Thursday, January 29, 2009

It needed a God to Die for the Half-Hearted and Corrupt

"Shall I tell you what I've done? -- It's your business to listen. I've taken money from women to do you know what, and I've given money to boys . . . "

"I don't want to hear"

"It's your business."

"You're mistaken."

"Oh no I'm not. You can't deceive me. Listen. I've given money to boys -- you know what I mean. And I've eaten meat on Fridays." The awful jumble of the gross, the trivial and the grotesque show up between the two yellow fangs and the hand on the priest's ankle shook and shook with the fever. "I've told lies, I haven't fasted in Lent for I don't know how many years. Once I had two women -- I'll tell you what I did ..." He had an immense self-importance: he was unable to picture a world of which he was only a typical part--a world of treachery, violence, and lust in which his shame was altogether insignificant. How often the priest had heard the same confession--Man was so limited: he hadn't even the ingenuity to invent a new vice: the animals knew as much. It was for this world that Christ had died: the more evil you saw and heard around you, the greater glory lay around the death: it was too easy to die for what was good or beautiful, for home or children or a civilization. It needed a God to die for the half-hearted and corrupt. . . . .

- The Whiskey Priest and the Mestizo from Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I will feed them in good pasture

I am but a novice shepherd, although I have had some time around horses. Sheep behave much like deer, and are easily frightened, more easily than a horse, but also more easily calmed and more quickly, in my estimation, forgetting the fright when it has passed.

My little flock is quite curious when my back is turned or I have a treat - but the instant I move to work with them (when I must - I leave them be as much as possible and move slowly and talk calmly around them as much as possible), terror strikes until such time as I actually can take hold and calm the one to be examined/clipped/etc.

It strikes me, this terror of death that is inborn in sheep. I am and will always be something of a predator to them, although they already know I am the one who brings water and food, tidbits of apple and nibbles of grain. They know I am the one that leads them out to the pasture where the green grass is, and at night the one who leads them to the warm barn where dogs and coyotes do not prowl. Nevertheless, at times when I stretch forth my hand to them to lay hold and remove a string of blackberry thorn caught in the wool (they love to eat blackberry vine leaf), one would think the butcher's knife is imminent and they go to their death. Yet when I go out 'in peace' to search out my flock at nightfall and gather them to the barn, they will come running in line at my voice without fear.

I'm afraid that were the Lord to come in his glory and might, unveiled, I would be like the panicked sheep. Perhaps that is, in part, why my Lord took the form of a servant, that rather than be dismayed at his 'wrath' (I'm sure to my sheep my coming at times seems like a coming in wrath and judgment, even if it is only to correct a problem, trim a hoof, remove a thorn) we might instead be drawn to him in quiet calmness. I don't know.

I have a lot to learn from sheep, thank God.


Ezekiel Chapter 34 (NKJV)

34:1 AND the word of the LORD came to me, saying,

34:2 "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD to the shepherds: "Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks?

34:3 "You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock.

34:4 "The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them.

34:5 "So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered.

34:6 "My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them."

34:7 'Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:

34:8 "As I live," says the Lord GOD, "surely because My flock became a prey, and My flock became food for every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, nor did My shepherds search for My flock, but the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock"--

34:9 'therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the LORD!

34:10 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require My flock at their hand; I will cause them to cease feeding the sheep, and the shepherds shall feed themselves no more; for I will deliver My flock from their mouths, that they may no longer be food for them."

34:11 'For thus says the Lord GOD: "Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out.

34:12 "As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day.

34:13 "And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country.

34:14 "I will feed them in good pasture, and their fold shall be on the high mountains of Israel. There they shall lie down in a good fold and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.

34:15 "I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down," says the Lord GOD.

34:16 "I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick; but I will destroy the fat and the strong, and feed them in judgment."

34:17 'And as for you, O My flock, thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats.

34:18 "Is it too little for you to have eaten up the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the residue of your pasture--and to have drunk of the clear waters, that you must foul the residue with your feet?

34:19 "And as for My flock, they eat what you have trampled with your feet, and they drink what you have fouled with your feet."

34:20 'Therefore thus says the Lord GOD to them: "Behold, I Myself will judge between the fat and the lean sheep.

34:21 "Because you have pushed with side and shoulder, butted all the weak ones with your horns, and scattered them abroad,

34:22 "therefore I will save My flock, and they shall no longer be a prey; and I will judge between sheep and sheep.

34:23 "I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them--My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd.

34:24 "And I, the LORD, will be their God, and My servant David a prince among them; I, the LORD, have spoken.

34:25 "I will make a covenant of peace with them, and cause wild beasts to cease from the land; and they will dwell safely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods.

34:26 "I will make them and the places all around My hill a blessing; and I will cause showers to come down in their season; there shall be showers of blessing.

34:27 "Then the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase. They shall be safe in their land; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I have broken the bands of their yoke and delivered them from the hand of those who enslaved them.

34:28 "And they shall no longer be a prey for the nations, nor shall beasts of the land devour them; but they shall dwell safely, and no one shall make them afraid.

34:29 "I will raise up for them a garden of renown, and they shall no longer be consumed with hunger in the land, nor bear the shame of the Gentiles anymore.

34:30 "Thus they shall know that I, the LORD their God, am with them, and they, the house of Israel, are My people," says the Lord GOD.'"

34:31 "You are My flock, the flock of My pasture; you are men, and I am your God," says the Lord GOD.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Unbought Delicacies Revisited

Owen the Ochlophobic Blogger asked me about the source of the translation for the stanza from Virgil's Fourth Georgic. I am uncertain of the source of this translation, which was included in a 2002 article by Wendell Berry. Here is a more common translation of the same:

An old man once I mind me to have seen-
From Corycus he came- to whom had fallen
Some few poor acres of neglected land,
And they nor fruitful' neath the plodding steer,
Meet for the grazing herd, nor good for vines.
Yet he, the while his meagre garden-herbs
Among the thorns he planted, and all round
White lilies, vervains, and lean poppy set,
In pride of spirit matched the wealth of kings,
And home returning not till night was late,
With unbought plenty heaped his board on high.

MIT Internet Classics Archive

or this:

An old Corician yeoman, who had got
A few neglected acres to his lot,
Where neither corn nor pasture graced the field,
Nor would the vine her purple harvest yield,
But savory herbs among the thorns were found,
Vervain and poppy-flowers his garden crown’d,
And drooping lilies whiten’d all the ground.
Bless’d with these riches, he could empires slight,
And when he rested from his toils at night,
The earth unpurchased dainties would afford,
And his own garden furnish out his board.

Virgil's Fourth Georgic as translated by Joseph Addison, poet

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Unbought Delicacies

I saw a man,
An old Cilician, who occupied
An acre or two of land that no one wanted,
A patch not worth the ploughing, unrewarding
For flocks, unfit for vineyards; he however
By planting here and there among the scrub
Cabbages or white lilies and verbena
And flimsy poppies, fancied himself a king
In wealth, and coming home late in the evening
Loaded his board with unbought delicacies.

-Virgil, Fourth Georgic

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Theophany A.D. 2009

Bring unto the Lord, ye sons of God, bring unto the Lord the sons of rams; bring unto the Lord glory and honour. Bring unto the Lord the glory due unto His name, worship the Lord in His holy court.

The voice of the Lord is upon the waters; the God of glory hath thundered, the Lord is upon the many waters.

The voice of the Lord in might, the voice of the Lord in majesty, The voice of the Lord Who breaketh the cedars, yea, the Lord will break the cedars of Lebanon. And He will break them small like the calf of Lebanon, and His beloved is like a son of the unicorns. The voice of the Lord Who divideth the flame of fire, The voice of the Lord Who shaketh the wilderness, yea, the Lord will shake the wilderness of Kaddis. The voice of the Lord gathereth the harts, and shall reveal the thickets of oak, and in His temple every man uttereth glory.

The Lord dwelleth in the flood, yea, the Lord shall sit as king for ever. The Lord will give strength unto His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace.

Psalm 28 (LXX) [Psalm 29 according to Masoretic Text]