Thursday, March 28, 2013


Today is Holy Thursday, also called Maundy Thursday, the first day of the most solemn and sacred time in the Church's year. It was on this day, during the Last Supper that Jesus Christ instituted the Blessed Sacrament. And today His Passion began with the dreadful agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Tomorrow is Good Friday, the day of His suffering and died, to free the us poor sinners, and win for us our salvation.

Holy Saturday is the last day of Lent, a day of sorrow for the death of the Hero Christ, and of expectation of His glorious resurrection.

My sisters and I were busy earlier this week, weaving the palms we received on Sunday into various shapes and designs:




 During Christmas, I checked out a CD of Christmas music, sung by Julie Andrews. It was a lovely album, and rather different from the general run of Christmas CDs. Amongst other things, it had a haunting little song called the Lamb of God Carol. I had never heard it before. Nor can I find much information in it at all. It is, I think, more of a New Year's carol, than a Christmas carol. But the words are particularly suited to Passiontide, so I am posting it here. As a bit of a digression, it was not uncommon for older Christmas carols to make reference to the death of Our Lord - the middle verse of What Child Is This is an example. After all, He came into this world to die for us, so it does make sense. Furthermore, there was time when the new year was celebrated on March 25th, which falls during Lent, so the references to the Passion would have been natural. However, the beginning lines of the Lamb of God carol, definitely fit more into the Christmas tradition, so this song is just a bit of an oddity to me.

Monday, March 25, 2013

And Today Is....

The Feast of the Annunciation:

When the Angel Gabriel announced to Our Lady that she was to be the Mother of God, and when Our Lord was miraculously conceived by the Holy Ghost.

The Annunciations Carol:

The Feast Of St. Dismas

The Good Thief who was crucified beside Our Lord, who defended Him against the taunts of the crowd and his fellow thief, and who was granted the tremendous grace of conversion in that moment.

Comrades of the Cross

I cannot think or reason,
I only know He came
With hands and feet of healing
And wild heart all aflame.

With eyes that dimmed and softened
At all the things He saw,
And in His pillared singing
I read the marches of the Law.

I only know He loves me,
Enfolds and understands -
And, oh His heart that holds me,
And oh, His certain hands -

The Man, the Christ, the Soldier,
Who from His cross of pain,
Cried to the dying comrade:
"Lad, we will meet again!"
                 Willard Wattles

Tolkien Reading Day

On March 25, 3019 of the Third Ages, Frodo completed his journey to Mount Doom. The Ring was destroyed, and Sauron was defeated. Tolkienist celebrate this day by reading works by the Professor. Here am I with The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien.

J. R. R. Tolkien Reading "Riddles in the Dark" from "The Hobbit":

Happy Day to all of you - and feel free to celebrate like Hobbits with food, and like dwarves with song, and like Elves with poetry by the fire. And if you choose to cook something with cinnamon in it, so much the better, for cinnamon - so I read long ago - was Our Lady's favourite spice. However, even though Bilbo was a burgler, and St. Dismas was a thief, it is best not to be trying your pick-pocketing skills today - tempting as it might be.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Hosanna Filio David!

Today is Palm Sunday, and the beginning of Holy Week. This is my favourite time during the Church's year, because the liturgy for this week is absolutely beautiful. During the Mass today, St. Mark's account of the Passion will be recited. If you are fortunate enough to be able to attend a High Mass (which, alas, we are not), it will be sung - with voices taking the part of Christ, of St. Peter, of Pilate, and of the crowd. It is long, but it is extremely moving. The Mass of Palm Sunday is full of beautiful antiphons, including Hosanna Filio David:

The translation is as follows: Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord. King of Israel! Hosanna to the Son of David. It is, in fact, the words with which the crowd saluted Jesus, as they lay palms before Him as he rode into Jerusalem.

We might have had to make do with minimal singing, but we all received palms to hold during the Last Gospel, and to take home with us afterward. I have a particular fondness for palms. There is something of a heady glory about the imagery of Palm Sunday - Jesus Christ riding upon a donkey, triumphantly, while people hail His as King, and strew His way with palm branches and flowers, singing Hosannas as He passes through their midst. And there is a corresponding glory to all the picture and statutes of early confessors and martyrs who won their own palms by dying for the King of Glory Who had died for them. I brave and inspired when I get my palms.

This year, I am going to do fancy things with my palms. I am going to braid them, and make crosses and crowns of thorns of them. There is a very handy Italian website, featuring tutorials of some of the more common palm weaving patterns. If my efforts turn out well, I just might post pictures of them within the next couple days.

And now... Holy Week!

Monday, March 18, 2013

St. Patrick's Day Was Yesterday....

And I made my usual big deal over it.

I dressed eccentrically, in saffron and green.

I wore the paper shamrocks from last year in my hair.

I ate an incredible corned beef and cabbage for dinner, over at my parent's house, in the company of all my immediate family, a couple nieces, and our good friends from up the road.

I partook of my sister, Amanda's, incredible dark chocolate Guinness cake. (The Guinness cooks out, leaving just a rich, intense chocolate flavour behind.) It was wonderful.

This year, however, I did something a little different from usual. The the holiday fell on a Sunday, which is one of my days off, so I had a whole day to celebrate! Therefore, I started the day off right, by making an Irish Breakfast for myself and the sisters who happened to have spent the night. I set the table very prettily with my Book of Kells scarf, a potted shamrock, and a wee little statue of St. Patrick himself.

St. Patrick stands on a box containing a little bit of Connemara marble - a gift from a co-worker many long years ago. He used, once upon a time, to be holding a bishop's staff, but has been lost for a long while now.

The breakfast itself consisted of a bit of sausage, some Canadian bacon (since American bacon is nothing at all like the leaner, ham-like Irish stuff.) eggs, soda bread, fried tomatoes and Irish coffee... I have trouble with fried eggs, I know not why. They always taste beautiful, but seldom look so:

I like fried tomatoes with my breakfast. My sisters do not, so I was the only one who ate them. Usually, an Irish breakfast would have boasted white and black puddings as well. We had them not, partly because, so far as I know, there is no where in town to get them, and even if there were, the puddings are an acquired taste, and not one I think, that would have gone over well with the sisters. Sausage and bacon were quite sufficient of themselves, however, and were partaken of with great relish.

The soda bread was a bit heavier than I would have liked - next time I make it, I shall put in a touch more baking soda, and a little less flour. Still, eaten hot with butter and honey, as we had it, it was mighty tasty:

As you can see, I am quite good at making Irish Coffees, a skill I am rather proud of. The cream floats on top, you see, the way it is supposed to, so that there is a clear line between it and the black coffee. The first couple sips of it particularly - hot, sweet coffee, coming up through the cold, frothy cream - is so good:

It was an extremely satisfying meal indeed.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Truer Words...

There are many benefits to working in a library, and in general, I rather enjoy my work than otherwise. But like all jobs, even the very best, there are down sides as well. For me, one of the down sides is seeing the sort of book that tends to make it to the bestsellers lists. It is discouraging, for the most popular books with the longest library waiting lists, usually are not very good books - and I use the word "good" in this instance, in both sense. For in general, the writing in bestsellers is not of the best, but settles for mediocre. There is little of style or substance about them, nor, after an author starts churning them out at a rate of one per year, imagination and originality. Furthermore, the majority of fiction being published these days - bestsellers or not - are usually not very good. The world-view is skewed; if not outright immoral. Even the good guys - generally flawed but redeemable - are not particularly moral, and strong Christian virtues seldom make an appearance, being eclipsed by a vaguer, less demanding set of values. Yes, it is possible still to find quite good stories, ones that are well-written and morally sound, but it is not so common as it once was.

Therefore, it is supremely satisfying to come across someone who appreciates the finer things. Take, for example, the fine old gentleman who frequents my place of employment. He has just discovered Louis L'amour for the first time, and is raving about him. Now, mind, Louis L'amour is not a high-water mark of literature. I read a few of his books back in high school and remember them being ripping good yarns, full of galloping horses and gunfights - classic Westerns, but not, necessarily memorable. However, this old gentleman is enjoying them for all the right reasons. According to him, the books are just plain good. They tell a good story, with plenty of excitement. The Good Guy is always good. He never shoots anyone if tying him up will work just as well. The Good Guy always wins, and the Bad Guy always loses. The Good Guy gets the girl. And that is how it is supposed to be.

And, by golly! He has a point there - especially in regards to Westerns, with their knight-errant cowboys, and their stern code of honour and decency. The Good Guy is supposed to be good, or if his he not exactly good, he should be trying to be. The Good Guy should win, and if he does not, if his story ends in sorrow and sacrifice, he should still have a moral victory over the Bad Guy. And while the Good Guy cannot always get the girl, he should be the sort of man a worthwhile girl would want to be got by. It is not fashionable to write old-fashioned stories like that anymore, but I believe there is a crying need for them, that deep down, people crave them. Perhaps if there were more of such stories about - if people read about how things are supposed to be - they might just discover that there is nothing old-fashioned about it at all. They might discover that goodness, far from being boring, is a powerful and dangerous thing, and that a man is more truly himself when he chooses to walk that narrow path. That adventures are only worthwhile if there is something at stake, and that death and sacrifice are not things to be afraid of. And, just perhaps, it might have a beneficial effect upon the reader.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Thomas Aquinas

Faithful readers of this blog know that I often post about saints' days. Sometimes it is because the saint is a particular favourite of mine, and I want other people to make friends of him too. Sometimes it is because there are really wonderful traditions associated with the celebration of the day, and I am a very traditional person. Sometimes, it is just because there is something unusual or interesting about them.

So, today is the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas, a man, who at first glance, seems rather too much for the average person to form any opinion of at all. He was a man of prodigious intellect, a theologian and a philosopher. His densely written, intensely logical Summa Theologica was intended to be merely an introduction into theology, and yet, Thomistic scholars will devote their whole lives to the study of it. He loved God passionately and enjoyed visions and revelations from our Saviour, so that he said that all he wrote was but straw, compared to what he had seen. In short, he is quite overwhelming upon first acquaintance, which is rather a pity, he was, at heart, a simple man, who retained throughout all of his life a child-like joyfulness.

He was also practical, poetic, witty and delightfully human. Here are some useful quotes, which show the weighty intellectual in quite a different light than he is usually perceive:

*Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath and a glass of wine.

*Beware the man of a single book.

*There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.

*Because philosophy arises from awe, a philosopher is bound in his way to be a lover of myths and poetic fables. Poets and philosophers are alike in being big with wonder.

*A song is the exultation of the mind dwelling on eternal things, bursting forth in the voice.

*Love takes up where knowledge leaves off.

And here, as well, is a translation of a very lovely poem:... and if that doesn't sound like the writing of a congenial individual, in love with God and God's creation, I don't know what does.

Very Bread, Good Shepherd, Tend Us

Very Bread, Good Shepherd, tend us;
Jesu, of Thy love befriend us;
Thou refresh us, Thou defend us,
Thine eternal goodness send us
In the land of life to see:
Thou Who all things canst and knowest,
Who in earth such Food bestowest,
Grant us with Thy saints, though lowest,
Where the heavenly feast Thou showest,
Fellow heirs and guests to be.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Here a Doodle, There a Doodle....

I am a doodler, there is no other word for it. I cover paper in tiny, wee sketches. I dabble in calligraphy, and miniature pictures, which I occasionally fill in with watercolour or inks. I can draw passable Celtic knots. I do my best work - if you will pardon so lofty a term - when I am passing an idle hour, putting down whatever odd thing strikes my fancy, until I get a page of totally unrelated thumbnail sketches. Like this one here:

Once a doodling mood has seized me, I will turn out a whole lot of extremely small sketches, mostly done in pencil, because I am more comfortable thinking in light and shadow than in colour. I use quite ordinary pencil, generally a mechanical pencil, because the lead stays sharper. I enjoy it, but the results of my efforts are decidedly are mixed.

This picture is the oldest of the lot, and I really cannot tell you what the deal is with that face she is making. I hadn't drawn faces straight on like that in a while, and I was really paying more attention to her cloak. I suspect that is the look I give people who suggest that I need more of a social life... and the expression is even more enigmatic in the original.

Sometimes, I sketch my mood. I was ready for my weekend when I did this one. It is extremely small, maybe 3 inches square, but I got my pipes strapped to my back, my sword, my cape, and the Hobbit scarf which my best friend knitted me for Christmas a while back, without which no adventure would be complete:

I draw soldiers a lot, usually obstinately boy-faced Scottish soldiers, in kilts, doing everything from lounging about with cigarettes on their lips (mostly they're WWII, so I am merely being accurate) to running along with packs on their backs, and rifles in their hands. However, I have long had a soft spot for Roman Soldiers. Back in high school, before I had made the acquaintance of the Irish and the Scots, the Romans were my favourite. I put the next sketch down to the combined effects of seeing The Eagle a couple weeks ago, and watching tons Doctor Who before that. No, it is not Rory, the Last Centurion, nor Marcus Aquila on his way to find the Eagle of the Ninth, but merely a Roman Centurion:

And then, very occasionally, a brilliant idea for a Proper Design strikes me, and I become wildly obsessed with it, until I can get it down. Sometimes it works, and I am satisfied. Sometimes it is a bit of a failure, and the idea sinks like a seed to the back of my mind, where it germinates for a time, before spring to life again. In this case, I got what I was after the first time round, with this watercolour holy card. It is about the size of a business card, so the lettering does not show up so clearly in the picture. It says, "I have lifted my eyes to the mountains, from whence cometh my hope."