It has been a few months since my last “This and That”. For those unfamiliar with these I will begin with a note of explanation. Most of my posts on this blog are extended essays on particular topics (theological, political, philosophical, ethical, aesthetical, and cultural). The posts entitled “This and That”, on the other hand, combine shorter discussions of multiple topics with personal announcements, notifications of upcoming essays and sometimes commentary on current events.
A New Liturgical Year
We are a week and a half into the new Christian liturgical year, last Sunday having been the second Sunday in Advent. Over the summer I found a copy of John Keble’s The Christian Year in a used book store. Keble was the Victorian Anglican priest after whom Keble College in Oxford is named. His name, like that of Edward Pusey, will forever be linked with that of John Henry Newman as one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement, the early 19th Century Catholic revival in the Church of England. Newman credited Keble’s 1833 sermon on “National Apostasy” with launching the movement. The Christian Year was written before all that, however. It was his first publication, written while he was a young man, consisting of a series of devotional poems, one for morning and evening, ones for every Sunday in the liturgical year, and ones for other important liturgical dates.
I have decided to read it the way it was intended to be read, each poem on the day of the Christian calendar it is assigned to. I will also be listening to a collection of recordings of the surviving sacred cantatas by J. S. Bach according to their liturgical dates. The German, Lutheran, Baroque master composer wrote three full cycles of sacred cantatas. They have not all survived, so not every day in the Christian calendar is covered – last Sunday, Advent 2, was not, nor is next Sunday, Advent 3 – but there are over 200 of them still available. The version I will be listening to is the complete edition recorded by the Bachakademie in Stuttgart under the direction of Helmuth Rilling, released in 2011 by hänssler CLASSIC.
A New Concert Season
Speaking of classical music, it is not just a new liturgical year that has started, but the new concert season as well. It started back in September, of course. So far the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra has given us excellent performances of pieces by Rachmaninoff, Dvorák, Shostakovich, Beethoven, Mathieu, and Sibelius, as well as a “Night of Song and Dance” about which it is probably best, in keeping with the spirit of Christian charity, to say very little. The next performance, on December 17th, will be of Handel’s Messiah, which is always something I look forward to in the Christmas season.
Manitoba Opera put on its fall production last month. This year they chose Richard Strauss’ Salome as their opener, a one act opera based upon Oscar Wilde’s play, itself based upon the Biblical story of Herodias’ daughter who asked for and received John the Baptist’s head on a silver platter. It was a great performance and I am looking forward to their concert of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas and their production of Donizetti's Daughter of the Regiment, next year.
C. S. Lewis and the Penitential Language of the Prayer Book
Dr. Larry Dixon, who was my faculty advisor at Providence College (now Providence University College) back in the 90’s, has recently discovered C. S. Lewis’ “Miserable Offenders” An Interpretation of Prayer Book Language. He will be reproducing and discussing it at his blog (http://larrydixon.wordpress.com) in a series of posts. I recommend that you check it out. By an odd coincidence I read this same essay earlier this year myself. It was included in God in the Dock, which I reviewed here: http://thronealtarliberty.blogspot.com/2011/05/christianity-in-age-of-unbelief.html The title of the essay comes from the General Confession in the order for Morning and Evening Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer which reads:
ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father, We have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep, We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts, We have offended against thy holy laws, We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare thou them, O God, which confess their faults. Restore thou them that are penitent; According to thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesu our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake, That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.
Lewis’ essay is a defence of the repentant attitude reflected in these words, which had come under attack in his day by liberals offended at the thought that we are “miserable offenders” who must approach God in a spirit of penitence.
Interesting Discussions Elsewhere on the Web
Lawrence Auster, a traditionalist American writer has written a number of critiques of Darwinism recently, which can be found at his website A View From the Right: http://amnation.com/vfr/ Dr. Steve Burton, one of the contributors to What’s Wrong With the World, responded here: http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2011/11/the_barrenness_of_antidarwinis.html, which, as you can see, led to an interesting debate in the comments. This also appears to be the background to a series of premises Dr. Burton has been posting about evolutionary psychology. I contributed to the discussion in the comments to the first premise here: http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2011/12/first_premise.html
The Ongoing Fight For Freedom
Advent, like Lent, is a period devoted to penitent reflection, prior to the celebration of God’s grace given to man in the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There are those, however, who show very little penitence and humility in this season, or in any other. The anti-racists, for example, smugly confident in their own righteousness, continue their campaign to have the government punish and silence those who disagree with them. Thankfully, their actions are not going unopposed.
Next week, Marc Lemire of the Freedomsite will appear before the Federal Court of Canada, which will be hearing the appeal of the Canadian Human Rights Commission against the September 2009 decision of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal which ruled that Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act was unconstitutional. If the Federal Court upholds the original decision, Section 13 will finally be stricken from the law. Section 13 is the law which declares that it is an act of illegal discrimination to electronically communicate any material which is “likely to” expose someone to “hatred or contempt” on the grounds of their membership in a group you are forbidden to discriminate against. You can read Mr. Lemire’s account of his upcoming court case here: http://blog.freedomsite.org/2011/12/fate-of-section-13-to-be-decided-in.html Let us pray that he will be successful and that we will finally be rid of this disgusting piece of thought-control legislation once and for all.
Meanwhile, today Connie Fournier was cross-examined by Richard Warman and his lawyer, with regards to one of his many nuisance lawsuits against Free Dominion, the conservative message board that she and her husband Mark administer. Let us also remember Mark and Connie in our prayers, that they might win their legal battles, and finally be free of these obnoxious SLAPP suits.
Let us also pray that Richard Warman and the other anti-racists will be humbled, repent, and make restitution to those they have harmed in their misguided zeal.
I have not yet completed my 2011 “arts and culture” series of essays, and I will not have the time to complete it before the end of the year so some of the essays will be post next year. The final essays in the series will be an essay on the beauty of nature, a review of Jacob Burckhardt’s The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, an essay on multiculturalism, and an essay about Matthew Arnold and his Culture and Anarchy. I had also planned about three essays on the subject of criticism but these will now be part of a new series for next year, as the research materials for one of them will take me some time to gather together. The final essays of the “Arts and Culture” series will not necessarily be posted in the order in which I have mentioned them above.
Advent and Christmas Reading
It was a few years ago that I read John Lukacs’ first autohistory Confessions of an Original Sinner. In the library yesterday I found a copy of his second autohistory Last Rites, which is a couple of years old now. I started it last night. I will also be reading a collection of the sermons of St. Augustine for Advent through Epiphany, George Grant’s Time as History (based upon his 1969 Massey Lectures on Nietzsche), Roger Scruton’s The Uses of Pessimism, and I plan on re-reading C. S. Lewis’ fiction, his Narnia series, and his space trilogy.
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