this a free-standing Corinthian order encircles the belfry and supports twin turrets."

— Sir Banister Fletcher. A History of Architecture. p1039.

Spent the day walking around City Churches many of which were open. St Mary Le Bow Cheapside (left) was built by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of 1666. Its steeple is 236' high. The stone arches in the crypt give the church its name. Above is a temple of Mithras uncovered in the 1950's.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Paternoster: The Lord's Prayer (spoken by a draught horse) -- Jen Hadfield, winner of the 2008 TS Eliot Prize

Jen Hadfield has won the TS Eliot 2008 Prize. Here's her Paternoster: The Lord's Prayer spoken by a draught horse:


for A.B.J

Paternoster. Paternoster.
Hallowed be dy mane.

D'kingdom come.
D'draftwork be done

though heart stiffen
in the harness.

Still plough the day
an give out daily bray.

Then sleep fasten harness with bear-bells
and trot on bravely into sleep

where the black an bay
the sorrel an the grey

an foals an bearded wheat
are waiting.

It is on earth as it is in heaven.
Drought, wildfire; skinny

wild asparagus,
yellow flowers on the flowering cactus.

Give our daily wheat, wet
whiskers in the tin bucket.

Knead my heart, hardened daily.
Ease the imprint in my heart.

Gies our oats at bedtime
an in the night half sleeping.

Give meadows, hayrolls,
whiskery knappin.*

Paternoster. Paternoster.
Hallowed be dy hot mash.

*knappin - two ponies cleaning each other's hair with their mouths.

© 2008, Jen Hadfield
From: Nigh-No-Place:
Publisher: Bloodaxe, 2008

Monday, January 12, 2009

Holy Trinity Sloan Square + Tate Britain

Made a visit to Holy Trinity Sloan Square this morning. The West Window (seen in the link) is spectacular. Then off to Tate Britain to see the Millais "Christ in the house of his parents" -- the details of which are wonderful including the sheep crowding around the door at the top left!
On loan from the Ponce Museum of Art in Puerto Rico is the Burne-Jones' "Sleep of King Arthur in Avalon" together with Frederic Lord Leighton's "Flaming June" (1895). We have a copy of the latter in our apartment.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Visit To St Pancras

The statue of Sir John Betjeman (taken yesterday) is part of the newly renovated St Pancras Station housing the EuroStar:

Gilbert Scott's Gothic masterpiece is undergoing separate renovation.

It reopens as a hotel in 2009, with its top two floors converted into luxury flats by the Manhattan Loft Co.

Behind it the vast train shed completed in 1868 and designed by the Midland Railway's engineer, William Barlow, has been reglazed and its cast-iron girders repainted a fetching sky blue to house the Eurostar trains.

To the north a new flat glass canopy has been built to cover separate platforms for Midland Mainline domestic services and a planned new high-speed commuter service into Kent.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Christianity: A History (Channel 4 7pm Jan 11th)

Eight-part series of the Christian Faith on BBC Channel 4.
Part 1: Written and presented by leading British writer Howard Jacobson. Himself a Jew, Jacobson examines the origins and consequences of Christian belief and argues that, although Christianity originated in devout Judaism, for Jews, it has been, for the most part, a calamity.

Jacobson talks to Christian and Jewish scholars. He visits Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Galilee and Rome to find out more about Jesus, the Jew. He looks into how key Christian beliefs - including the notion of a Messiah and baptism - have roots in Judaism.

Furthermore, he asserts that Jesus didn't intend to start a new religion, that for Jesus's family - all Jewish - the new movement remained within Judaism: for them he was a charismatic Rabbi.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Milton's Paradise Lost read by Anton Lesser

A best seller of Naxos Audio Books is Milton's Paradise Lost and the reading of excerpts is currently winding down on Radio 3. It began on December 22nd. Here's a link to the text. This one is the reading by Anton Lesser. Here's a letter to the Editor from the Daily Telegraph (Jan 2nd) on this broadcast experience:

Paradise Lost

SIR – If they haven’s heard it already, I implore readers to “Listen Again” to Anton Lesser’s evening readings of Milton’s Paradise Lost on Radio 3.

It is the most extraordinary artistic achievement imaginable by one person, combining all the essentials – clarity, musicality, timing, judgment, character realisation, unflagging energy and perfect communication of those everlasting, sinuous, overlapping phrases.

Above all, it sustains a spine-chilling immediacy of vision which seems to travel from the poet’s mind to the listener’s ear like forked lightning.

Jilly Spencer
Colyton, Devon

OTOH, Simon Jenkins in the Guardian expresses a contrary opinion on Milton:

Milton lacks the qualities now considered essential in a poet: concision, humour, or romance. As Dr Johnson said of Paradise Lost: "No one ever wished it longer." Readers can handle the poignancy of On His Blindness and snatch pleasure from the great quotes. But the imagery and subject matter of the epics are rooted in a theology and mythology that today are gone.

He has a point. However, an extraordinary number of people have downloaded Paradise Lost from Naxos Audio Books. Something to think about.

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