3 Minute Theologian

Words about God and Life for the Attention Deficit Generation

Dreading Isolation

“How vehement and widespread anti-religious feeling had become in eighteenth-century France
and its influence on the nature of the Revolution”

Reveil-3eme-etatOnce so well provided with eloquent spokesmen, the Church of France, finding herself deserted by just those people whom common interest should have made her allies, relapsed into silence. There was even a time when one might have thought that, provided she were allowed to keep her wealth and high position, the Church was quite ready to repudiate the faith for which she stood.

What with the loquacity of the opponents of Christianity and the silence of those who were still believers, there ensued a state of affairs that has often since been seen in France, not only as regards religion but also in quite different spheres of human behaviour. Those who retained their belief in the doctrines of the Church became afraid of being alone in their allegiance and, dreading isolation more than the stigma of heresy, professed to share the sentiments of the majority. So what was in reality the opinion of only a part (though a large one) of the nation came to be regarded as the will of all and for this reason seemed irresistible even to those who had given it this false appearance.

Alexis de Tocqueville, The Old Regime and the Revolution (1856), trans. Stuart Gilbert (New York: Anchor, 1955).

Teach prayer by praying, announce the faith by believing; offer witness by living!

VTS students! Read this!PFrancis

Today, on the occasion of presenting the pallium to 46 new archbishops and metropolitans, Pope Francis preached a sermon about authenticity and evangelism, which finished with a manifesto that should be in the heart of every Christian minister. No one should ever want to be an archbishop, but everyone should want to achieve, with God’s grace, this:

The Church wants you to be men of prayer, masters of prayer; that you may teach the people entrusted to your care that liberation from all forms of imprisonment is uniquely God’s work and the fruit of prayer; that God sends his angel at the opportune time in order to save us from the many forms of slavery and countless chains of worldliness. For those most in need, may you also be angels and messengers of charity!

The Church desires you to be men of faith, masters of faith, who can teach the faithful to not be frightened of the many Herods who inflict on them persecution with every kind of cross. No Herod is able to banish the light of hope, of faith, or of charity in the one who believes in Christ!

The Church wants you to be men of witness. Saint Francis used to tell his brothers: “Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words!” (cf. Franciscan sources, 43). There is no witness without a coherent lifestyle! Today there is no great need for masters, but for courageous witnesses, who are convinced and convincing; witnesses who are not ashamed of the Name of Christ and of His Cross; not before the roaring lions, nor before the powers of this world. And this follows the example of Peter and Paul and so many other witnesses along the course of the Church’s history, witnesses who, yet belonging to different Christian confessions, have contributed to demonstrating and bringing growth to the one Body of Christ. I am pleased to emphasize this, and am always pleased to do so, in the presence of the Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, sent by my beloved brother Bartholomew I.

This is not so straightforward: because the most effective and authentic witness is one that does not contradict, by behaviour and lifestyle, what is preached with the word and taught to others!

Teach prayer by praying, announce the faith by believing; offer witness by living!

Go read the whole thing. It is certainly worth it.

A Nice Cup of Tea

A_Nice_Cup_Of_TeaI’ve been back in the UK for three weeks now, and have been enjoying the ease in getting, and the ubiquity of, a nice cup of tea. Which made me think of George Orwell. So, for my daughter, spending her summer in Utah, and with whom I have had many debates about the proper method for making a nice cup of tea1:

If you look up ‘tea’ in the first cookery book that comes to hand you will probably find that it is unmentioned; or at most you will find a few lines of sketchy instructions which give no ruling on several of the most important points.

This is curious, not only because tea is one of the main stays of civilization in this country, as well as in Eire, Australia and New Zealand, but because the best manner of making it is the subject of violent disputes.

When I look through my own recipe for the perfect cup of tea, I find no fewer than eleven outstanding points. On perhaps two of them there would be pretty general agreement, but at least four others are acutely controversial. Here are my own eleven rules, every one of which I regard as golden:

First of all, one should use Indian or Ceylonese tea. China tea has virtues which are not to be despised nowadays — it is economical, and one can drink it without milk — but there is not much stimulation in it. One does not feel wiser, braver or more optimistic after drinking it. Anyone who has used that comforting phrase ‘a nice cup of tea’ invariably means Indian tea.

Secondly, tea should be made in small quantities — that is, in a teapot. Tea out of an urn is always tasteless, while army tea, made in a cauldron, tastes of grease and whitewash. The teapot should be made of china or earthenware. Silver or Britanniaware teapots produce inferior tea and enamel pots are worse; though curiously enough a pewter teapot (a rarity nowadays) is not so bad.

Thirdly, the pot should be warmed beforehand. This is better done by placing it on the hob than by the usual method of swilling it out with hot water.

Fourthly, the tea should be strong. For a pot holding a quart, if you are going to fill it nearly to the brim, six heaped teaspoons would be about right. In a time of rationing, this is not an idea that can be realized on every day of the week, but I maintain that one strong cup of tea is better than twenty weak ones. All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes — a fact which is recognized in the extra ration issued to old-age pensioners.

Fifthly, the tea should be put straight into the pot. No strainers, muslin bags or other devices to imprison the tea. In some countries teapots are fitted with little dangling baskets under the spout to catch the stray leaves, which are supposed to be harmful. Actually one can swallow tea-leaves in considerable quantities without ill effect, and if the tea is not loose in the pot it never infuses properly.

Sixthly, one should take the teapot to the kettle and not the other way about. The water should be actually boiling at the moment of impact, which means that one should keep it on the flame while one pours. Some people add that one should only use water that has been freshly brought to the boil, but I have never noticed that it makes any difference.

Seventhly, after making the tea, one should stir it, or better, give the pot a good shake, afterwards allowing the leaves to settle.

Eighthly, one should drink out of a good breakfast cup — that is, the cylindrical type of cup, not the flat, shallow type. The breakfast cup holds more, and with the other kind one’s tea is always half cold before one has well started on it.

Ninthly, one should pour the cream off the milk before using it for tea. Milk that is too creamy always gives tea a sickly taste.

Tenthly, one should pour tea into the cup first. This is one of the most controversial points of all; indeed in every family in Britain there are probably two schools of thought on the subject. The milk-first school can bring forward some fairly strong arguments, but I maintain that my own argument is unanswerable. This is that, by putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk whereas one is liable to put in too much milk if one does it the other way round.

Lastly, tea — unless one is drinking it in the Russian style — should be drunk without sugar. I know very well that I am in a minority here. But still, how can you call yourself a true tealover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting sugar in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt. Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter. If you sweeten it, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the sugar; you could make a very similar drink by dissolving sugar in plain hot water.

Some people would answer that they don’t like tea in itself, that they only drink it in order to be warmed and stimulated, and they need sugar to take the taste away. To those misguided people I would say: Try drinking tea without sugar for, say, a fortnight and it is very unlikely that you will ever want to ruin your tea by sweetening it again.

These are not the only controversial points to arise in connexion with tea drinking, but they are sufficient to show how subtilised the whole business has become. There is also the mysterious social etiquette surrounding the teapot (why is it considered vulgar to drink out of your saucer, for instance?) and much might be written about the subsidiary uses of tealeaves, such as telling fortunes, predicting the arrival of visitors, feeding rabbits, healing burns and sweeping the carpet. It is worth paying attention to such details as warming the pot and using water that is really boiling, so as to make quite sure of wringing out of one’s ration the twenty good, strong cups of that two ounces, properly handled, ought to represent.

George Orwell, ‘A Nice Cup of Tea’, in As I Please (1943-1945), ed. Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus, vol. III of The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, IV vols., (London: Secker & Warburg, 1968), pp 40-43. Originally printed in The Evening Standard, 12 January 1946.

  1. step ten is the controversial one! []

Thomas Merton, on ‘progress’

Merton…there is a bulldozer working day and night in the cornfields, the bottom lands, and I sleep next to the window right over those fields. What are they doing? Can’t they be content to let the creek wind as it always did? Does it have to be straight? Really we monks are madmen, bitten by an awful folly, an obsession with useless and expensive improvements.

To the east, then, the bulldozer day and night. The noise never stops. To the west, the dehydrator. The noise stops perhaps at midnight. A layman drives the bulldozer, brothers work at the dehydrator.

To the northwest—a pump, day and night. Never stops. There is nothing making any noise to the south–but then to the south the monks’ property soon comes to an end, and there are only lay people, whose lives are generally silent. They only speak. We make signs, but drown everything in the noise of our machines. One would think our real reason for making signs might be that it is not always easy to be heard.

October 19, 1961,  Thomas Merton, Turning Toward the World: The Pivotal Years, ed. Victor A. Kramer, Journals of Thomas Merton 4 (San Francisco, Calif.: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996), p. 171

Today, of all days, a salute to “the lad himself”

East Cheam to Runnymede has never been so far…

The Love of Learning

Gladstone' LibraaryThinking about the academic year that has just concluded, and thinking about the academic year that is soon upon us (August term at VTS begins on 13 August!), I cam across this passage from the Mishnah today, which I think should be incorporated as the official Student Learning Outcomes for the Virginia Theological Seminary:

The Learning of the Law

Greater is [learning in] the Law than priesthood or kingship; for kingship is acquired by thirty excellences and the priesthood by twenty-four; but [learning in] the Law by forty-eight.

And these are they:

  • by study,
  • by the hearing of the ear,
  • by the ordering of the lips,
  • by the understanding of the heart,
  • by the discernment of the heart,
  • by awe,
  • by reverence,
  • by humility,
  • by cheerfulness;
  • by attendance on the Sages,
  • by consorting with fellow-students,
  • by close argument with disciples;
  • by assiduity,
  • by [know-ledge of] Scripture and Mishnah;
  • by moderation in business, worldly occupation, pleasure, sleep, conversation, and jesting;
  • by longsuffering,
  • by a good heart,
  • by faith in the Sages,
  • by submission to sorrows;
  • [by being] one that recognizes his place and that rejoices in his lot and that makes a fence around his words and that claims no merit for himself;
  • [by being one that is] beloved, that loves God, that loves mankind, that loves well-doing, that loves rectitude, that loves reproof, that shuns honour and boasts not of his learning, and delights not in making decisions;
  • that helps his fellow to bear his yoke, and that judges him favourably, and that establishes him in the truth and establishes him in peace;
  • and that occupies himself assiduously· in his study;
  • [by being one] that asks and makes answer,
  • that hearkens and adds thereto;
  • that learns in order to teach and that learns in order to practice;
  • that makes his teacher wiser,
  • that retells exactly what he has heard and recalls a thing in the name of him that said it.

Lo, thou hast learnt that he that tells a thing in the name of him that said it brings deliverance unto the world…

?both, 6:6, The Mishnah, Herbert Danby, trans., (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1933), p. 460

The Hours of the Day and Night

The first hour of the night is the praise of the demons; and at that hour they do not injure or harm any human being.

The second hour is the praise of the doves.

The third hour is the praise of the fish and of fire and of all the lower depths.

The fourth hour is the “holy, holy, holy” praise of the seraphim. And so I used hear, before I sinned, the sound of their wings in Paradise when the seraphim would beat them to the sound of their triple praise. But after I transgressed against the law, I no longer heard that sound.

The fifth hour is the praise of the waters that are above heaven. And so I, together with the angels, used to hear the sound of mighty waves, a sign which would prompt them to lift a hymn of praise to the Creator.

The sixth hour is the construction of clouds and of the great fear which comes in the middle of the night.

The seventh hour is the viewing of their powers while the waters are asleep. And at that hour the waters (can be) taken up and the priest of God mixes them with consecrated oil and anoints those who are afflicted and they rest.

The eighth hour is the sprouting up of the grass of the earth while the dew descends from heaven.

The ninth hour is the praise of the cherubim.

The tenth hour is the praise of human beings, and the gate of heaven is opened through which the prayers of all living things enter, and they worship and depart. And at that hour whatever a man will ask of God is given him when the seraphim and the roosters beat their wings.

The eleventh hour there is joy in all the earth when the sun rises from Paradise and shines forth upon creation.

The twelfth hour is the waiting for incense, and silence is imposed on all the ranks of fire and wind until all the priests burn incense to his divinity. And at that time all the heavenly powers are dismissed.

The End of the Hours of the Night.

From S. E. Robinson, “Testament of Adam,” in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, ed. James H. Charlesworth, vol. 1: Apocalyptic Literature and Testaments, 2 vols. (London: Darton Longman & Todd, 1983), 989–95.

Baby Boom Politics

Baby Boomers who are younger or female tend to vote for the Silly Party.

Baby Boomers who are older or male tend to vote for the Stupid Party.

Then there are the Independents, proud of the fact that they don’t know which is which.

P. J. O’Rourke, The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way…And It Wasn’t My Fault…And I’ll Never Do It Again (2014), p. 226

The dangers of scholarship

We should do well to take warning from the madness of the French patristic scholar Père Hardouin, who became so intoxicated with the discoveries of textual criticism that he ended up believing that, with the exception of his six favourite authors, the entire corpus of the Greek and Latin Fathers was the work of an anonymous group of medieval forgers.

C. H. Lawrence, “St. Benedict and His Rule,” History 67, no. 220 (January 1982): 186

Angels are scary!

Angels in the Middle Ages had little tolerance for human frailties. Take this anecdote told by an eleventh century chronicler. According to Ralph Glaber, a certain monk at the church of St. Germain in Auxerre habitually spat and dribbled while praying at the altar of Mary. His unseemly conduct in such a holy place prompted a terrifying rebuke from an angel, who appeared to him in a vision as a man dressed in white garments. “Why do you shower me with spittle?” the angel asked in annoyance. “As you see, it is I who receive your prayers and bear them to the sight of the most merciful judge!” Upon waking, the monk was beside himself with fear and vowed to exercise more rigorous control over his comportment when he prayed. He strongly encouraged his brethren to do likewise.

[From From Scott G. Bruce, Silence and Sign Language in Medieval Monasticism: The Cluniac Tradition, c.900–1200 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp.1-2; original source: Rodulphus Glaber, Historiarum libri quinque 5.1.7: ed. and trans. John France, in Rodulphus Glaber: The Five Books of Histories and the Life of St. William (Oxford, 1989), p. 224.]

« Older posts

© 2015 3 Minute Theologian

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑