A Celebration of Christmas trees

It’s a strange time of year, Christmas.

I always find myself wondering what it’s all about.

The commercialism. The crass radio ads. The schmaltzy music. The mandatory Happy Christmas greeting.

News in of a church bombed by Islamist fundamentalists. A baby born with its heart outside its body. Another child abuse scandal involving Catholic priests. A young drug addict has committed suicide. The bloody carnage of Japanese whaling fleets. Ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya in Myanmar.

Did I imagine there might be a lull in the bad news because it’s Christmas?

As my meditations become darker and more curmudgeonly, I turn again to TS Eliot’s poem, A Celebration of Christmas trees:

There are several attitudes towards Christmas,
Some of which we may disregard:
The social, the torpid, the patently commercial,
The rowdy (the pubs being open till midnight),
And the childish — which is not that of the child
For whom the candle is a star, and the gilded angel
Spreading its wings at the summit of the tree
Is not only a decoration, but an angel.

The child wonders at the Christmas Tree:
Let him continue in the spirit of wonder
At the Feast as an event not accepted as a pretext;
So that the glittering rapture, the amazement
Of the first-remembered Christmas Tree,
So that the surprises, delight in new possessions
(Each one with its peculiar and exciting smell),
The expectation of the goose or turkey
And the expected awe on its appearance,

So that the reverence and the gaiety
May not be forgotten in later experience,
In the bored habituation, the fatigue, the tedium,
The awareness of death, the consciousness of failure,
Or in the piety of the convert
Which may be tainted with a self-conceit
Displeasing to God and disrespectful to children
(And here I remember also with gratitude
St. Lucy, her carol, and her crown of fire):

So that before the end, the eightieth Christmas
(By “eightieth” meaning whichever is last)
The accumulated memories of annual emotion
May be concentrated into a great joy
Which shall be also a great fear, as on the occasion
When fear came upon every soul:
Because the beginning shall remind us of the end
And the first coming of the second coming.

Compline

Most merciful God,
we confess to you,
before the whole company of heaven and one another,
that we have sinned in thought, word and deed
and in what we have failed to do.
Forgive us our sins,
heal us by your Spirit
and raise us to new life in Christ. Amen.

“Dating back to the fourth century, and referenced by St. Benedict, St. Basil, and St. John Chrysostom, Compline has been prayed for century after century and forms part of the whole Daily Office (cf. Liturgy of the Hours). Compline was the last service of the day, to be said by the monks in their dormitories before bed.”

– http://anglicanpastor.com/what-is-compline/

Graphic Doubt: The Disruption of Faith in Comic Books and Graphic Literature

I found this intriguing blog which seeks to “explore the connection between theology and graphic literature (such as comic books)”:

http://wednesdaytheology.blogspot.co.za/?m=1

“You’re why this is happening. You ruinous excuses for human life.
You are why everyone will die. Why the rains are coming to wash them all away.
You are God’s regret.”

 – The Goddamned #2
 by Jason Aaron and R.M. Guéra
006_goddamned03

The dissenting voice

‘…She said there can be no true faith without doubt.
“It’s the dissenting voice that’s most worth preserving.”‘

– Archer & Armstrong #3
by Fred Van Lente and Clayton Henry with Pere Perez, quoted from wednesdaytheology.blogspot
+++

“Doubt isn’t a problem that needs to be overcome; it’s an invitation that needs to be explored. It is not the enemy of faith, but a friend.”

– Gregory A. Boyd, Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2013)

Dukkha

“Dukkha (Pāli; Sanskrit: duḥkha; Tibetan: སྡུག་བསྔལ་ sdug bsngal, pr. “duk-ngel”) is an important Buddhist concept, commonly translated as “suffering”, “pain” or “unsatisfactoriness”. It refers to the fundamental unsatisfactoriness and painfulness of mundane life.”

– Wikipedia

A coefficient of uncertainty

“Who am I? I am one who finds his life a question, whose life is always being put in question, which is what gives life its salt. We seek but do not find, not quite, not if we are honest, which does not discourage the religious heart but drives it on and heightens the passion, for this is one more encounter with the impossible. We may and we must have our opinions on the subject; we must finally reach a judgment and take a stand about life, but my advice is to attach a coefficient of uncertainty to what we say, for even after we have taken a stand, we still do not know who we are.”

John D. Caputo, On Religion

Get-me-to-heaven-and-the-rest-be-damned

“The Right thinks that the breakdown of the family is the source of crime and poverty, and this they very insightfully blame on the homosexuals, which would be amusing were it not so tragic. Families and ‘family values’ are crushed by grinding poverty, which also makes violent crime and drugs attractive alternatives to desperate young men and sends young women into prostitution. Family values are no less corrupted by the corrosive effects of individualism, consumerism, and the accumulation of wealth. Instead of shouting this from the mountain tops, the get-me-to-heaven-and-the-rest-be-damned Christianity the Christian Right preaches is itself a version of selfish spiritual capitalism aimed at netting major and eternal dividends, and it fits hand in glove with American materialism and greed.”

John D. Caputo, What Would Jesus Deconstruct?: The Good News of Postmodernism for the Church