Monday, May 31, 2010

What Did He Die For

Courtesy of Eldest Daughter, a song and a video for Memorial Day, here. Embedding is disabled; it's "What Did He Die For," by Twila Paris.

(Paleocons, pacifists, and others who break out in hives at any glorifying of the American military are discouraged from clicking on the link.)

The glorious samenes of eternity

This was part of one of the readings for Trinity Sunday yesterday:

And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, LORD God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.

And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,

The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
(Revelation 4:8-11)
And it suddenly reminded me, of all things, of Dante's Inferno. One of the most horrible things about Dante's hell is the repetitiveness of it. In one circle, for example, people are eternally hacked into pieces, over and over again. It never, never, never ends.

What's interesting about this vision of heaven is the use of the present tense. The beasts never rest, day and night. They continually cry, "Holy, Holy, Holy." And when they cry, the elders fall down and worship.

One could think about this uncharitably: What, is it sort of like those window displays at Christmas in downtown Chicago when I was a child? The beasts saying the same thing over and over and the elders mechanically falling down and worshiping, getting up, falling down and worshiping again?

What is John conveying here? Well, first of all, I think he did have a vision like this, so I think he's telling what he saw and what he understood--that praise to God in heaven is unceasing.

But another idea, which I think we find hard to receive aright, is this: When we are finally in heaven at the end of all things, human history is over. The beatific vision is not at all like ordinary human life, with its ups and its downs, its reversals, its suspense, failure, success. But when we become what we should be, this will not bother us. We will not be, to put it bluntly, bored. We will want, as the catechism has it, to enjoy God forever.

And I think that in our best moments here on earth, led by the Holy Spirit, we catch a glimpse of the true glory and excitement of that state in which we praise God forever and ever and ever.

May we love that which God commands and desire what he promises, "that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be found."

New tune for "Praise My Soul"

Eldest Daughter showed me this video the other day, and I was much intrigued by the tune. I hadn't known that tune to "Praise My Soul the King of Heaven" and wanted to know the name. Checked out the cyberhymnal but got no insight.

Hat tip to our friend Alan Forrester who, after being asked at church, went home and googled and found out. The tune name is "Lauda Anima (Andrews)." The usual "Lauda Anima" tune that is more familiar is by John Goss and is from the 19th century. This one is by one Mark Andrews and is from 1930. I think Andrews has succeeded in capturing an almost 18th century feel. Something Handel-ish about this tune.

This one you may like better without the video, so close your eyes if you just want to hear the music:

Tune in later for (hopefully) some thoughts on the reading from Revelation for Trinity Sunday and for a Twyla Paris Memorial Day video.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Head that Once Was Crowned With Thorns

Today is Ascension Sunday, meaning it is the Sunday in the octave of the feast of the Ascension. The Ascension is one of my favorite liturgical seasons; I only wish it lasted longer. For one thing, it has some great hymns associated with it, and it can be hard to convince Anglicans to sing those hymns at any other time of year, so we never fit them all in.

Here and here are my last two posts on the theological richness of Ascensiontide from previous years. Here at What's Wrong With the World is a post on the apologetic problems with the "objective vision theory" of the resurrection of Jesus and the way in which that theory is incompatible with the doctrine of the Ascension.

I would also add that the Ascension has special apologetic importance in the following way: Those who treat the apostles as sincerely mistaken in their belief that Jesus was risen must (though they don't always admit this) be attributing some sort of hallucinations to them. But in that case, why did the hallucinations stop, for all of them, at the same time, and with their asserting that they stopped walking and talking with Jesus because He ascended into heaven? Interesting, that. One would not expect severe mental illness and mass hysteria among all those people to be so abruptly cut off, so self-limiting.

Indeed, if the Ascension were not narrated in the Bible, we would have to invent it. It's the only explanation for the obvious difference between the interactions narrated in the resurrection narratives and the behavior of the disciples in the early chapters of Acts (after the Ascension narrative), where they don't seem to be under the slightest impression that Jesus is walking and talking among them.

Notice, too, that if they did not really believe (as some claim) that Jesus was literally, physically resurrected, they did not need to have an Ascension at all. Jesus could have gone on being spiritually present to them in the same way indefinitely. If, on the other hand, he was physically resurrected, the Ascension is very nearly a necessity to explain his physical absence later on. His body had to have gone somewhere.

The teaching of the Ascension is thus strong evidence against hallucinations and against non-physical theories of the resurrection (and of the disciples' teaching) and in favor of the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

Hymn time. Below are the words to "The Head That Once Was Crowned With Thorns." We sang it this morning. Singable and with great words.

The head that once was crowned with thorns
Is crowned with glory now;
A royal diadem adorns
The mighty victor’s brow.

The highest place that Heav’n affords
Belongs to Him by right;
The King of kings and Lord of lords,
And Heaven’s eternal Light.

The joy of all who dwell above,
The joy of all below,
To whom He manifests His love,
And grants His Name to know.

To them the cross with all its shame,
With all its grace, is given;
Their name an everlasting name,
Their joy the joy of Heaven.

They suffer with their Lord below;
They reign with Him above;
Their profit and their joy to know
The mystery of His love.

The cross He bore is life and health,
Though shame and death to Him,
His people’s hope, His people’s wealth,
Their everlasting theme.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Your Blesser Ain't Never Been Blessed

I put up a post about not being cranky in our conservatism in the course of which I included a Gaither Homecoming version of "Amazing Grace." I got some interesting responses and realized that some good conservative friends have a deep suspicion of all Gospel music, which I think is rather a shame. Anyway, I doubt I will make any converts with this post, but it did make me think of the following song, which (by chance) my daughter got on a CD during the very time that the discussion was going on over my post.

If you haven't enjoyed old-time Gospel singing, then your blesser ain't never been blessed. The late Glen Payne tells us all about it.

Since it specifically mentions "The Haven of Rest," just to make sure to give everybody an opportunity to get blessed, here is "The Haven of Rest" as sung by Glen Payne with, of all people, a younger (still dark-haired) Guy Penrod. Eldest Daughter tells me that the first time they sang this together, Bill Gaither chose Guy as a surprise, and the first Payne knew of it was when this very large, long-haired young man was joining him on the stage. (In the version below I especially notice Ernie Haase and, I believe, the late George Younce sitting behind them listening. Also the late Jake Hess is in the audience.)

While we're at it and I'm inflicting Gospel music on my readers, here's a fun one I never put up when I was doing a series from the Gaither reunion video. One of my liberal readers opined that he couldn't understand why I put up the "Amazing Grace" video as iconic of mainstream, Protestant conservatism. Perhaps this one would help him out. I really tend to think a liberal would feel like choking a little singing this--"Build an Ark." Sounds like home schooling...

Oh, and speaking of arks, if you want to read what I must say is an eloquent rant, see VFR reader Kristor here. It ends,
But it's not nice to fool with Mother Nature. There'll be hell to pay, and hell is damn sure going to collect; God is not mocked. Apres nous, le deluge. Eventually, I suppose, some virtuous trad marooned on a mountaintop will spot a rainbow, and we'll get another shot.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


My sense of sight is not the best. I wear glasses, but lately I have to take off the glasses for reading and computer work, which means that everything further away is a bit blurry. I tend to forget where I've left them, walk around without seeing clearly, then scurry to find them when I have to drive anywhere.

But when I go walking, I wear the glasses. Now it is spring in the Midwest, the kind of spring that man has been writing songs and poems about since forever, the kind of spring that might make even a hardboiled atheist and naturalist wonder if just perhaps this world is more than bouncing atoms in a vacuum.

As it happens, my walks tend to be about an hour before sunset, and for a good deal of the time, I'm walking east. The sun catches the boles of the trees and the green of the young leaves. (Not so young anymore. Spreading a bit now. You can hear them say, like a seven-year-old, "Now I'm big!")

And I can see. No sun in the eyes. The sun shining on everything, and everything clear, standing out in sharp relief. It's an amazing thing, the way it strikes you. The sheer gift of clear physical sight. On those evening spring walks, away from the sun, all the etching of all the bark on all the tree trunks seems clearer than most things ever are, much clearer than the hand in front of my face right now. Everything is itself and seems to be trying to tell me what it is.

"Now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known."

The writers of holy writ and the theologians and poets from St. Thomas Aquinas to the blind Fanny Crosby were wise to tell us of heaven in terms of sight. How did Fanny know, though? Blinded at six weeks of age, she never walked east in the evening and watched the sun on the trees. But she knows now how right she was.

And I shall see him face to face
And tell the story, saved by grace.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Easter IV--That we may love the thing which God commands

One of the greatest collects in the entire Book of Common Prayer is the collect for today, the fourth Sunday after Easter:

O Almighty God, who alone canst order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men; Grant unto thy people, that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
John says that if we ask anything according to God's will, he hears us (I John 2:14). What could be more the will of God than our loving that which God commands and desiring what he promises? And it isn't as easy as it sounds, either.

is my older post on this very collect, in which I said it much better and also gave a bit of the history of the collect.

Also of possible interest: Long comment I wrote at W4 on ecumenism and forms of worship.