3 Minute Theologian

Words about God and Life for the Attention Deficit Generation

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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.]

Tank Park Salute

David, off-duty in Bergen-Belsen, 1949

David, off-duty in Bergen-Belsen, 1949

Tomorrow is my father’s funeral. David Anthony will be carried into St Michael’s Church, Ledbury, wearing his Royal Tank Regiment tie. Dad served as a tankie during his National Service, single-handedly saving western Germany from the Russian invaders. He profoundly resented the time he had to waste, serving King and Country, and the bloody politicians – indeed he spent much of his retirement reading, with relish, various accounts of high-ranking military incompetence.

Chieftain Salute

Chieftains salute

Even so, he is wearing his Royal Tank Regiment tie, because he was immensely proud of his time as a Tankie. He would never have expressed it as “service”, but that’s what it was.

Twenty years ago I heard Bill Bragg’s song, Tank Park Salute. Bragg was also, briefly, a tankie, and his father was a tankie during World War Two. Following the death of his father Bragg wrote this song which expresses the eternal wonder of the relationship between son and father: the questions the father can answer, the safety he provides, the hero he becomes. It is an eternal wonder because, even though death leaves us bewildered that the permanent presence of our father is gone, the connection between father and son remains.

Tomorrow I will give the address at my father’s funeral. It won’t be a tank park salute; it won’t be nearly as worthy of him as that. But in the back of my mind will be Bragg’s words, “to remind me that I’m but my father’s son”.

The Good-Morrow for my father

My father, David Anthony, died today. He had been living with dementia, diabetes, parkinsonism, and a whole host of debilitating conditions and symptoms. He died peacefully, with my mother Sheila by his side. I had given him Last Rites 36 hours before he died.

This morning, I said morning prayer by his bedside, and realised that today was the feast day of John Donne. I was reminded of Donne’s poem The Good-Morrow: I read the poem to him:

THE GOOD-MORROW by John Donne

I wonder by my troth, what thou and I
Did, till we loved ? were we not wean’d till then ?
But suck’d on country pleasures, childishly ?
Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers’ den ?
‘Twas so ; but this, all pleasures fancies be ;
If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.

And now good-morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear ;
For love all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone ;
Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown ;
Let us possess one world ; each hath one, and is one.

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest ;
Where can we find two better hemispheres
Without sharp north, without declining west ?
Whatever dies, was not mix’d equally ;
If our two loves be one, or thou and I
Love so alike that none can slacken, none can die.

My mother said “that says it all”. My father died three days before the 60th Anniversary of their wedding.

Of your charity,
pray for the repose of the soul of
David Anthony,
26 October 1928 – 31 March 2014 

David Anthony

David, serving King and Country, aged 19

“Shocking” is too soft a word to describe the crimes of the financial sector. They are almost thrilling in their creative abundance – laundering money for drugs cartels; defrauding old people, small businesses, investors and shareholders; rigging markets; sugarcoating dud loans to look like good ones; loading the world economy with ever greater levels of risk and throwing millions of people out of work. And so on. All the time, they were enriching nobody but themselves. The banks and their buddies have been on a crime spree that would have glazed over the eyes of Al Capone.

Read it all

Advent Haiku

O Clavis David

AAKeyAnswer, admission,
the prisoners’ eyes see light—
open and shut case.

Advent Haiku

O Radix Jesse

Silent palacesAARoot
hear prayers in shopping malls—
green shoots grow a canopy.

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