Tuesday, November 13, 2018

A Two-Week Break from Blogging

I'm taking a two-week break from blogging while I produce the second installment of my Evangeliad in book form (available in early December). I'm also plugging away on a self-published re-release of my Hidden Kings trilogy. The normal schedule of blog posts will resume here on Monday, November 26.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Saturday Synaxis

Our God, may we lay hold of thy cross, as of a staff that can stand unshaken when the floods run high. It is this world and not another, this world with all its miseries - its ruin and its sin - that thou hast entered to redeem by thine agony and bloody sweat [...] O holy, merciful, all-forgiving redeemer, teach us more worthily to repent of the terror and horror of our fall, by the memory of that innocent gladness with which we should have gone with thee to the altar of God, to offer there [...] the unshrinking homage of a spotless heart! Amen.

- Henry Scott Holland

Friday, November 09, 2018

The Quest for the King, Scene 18

            The sun shone down on the fields of Arrens with blazing glory the next day, and the children awoke to a world cast in emerald splendor. The long green grass beyond the river whispered in calm serenity, and the boughs of the trees overhead murmured a soft reply. Choruses of birdsong flowed around them like rivulets from the stream, sprung from a thousand cheery sparrows and finches who clung to the bending grass-stems as they sang. But amid all the beauty of that moment, the sight of the Prince standing at the edge of the wood commanded the center of their attention. He stood tall and still at the mouth of the West-wood highway, his traveling-cloak tinged with dust but his royal helmet shining with brilliant luster. His gaze, sharp and focused, traced over the lines of the walls far ahead of them: the battlements of Arrens, where the banner of the Steward now flew.
            Then suddenly, he broke his meditation and spoke: “Squires, knights, commanders! We march!”
            Out burst the royal army from beneath the shade of the forest’s edge, out to the banks of the swift-running stream. The Steward’s men had made repairs to the floodgates and closed them, so the water was easily forded. Joe remembered with a smile the drama of their earlier crossing, with Mack’s heroic burst of strength to stem the flood long enough for them to make it across. They slung their shoes over their shoulders and let the cool water wash over their feet as they made the crossing, and then they were up the far bank and in plain sight of the city walls.
            “They know we’re coming,” said Sir Kobi, casting a keen eye toward the city. “The gates are shut and the watch is set.”
            “And I believe we’ve been spotted by others,” Mack added, nodding toward a great sea of tents thrown up against the foothills to the northwest of the city. From this wild arrangement of colored cloth and makeshift huts poured a stream of people, rushing down toward their position.
            “Arms at ready!” one of the prince’s commanders shouted back to the soldiers of his column.
            “No, stand down,” said Halbrinnon. “These are not enemies.”
            The soldiers fingered the hilts of their swords nervously, but obeyed. They watched as the mass of people poured out of the encampment and came running down through the fields toward them. As they drew nearer, it quickly became clear that the Prince had been right. This was not an army coming out to meet them: no, these were ordinary men and women, young and old, the residents of the city, who ran with joyful haste to fall at Prince Halbrinnon’s feet. There were thousands there, their eyes bright and their faces beaming as they drew up to the Prince’s column.
            “My lord!” said the man at the fore, gasping for breath as he knelt down in the grass. “My lord, we heard you were coming! We are with you, O Prince! Let us join you in retaking your throne!”
            Halbrinnon looked at them with calm intensity. “Do you know what it means to follow me?” he asked.
            “If it means laying down everything we are and everything we have to render you service, then, behold: it is already done!”
            “Well spoken,” smiled the Prince. “Come and join this company of friends!”

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Pilgrimage Memoir: A Piece of Maine

            Eventually we came out of the narrow streets of Old Jaffa and stepped out onto the edge of the harbor. There was a small quay with a few boats tied up, and then the sweeping scope of the blue Mediterranean. And there were no gulls. It seems like an odd thing to notice, but it was one of the first things apparent to me. In my part of the world, you couldn’t venture within a mile of the ocean without seeing fifty gulls; I had only seen one over the town, and here, at the water’s edge, there were none. But that little discrepancy set me thinking about the writers of the Bible and about the world they saw: and for all the birds I could think of in the Bible—eagles and owls and doves and sparrows and even hoopoes—I couldn’t recall anyone mentioning a gull. I imagined that it must have made the great sea seem all that more forbidding to the ancient Israelites—this vast, unknown expanse of dangerous waves, where not even the familiar and friendly birds they knew dared to venture forth. My fellow pilgrims were no doubt thinking about much worthier and more interesting things at that particular moment, but birds are interwoven into the fabric of my perception, so the kind reader will have to bear with me.
            After a short walk along the broad harbor road, we reunited with Najji and his silver bus. We were tired and jet lagged, but there was one more site in the area that Norah wanted to show us. Many of us probably would have declined if we were given the option, but she made the decision for us, and in the end we were glad she did. After a short drive down toward Tel Aviv, we pulled up in a residential neighborhood next to a house that looked nothing like the conventional brick-and-cement Middle Eastern homes all around. It was a wooden house with brown clapboard siding and a peaked roof, an exotic splash of New England in the middle of Israel.
            We got out and looked around while Norah gave us the background on the place. It was called the Maine Friendship House, and it was the last remnant of an attempted settlement by a group of Mainers a century and a half before. In the late 1860s a shipload of people from Jonesport—a little seaside town in my own county of Maine—embarked on an adventure to settle in the Holy Land and to help encourage Jewish emigration there. The history of the settlement was a sad one; they were unprepared for what faced them due to inadequate foresight and leadership issues, and most were reduced to poverty before being forced to leave. But the attempt itself, and what it represented, had remained a treasured part of the story of the modern Israeli resettlement. Norah was excited to have a tour group from Maine so that she could share with them this connection that our state—unbeknownst to us—had had on the development of the nation of Israel. We paused for a few moments to take pictures of the house in its restored setting, with a lovely steepled church standing alongside. It was really one of the last things we had expected to find: a little chunk of Maine here in the Holy Land. But its presence there, much as the warm familiarity of churches on every side, reminded us that this strange and distant land was, in a very real sense, our own native home. It was a physical repository of the hopes we had stored up as “treasures in heaven” for years upon years upon years, and now we got to walk amidst them.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

The Evangeliad (7:32-36)

Section 7:32-36 (corresponding to Mark 2:19-22; Luke 5:34-39)

Jesus, he answered and said unto them,
“There’s a wedding upon us! Here is the groom!
The guests cannot fast while the party is on!
No, they rejoice in the one who has come.

The days, they will come when the bridegroom is gone,
And then they will fast, till the waiting is done.
Does anyone take a cloth-patch that’s new
And then sew it onto a garment worn through?

The new patch causes a tear on the old;
The garment will have an even worse hole.
And nobody takes a new batch of wine,
To pour it in old skins, weathered and fine—

The new wine will swell; the skins, they will burst;
The end that you’re left with is simply the worst.
As good as it is, old wine calls for old,
But new skins are needed, the new wine to hold.”

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Photo of the Week

Full of kindness and compassion,
Slow to anger, vast in love,
Thou art good to all creation;
All Thy works Thy goodness prove.

- Verse 3 of "God My King, Thy Might Confessing," Hymn #191 from The Augustine Hymn Book, 1866

Monday, November 05, 2018

Quote of the Week

"It is a bad world, Donatus, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and good people who have learned the great secret of life. They have found a joy and a wisdom which is a thousand times better than any of the pleasures of our sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people, Donatus, are Christians…and I am one of them."

- Cyprian of Carthage, an early church father