November 12th, 2006


For dmnsqrl

Selections from Orthodoxy, by G.K. Chesterton (the second is of particular moment to the discussion we were having).

Last and most important, it is exactly this which explains what is so inexplicable to all the modern critics of the history of Christianity. I mean the monstrous wars about small points of theology, the earthquakes of emotion about a gesture or a word. It was only a matter of an inch; but an inch is everything when you are balancing. The Church could not afford to swerve a hair's breadth on some things if she was to continue her great and daring experiment of the irregular equilibrium. Once let one idea become less powerful and some other idea would become too powerful. . . . Here it is enough to notice that if some small mistake were made in doctrine, huge blunders might be made in human happiness. A sentence phrased wrong about the nature of symbolism would have broken all the best statues in Europe. A slip in the definitions might stop all the dances; might wither all the Christmas trees or break all the Easter eggs. Doctrines had to be defined with strict limits, even in order that man might enjoy general human liberties. The Church had to be careful, if only that the world might be careless.

This is the thrilling romance of Orthodoxy. People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy. It was sanity: and to be sane is more dramatic than to be mad. It was the equilibrium of a man behind madly rushing horses, seeming to stoop this way and to sway that, yet in every attitude having the grace of statuary and the accuracy of arithmetic. the Church in its early days went fierce and fast with any warhorse; yet it is utterly unhistoric to say that she merely went mad along one idea, like a vulgar fanatacism. She swerved to left and right, so exactly as to avoid enormous obstacles. She left on one hand the huge bulk of Arianism, buttressed by all the worldly powers to make Christianity too worldly. The next instant she was serving to avoid an orientalism, which would have made it too unworldly. The orthodox Church never took the tame course or accepted the conventions; the orthodox Church was never respectable. It would have been easier to have accepted the earthly power of the Arians. It would have been easy, in the Calvinistic seventeenth century, to fall into the bottomless pit of predestination. It is easy to be a madman: it is easy to be a heretic. It is always easy to let the age have its head; the difficult thing is to keep one's own. It is always easy to be a modernist; as it is easy to be a snob. To have fallen into any of those open traps of error and exaggeration which fashion after fashion and sect after sect set along the historic path of Christendom -- that would indeed have been simple. It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands. To have fallen into any one of the fads from Gnosticism to Christian Science would indeed have been obvious and tame. But to have avoided them all has been one whirling adventure; and in my vision the heavenly chariot flies thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect.

-- "The Paradoxes of Christianity"

A strict rule is not only necessary for ruling; it is also necessary for rebelling. This fixed and familiar ideal is necessary to any sort of rebellion. Man will sometimes act slowly upon new ideas; but he will only act swiftly upon old ideas.

-- "The Eternal Revolution"
xmas cats

my parish newsletter column for December


"Wait patiently for him"

In my family, the tradition was that we opened gifts on Christmas morning. Other families open gifts on Christmas Eve, and there are still other traditions that families have, who have to travel, etc. But for us, it was Christmas morning. Only once did I ever open a gift early.

I was in third or fourth grade, about nine years old, I suppose. The tree was surrounded by gifts of all sizes. Waiting was very difficult. I whined and begged that I could open a present early. Finally, my mother, worn down by my hassling her, said I could open one present on Christmas Eve. The rest would have to wait until the next morning.

Greedily, I snatched the largest box under the tree and opened it. It was a big plastic warship with removable depth charges. It was on little wheels, so it rolled across our hardwood floors. It was a very cool toy. But it didn't make me happy. In fact, it increased the fretfulness that the long wait to open gifts had produced in me.

You see, immediately upon opening that gift, I realized that I had shrunk the Wow! I was going to experience the next morning. I would have one gift fewer to open than I was expecting. In my eagerness to have my cake now, I discovered that I couldn't eat it again later. Oh, I could still play with my toy warship -- but I wouldn't have the excitement of opening the package, the joy of discovery. Somehow, I knew that this was a mistake.

And I also realized that scratching the itch didn't make the itch go away. Just because I opened one gift didn't mean that I was relieved of the agony of waiting. People who are tempted to do things they know they shouldn't (which is all of us) always think that just a little bit of whatever it is won't hurt. But it does. And it doesn't relieve the original temptation.

In one of those I-just-grew-up-some revelations, I realized that I had done a foolish thing. It would have been better to wait. However hard it is to wait for some things, jumping the gun rarely works out. Better to wait, and comfort oneself with the fact that the waiting will end -- and if we are faithful in our waiting, our joy in the arrival of what we await will be that much greater.

That's a heavy thought for a nine-year-old to have. But I know many folks, much older, who haven't figured it out yet. Anyway, I never again opened a gift early; which is not to say that I haven't snatched at other things when they were unripe, but whenever I have, it has only reinforced this lesson.

God brings all things to fulfillment in our lives. He brings the whole of creation to fulfillment. In the fullness of time he sent Jesus into the world to be born. And waiting is no easier now than then. But he promises that the wait will be worth it. On that promise hangs all our hope.

God and Family Retreat

Too early Too early

Kyeson faces the day
Too many Happy Meals Too many Happy Meals

Chelsea and Lauren at breakfast
Ninja Fairy Angel Ninja Fairy Angel

Jimmy helps Matthew adjust his wings
Hard at work Hard at work

Craft time
Talk to the hand Talk to the hand

Julie displays her oven mitt

Click on pic to enlarge

I promised youse guys some pictures from our God and Family Retreat last weekend. We had six children (five fifth-graders and one third-grader) and two adults. And we all survived.

McCormick's Creek State Park

Canyon wall Canyon wall

McCormick's Creek S.P.
The Falls The Falls

McCormick's Creek S.P., Indiana
The Falls The Falls

from creek level

Took advantage of the lingering Indian Summer to go out to the park and take these pictures of the famous falls and canyon of McCormick's Creek. This is one of Indiana's oldest State parks. I grew up near here, and spent many days visiting this park.

x-posted to scenic_scapes