Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The renewed appeal of the Latin Mass

(A slightly modified version of a bulletin article dated 18 August)

I am often asked the question, “What is it that attracts so many young people to the Latin Mass?” Here are three attempts at an answer to that question:

Silence is sacred

We are constantly surrounded by noise. While we’re not busy binge-watching shows on Netflix or watching viral videos on YouTube we’re being inundated with emails, calls, texts, Instagrams, tweets, Vines … it never stops! When we go to Mass and hear the Eucharistic Prayer ringing in our ears, it’s easy for even “This is my Body” to become just one more piece of noise. But to go to a Mass where the prayers are silent, spoken softly by the priest to God alone, provides an experience totally opposite to every other moment of life. In this silence we are free. Free to pray along with those silent prayers if we wish, or to add prayers of our own, or simply to rest in quiet solitude with God.

Everything old is new again

Since almost everyone born after 1988 grew up reading Harry Potter, the under-thirty crowd has always known that cool kids wander around Gothic buildings wearing long black robes while muttering Latin incantations. If it’s true that in a time not long past anything medieval was bound to be the butt of a joke, like in the 1975 Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it’s equally true that the same quasi-medieval setting is now extremely popular: witness HBO’s Game of Thrones. It was captured best in an exchange I recently overheard between two young boys: said one to the other as he examined the antediluvian relic of a typewriter, “Old stuff is so much better than new stuff!”

Wounded by beauty

A generation ago, many felt a need for an experience of Church that was more down-to-earth; but in our own day, two billion viewers gleefully watched the extreme pomp of the Royal Wedding. The ceremonies, the chants, and the trappings of the ancient liturgical rites of Western culture are beautiful. And in a generation unsure if there really are such things as “right” and “wrong,” it is not the truth of the Church’s teachings but the beauty of her worship that will stir their hearts. The converts of the next decade will not say “You have convinced us,” but rather they will say—breathlessly and with tears in their eyes—“We did not know whether we were in heaven or on earth!”

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Saturday, July 6, 2013

Lumen Fidei, Heavily Abridged



Abridged (3,794 words; original 
19,283 words)

An illusory light?
2. The young Nietzsche encouraged his sister Elisabeth to take risks, to tread "new paths… with all the uncertainty of one who must find his own way", adding that "this is where humanity’s paths part: if you want peace of soul and happiness, then believe, but if you want to be a follower of truth, then seek". Belief would be incompatible with seeking. From this starting point Nietzsche was to develop his critique of Christianity for diminishing the full meaning of human existence and stripping life of novelty and adventure. Faith would thus be the illusion of light, an illusion which blocks the path of a liberated humanity to its future.

3. In the process, faith came to be associated with darkness. There were those who tried to save faith by making room for it alongside the light of reason. Such room would open up wherever the light of reason could not penetrate, wherever certainty was no longer possible. Faith was thus understood either as a leap in the dark, to be taken in the absence of light, driven by blind emotion, or as a subjective light, capable perhaps of warming the heart and bringing personal consolation, but not something which could be proposed to others as objective and shared light which points the way. Slowly but surely, however, it would become evident that the light of autonomous reason is not enough to illumine the future; ultimately the future remains shadowy and fraught with fear of the unknown. As a result, humanity renounced the search for a great light, Truth itself, in order to be content with smaller lights which illumine the fleeting moment yet prove incapable of showing the way. Yet in the absence of light everything becomes confused; it is impossible to tell good from evil, or the road to our destination from other roads which take us in endless circles, going nowhere.
Abraham, our father in faith
8. Faith opens the way before us and accompanies our steps through time. Hence, if we want to understand what faith is, we need to follow the route it has taken, first in the Old Testament. Here a unique place belongs to Abraham, our father in faith. Something disturbing takes place in his life: God speaks to him; he reveals himself as a God who speaks and calls his name. Faith thus takes on a personal aspect. Faith is our response to a word which engages us personally, to a "Thou" who calls us by name.
9. The word spoken to Abraham contains both a call and a promise. First, it is a call to leave his own land, a summons to a new life, the beginning of an exodus which points him towards an unforeseen future. The sight which faith would give to Abraham would always be linked to the need to take this step forward.
10. Faith understands that something so apparently ephemeral and fleeting as a word, when spoken by the God who is fidelity, becomes absolutely certain and unshakable, guaranteeing the continuity of our journey through history. Faith accepts this word as a solid rock upon which we can build, a straight highway on which we can travel.
11. God’s word, while bringing newness and surprise, is not at all alien to Abraham’s experience. In the voice which speaks to him, the patriarch recognizes a profound call which was always present at the core of his being.
The faith of Israel
12. The history of the people of Israel in the Book of Exodus follows in the wake of Abraham’s faith. Here we see how the light of faith is linked to concrete life-stories. Gothic architecture gave clear expression to this: in the great cathedrals light comes down from heaven by passing through windows depicting the history of salvation.
13. The history of Israel also shows us the temptation of unbelief to which the people yielded more than once. Idols exist, we begin to see, as a pretext for setting ourselves at the centre of reality and worshiping the work of our own hands. Idolatry, then, is always polytheism, an aimless passing from one lord to another. Idolatry does not offer a journey but rather a plethora of paths leading nowhere and forming a vast labyrinth. Believing means entrusting oneself to a merciful love which always accepts and pardons, which sustains and directs our lives, and which shows its power by its ability to make straight the crooked lines of our history. Faith consists in the willingness to let ourselves be constantly transformed and renewed by God’s call. Herein lies the paradox: by constantly turning towards the Lord, we discover a sure path which liberates us from the dissolution imposed upon us by idols.
The fullness of Christian faith
15. Christian faith is centred on Christ; it is the confession that Jesus is Lord and that God has raised him from the dead (cf. Rom 10:9).
16. The clearest proof of the reliability of Christ’s love is to be found in his dying for our sake. This love, which did not recoil before death in order to show its depth, is something I can believe in; Christ’s total self-gift overcomes every suspicion and enables me to entrust myself to him completely.
17. Had the Father’s love not caused Jesus to rise from the dead, had it not been able to restore his body to life, then it would not be a completely reliable love, capable of illuminating also the gloom of death. Our culture has lost its sense of God’s tangible presence and activity in our world. We think that God is to be found in the beyond, on another level of reality, far removed from our everyday relationships. But if this were the case, if God could not act in the world, his love would not be truly powerful, truly real, and thus not even true, a love capable of delivering the bliss that it promises. It would make no difference at all whether we believed in him or not.
18. We "believe" Jesus when we accept his word, his testimony, because he is truthful. We "believe in" Jesus when we personally welcome him into our lives and journey towards him, clinging to him in love and following in his footsteps along the way.
Far from divorcing us from reality, our faith in the Son of God made man in Jesus of Nazareth enables us to grasp reality’s deepest meaning and to see how much God loves this world and is constantly guiding it towards himself. This leads us, as Christians, to live our lives in this world with ever greater commitment and intensity.
Salvation by faith
19. Once I think that by turning away from God I will find myself, my life begins to fall apart. The beginning of salvation is openness to something prior to ourselves, to a primordial gift that affirms life and sustains it in being.
20. Faith in Christ brings salvation because in him our lives become radically open to a love that precedes us, a love that transforms us from within, acting in us and through us.
21. We come to see the difference, then, which faith makes for us. Those who believe are transformed by the love to which they have opened their hearts in faith. By their openness to this offer of primordial love, their lives are enlarged and expanded. The self-awareness of the believer now expands because of the presence of another; it now lives in this other and thus, in love, life takes on a whole new breadth.
The ecclesial form of faith
22. Faith is necessarily ecclesial; it is professed from within the body of Christ as a concrete communion of believers. For "how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?" (Rom 10:14). Faith becomes operative in the Christian on the basis of the gift received, the love which attracts our hearts to Christ (cf. Gal 5:6), and enables us to become part of the Church’s great pilgrimage through history until the end of the world.
Faith and truth
23. Unless you believe, you will not understand (Is 7:9). The Septuagint gives the above rendering of the words spoken by the prophet Isaiah to King Ahaz. The prophet challenges the king, and us, to understand the Lord’s ways, seeing in God’s faithfulness the wise plan which governs the ages.
24. Faith without truth does not save, it does not provide a sure footing. It remains a beautiful story, the projection of our deep yearning for happiness, something capable of satisfying us to the extent that we are willing to deceive ourselves. Either that, or it is reduced to a lofty sentiment which brings consolation and cheer, yet remains prey to the vagaries of our spirit and the changing seasons, incapable of sustaining a steady journey through life.
Knowledge of the truth and love
27. For Wittgenstein, believing can be compared to the experience of falling in love: it is something subjective which cannot be proposed as a truth valid for everyone. Indeed, most people nowadays would not consider love as related in any way to truth. Love is seen as an experience associated with the world of fleeting emotions, no longer with truth. But is this an adequate description of love? If love is not tied to truth, it falls prey to fickle emotions and cannot stand the test of time. True love, on the other hand, unifies all the elements of our person and becomes a new light pointing the way to a great and fulfilled life. Without truth, love is incapable of establishing a firm bond.
Love and truth are inseparable. Without love, truth becomes cold, impersonal and oppressive for people’s day-to-day lives. The truth we seek, the truth that gives meaning to our journey through life, enlightens us whenever we are touched by love. One who loves realizes that love is an experience of truth, that it opens our eyes to see reality in a new way, in union with the beloved. It is a relational way of viewing the world, which then becomes a form of shared knowledge, vision through the eyes of another and a shared vision of all that exists.
The dialogue between faith and reason
34. As a truth of love, it is not one that can be imposed by force; it is not a truth that stifles the individual. Since it is born of love, it can penetrate to the heart, to the personal core of each man and woman. Clearly, then, faith is not intransigent, but grows in respectful coexistence with others. One who believes may not be presumptuous; on the contrary, truth leads to humility, since believers know that, rather than ourselves possessing truth, it is truth which embraces and possesses us. Far from making us inflexible, the security of faith sets us on a journey; it enables witness and dialogue with all.
Faith and the search for God
35. What other reward can God give to those who seek him, if not to let himself be found? Because faith is a way, it also has to do with the lives of those men and women who, though not believers, nonetheless desire to believe and continue to seek. To the extent that they are sincerely open to love and set out with whatever light they can find, they are already, even without knowing it, on the path leading to faith. They strive to act as if God existed, at times because they realize how important he is for finding a sure compass for our life in common or because they experience a desire for light amid darkness, but also because in perceiving life’s grandeur and beauty they intuit that the presence of God would make it all the more beautiful.
The Church, mother of our faith
37. Those who have opened their hearts to God’s love cannot keep this gift to themselves. It is a light reflected from one face to another, even as Moses himself bore a reflection of God’s glory after having spoken with him. The light of Christ shines, as in a mirror, upon the face of Christians; as it spreads, it comes down to us, so that we too can share in that vision and reflect that light to others, in the same way that, in the Easter liturgy, the light of the paschal candle lights countless other candles. Faith is passed on, we might say, by contact, from one person to another, just as one candle is lighted from another.
39. It is impossible to believe on our own. Faith is not simply an individual decision which takes place in the depths of the believer’s heart. By its very nature, faith is open to the "We" of the Church; it always takes place within her communion. We can respond in the singular — "I believe" — only because we are part of a greater fellowship, only because we also say "We believe". Here we see why those who believe are never alone, and why faith tends to spread, as it invites others to share in its joy.
The sacraments and the transmission of faith
40. The Church, like every family, passes on to her children the whole store of her memories. But how does this come about in a way that nothing is lost, but rather everything in the patrimony of faith comes to be more deeply understood? It is through the apostolic Tradition preserved in the Church with the assistance of the Holy Spirit that we enjoy a living contact with the foundational memory.
For transmitting a purely doctrinal content, an idea might suffice, or perhaps a book, or the repetition of a spoken message. [But] there is a special means for passing down this fullness, a means capable of engaging the entire person, body and spirit, interior life and relationships with others. It is the sacraments, celebrated in the Church’s liturgy.
The unity and integrity of faith
47. These days we can imagine a group of people being united in a common cause, in mutual affection, in sharing the same destiny and a single purpose. But we find it hard to conceive of a unity in one truth. We tend to think that a unity of this sort is incompatible with freedom of thought and personal autonomy. Yet the experience of love shows us that a common vision is possible, for through love we learn how to see reality through the eyes of others, not as something which impoverishes but instead enriches our vision. This is also the great joy of faith: a unity of vision in one body and one spirit. Saint Leo the Great could say: "If faith is not one, then it is not faith".
48. Precisely because all the articles of faith are interconnected, to deny one of them, even of those that seem least important, is tantamount to distorting the whole. Each period of history can find this or that point of faith easier or harder to accept: hence the need for vigilance in ensuring that the deposit of faith is passed on in its entirety and that all aspects of the profession of faith are duly emphasized. The unity of faith, then, is the unity of a living body; this was clearly brought out by Blessed John Henry Newman when he listed among the characteristic notes for distinguishing the continuity of doctrine over time its power to assimilate everything that it meets in the various settings in which it becomes present and in the diverse cultures which it encounters, purifying all things and bringing them to their finest expression. Faith is thus shown to be universal, catholic, because its light expands in order to illumine the entire cosmos and all of history.
Faith and the common good
50. In presenting the story of the patriarchs and the righteous men and women of the Old Testament, the Letter to the Hebrews highlights that faith is not only presented as a journey, but also as a process of building, the preparing of a place in which human beings can dwell together with one another. The first builder was Noah who saved his family in the ark. Then comes Abraham, of whom it is said that by faith he dwelt in tents, as he looked forward to the city with firm foundations. With faith comes a new reliability, a new firmness, which God alone can give. Faith reveals just how firm the bonds between people can be when God is present in their midst. Faith does not merely grant interior firmness, a steadfast conviction on the part of the believer; it also sheds light on every human relationship because it is born of love and reflects God’s own love. The God who is himself reliable gives us a city which is reliable.
Faith and the family
52. The first setting in which faith enlightens the human city is the family. I think first and foremost of the stable union of man and woman in marriage. This union is born of their love, as a sign and presence of God’s own love, and of the acknowledgment and acceptance of the goodness of sexual differentiation, whereby spouses can become one flesh and are enabled to give birth to a new life, a manifestation of the Creator’s goodness, wisdom and loving plan. Grounded in this love, a man and a woman can promise each other mutual love in a gesture which engages their entire lives and mirrors many features of faith. Promising love for ever is possible when we perceive a plan bigger than our own ideas and undertakings, a plan which sustains us and enables us to surrender our future entirely to the one we love. Faith also helps us to grasp in all its depth and richness the begetting of children, as a sign of the love of the Creator who entrusts us with the mystery of a new person.
53. In the family, faith accompanies every age of life, beginning with childhood: children learn to trust in the love of their parents. This is why it is so important that within their families parents encourage shared expressions of faith which can help children gradually to mature in their own faith. Young people in particular, who are going through a period in their lives which is so complex, rich and important for their faith, ought to feel the constant closeness and support of their families and the Church in their journey of faith. Young people want to live life to the fullest. Encountering Christ, letting themselves be caught up in and guided by his love, enlarges the horizons of existence, gives it a firm hope which will not disappoint. Faith is no refuge for the fainthearted, but something which enhances our lives. It makes us aware of a magnificent calling, the vocation of love. It assures us that this love is trustworthy and worth embracing, for it is based on God’s faithfulness which is stronger than our every weakness.
A light for life in society
54. Absorbed and deepened in the family, faith becomes a light capable of illumining all our relationships in society. As an experience of the mercy of God the Father, it sets us on the path of brotherhood. Modernity sought to build a universal brotherhood based on equality, yet we gradually came to realize that this brotherhood, lacking a reference to a common Father as its ultimate foundation, cannot endure. We need to return to the true basis of brotherhood. How many benefits has the gaze of Christian faith brought to the city of men for their common life! Thanks to faith we have come to understand the unique dignity of each person, something which was not clearly seen in antiquity. At the heart of biblical faith is God’s love, his concrete concern for every person, and his plan of salvation which embraces all of humanity and all creation, culminating in the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Without insight into these realities, there is no criterion for discerning what makes human life precious and unique. Man loses his place in the universe, he is cast adrift in nature, either renouncing his proper moral responsibility or else presuming to be a sort of absolute judge, endowed with an unlimited power to manipulate the world around him.
Consolation and strength amid suffering
56. Christians know that suffering cannot be eliminated, yet it can have meaning and become an act of love and entrustment into the hands of God who does not abandon us; in this way it can serve as a moment of growth in faith and love. By contemplating Christ’s union with the Father even at the height of his sufferings on the cross, Christians learn to share in the same gaze of Jesus. Even death is illumined and can be experienced as the ultimate call to faith, the ultimate "Go forth from your land", the ultimate "Come!" spoken by the Father, to whom we abandon ourselves in the confidence that he will keep us steadfast even in our final passage.
57. Nor does the light of faith make us forget the sufferings of this world. How many men and women of faith have found mediators of light in those who suffer! So it was with Saint Francis of Assisi and the leper, or with Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and her poor. They understood the mystery at work in them. In drawing near to the suffering, they were certainly not able to eliminate all their pain or to explain every evil. Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey. To those who suffer, God does not provide arguments which explain everything; rather, his response is that of an accompanying presence.
Suffering reminds us that faith’s service to the common good is always one of hope — a hope which looks ever ahead in the knowledge that only from God, from the future which comes from the risen Jesus, can our society find solid and lasting foundations. Let us refuse to be robbed of hope, or to allow our hope to be dimmed by facile answers and solutions which block our progress.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Restore, O Lord, our Innocence

A hymn I wrote based on the Collects of Lent.

Restore, O Lord, our innocence,
Protect with thy right hand
The Church on earth which, through her sins,
Despises thy command.
Renew her by thy Sacraments
And through these forty days
May we, by this Lent purified,
Sing always of thy praise.

O God, who know our sorry state,
Devoid of strength for good,
Keep us from every wicked thought,
Make us live as we should.
By fasting teach us to abstain
From vice and fault and sin,
That we, denied of wordly joys,
May greater pleasures win.

Infuse our minds with heav'nly light,
That we may see thy ways,
Instruct us by thy discipline
To please Thee all our days.
Convert our hearts to love thy will,
Our minds to know the right;
May we find in this yearly fast
The source of our delight.

And so, O Lord, who love thy Church
And seek her growth on earth,
Give grace to those who through these days
Desire to find new birth.
Increase thy people through this Lent
In number, merit, love,
That we may, spurning earthly things,
Seek that which lies above.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lo, On That Day

An Advent hymn I wrote based on antiphons from the Roman Breviary. The tune may be familiar to you.

Lo, on that day the mounts shall drip Their sweetness all around.
Alleluia! Honey and milk Shall from the hills abound.

O daughter of Sion, be glad, Rejoice exceedingly!
The Lord shall come with all His saints To shed His light on thee.

All ye that thirst, to waters come And seek your coming Lord.
Lo, drawing nigh Jerusalem Renews He by His word.

The clouds shall part, the Lord shall come With power great and true.
Emmanuel: Lift high the gates That He may enter through.

Think not our Lord delaying be, Think not ye are deceived.
If He should tarry, wait for Him Whose advent soon shall be.
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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Nehemiah regi

Nehemiah to the King
His cup did daily bear,
Serving ever pleasantly
Till one day, in despair,
Sighed he when he thought of home,
And longing there to go,
Asked the king for swift release,
Since he its fate did know.

"Give me sir," he begged his lord,
"Safe passage to my land,
Aid from all thy provinces,
To me and to my band.
If my words should please the King,
Do grant me one thing more:
Timber for the city walls,
The Temple, and its door."

Nehemiah pleased the King,
Who promptly gave him leave;
Then proceeded this great man
Jerusalem to grieve.
Walls were down on every side,
Its gates had been destroyed,
"Rise and build," he told his men,
Who soon were so employed.

Threats beset on every side
The builders in their toil;
Nehemiah set a guard
The heathens' plans to foil.
Fought and built each valiant man
Until the fight was won.
"Call to mind for good, O God,
All that which I have done."

Ezra then did read the Law,
Convicting all who heard.
Trembled each man for his sins
Before that awful Word.
Yet, said he, "Weep not nor mourn,
For sacred is this day.
Nay, rejoice! Stay not to grieve;
Instead, be on your way."

We, too, Lord, beseech Thee now
Thy servants to inspire,
Give us strength to do Thy will,
For great things we desire.
Grant that we may build today
A city vast and free,
One built out of living stones
Who live in joy for Thee.

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Ye Different Sects

A hymn I modified from a longer one penned by Charles Wesley:
Ye different sects who all declare,
"Lo, here is Christ!" or, "Christ is there."
Your stronger proofs divinely give,
And show me where true Christians live.

Your claims are but vulgarity
Unless you act with charity.
Thou only, Lord, Thine own canst show,
For sure Thou still hast saints below.

In them let all mankind behold,
How Christians lived in days of old;
Replete with virtues from above,
A proverb of reproach—and love.

O might my lot be cast with them,
The least of these most holy men!
O that my Lord would count me meet
To wash His dear disciples' feet!

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Friday, July 22, 2011

The Once and Future King

Excerpts from T.H. White, The Once and Future King (1958).
Liber Primus:
Chapter 5:
Sir Ector's home was called The Castle of the Forest Sauvage. It was more like a town or a village than any one man's home, and indeed it was the village during times of danger […].Whenever there was a raid or an invasion by some neighbouring tyrant, everybody on the estate hurried into the castle, driving the beasts before them into the courts, and there they remained until the danger was over. The wattle and daub cottages nearly always got burned, and had to be rebuilt afterwards with much profanity. For this reason it was not worth while to have a village church, as it would constantly be having to be replaced. The villagers went to church in the chapel of the castle. They wore their best clothes and trooped up the street with their most respectable gait on Sundays, looking with vague and dignified looks in all directions, as if reluctant to disclose their destination, and on week-days they came to Mass and vespers in their ordinary clothes, walking much more cheerfully. Everybody went to church in those days, and liked it.
Id., of Sir Ector’s dog boy:
Not having a nose like a human, and being, moreover, subjected to stone-throwing by the other village children, he had become more comfortable with animals. He talked to them, not in baby-talk like a maiden lady, but correctly in their own growls and barks. They all loved him very much, and revered him for taking thorns out of their toes, and came to him with their troubles at once. He always understood immediately what was wrong, and generally he could put it right. It was nice for the dogs to have their god with them, in visible form.
Chapter 7, an exchange between the young Arthur and Merlyn:
"Oh," he cried, "but I should have liked to be born with a proper father and mother, so that I could be a knight errant."
"What would you have done?"
"I should have had a splendid suit of armour and dozens of spears and a black horse standing eighteen hands, and I should have called myself The Black Knight. And I should have hoved at a well or a ford or something and made all true knights that came that way to joust with me for the honour of their ladies, and I should have spared them all after I had given them a great fall. And I should live out of doors all the year round in a pavilion, and never do anything but joust and go on quests and bear away the prize at tournaments, and I should not ever tell anybody my name."
"Your wife will scarcely enjoy the life."
"Oh, I am not going to have a wife. I think they are stupid.
"I shall have to have a lady-love, though," added the future knight uncomfortably, "so that I can wear her favour in my helm, and do deeds in her honour."
Chapter 16, of the dog Beaumont:
Then Robin's falchion let Beaumont out of this world, to run free with Orion and roll among the stars.
Chapter 20, the boy Arthur's reflection on knighthood:
If I were to be made a knight […] I should insist on doing my vigil by myself, as Hob does with his hawks, and I should pray to God to let me encounter all the evil in the world in my own person, so that if I conquered there would be none left, and, if I were defeated, I would be the one to suffer for it.
Chapter 21:
“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.”
Chapter 24, Merlyn on the occasion of the Coronation of King Arthur:
In future it will be your glorious doom to take up the burden and to enjoy the nobility of your proper title.
Liber Secundus:
Chapter 5, of St. Toirdealbhach:
He was a relapsed saint, who had fallen into the Pelagian heresy of Celestius, and he believed that the soul was capable of its own salvation. He was busy saving it with Mother Morlan and the usquebaugh.
Chapter 9:
They glared at each other with the fury of creators.
Chapter 12:
So we may well believe that the King's men were shriven on the night before they fought. Something of the young man's vision had penetrated to his captains and his soldiers. Something of the new ideal of the Round Table which was to be born in pain, something about doing a hateful and dangerous action for the sake of decency—for they knew that the fight was to be fought in blood and death without reward. They would get nothing but the unmarketable conscience of having done what they ought to do in spite of fear—something which wicked people have often debased by calling it glory with too much sentiment, but which is glory all the same. This idea was in the hearts of the young men who knelt before the God-distributing bishops—knowing that the odds were three to one, and that their own warm bodies might be cold at sunset.
Chapter 14, upon hearing of King Pellinore's engagement:
[King Arthur] decided to give the dear fellow a marriage of unexampled splendour. The cathedral of Carlion was booked for it, and no trouble was spared that a good time should be had by all. The pontifical nuptial high mass was celebrated by such a galaxy of cardinals and bishops and nuncios that there seemed to be no part of the immense church which was not teeming with violet and scarlet and incense and little boys ringing silver bells. Sometimes a boy would rush at a bishop and ring a bell at him. Sometimes a nuncio would pounce on a cardinal and cense him all over. It was like a battle of flowers. Thousands of candles blazed before the gorgeous altars. In every direction the blunt, accustomed, holy fingers were spreading little tablecloths, or holding up books, or blessing each other thoroughly, or soaking each other with Holy Water, or reverently displaying God to the people. The music was heavenly, both Gregorian and Ambrosian, and the church was packed. There were monks and friars and abbots of every description, standing about in sandals among the knights,whose armour flashed by candlelight. There was even a Franciscan bishop, wearing grey,with a red hat. The copes and mitres were almost all of solid gold cloth crusted with diamonds, and there was such a putting of them on and taking of them off that the whole cathedral rustled. As for the Latin, it was talked at such a speed that the rafters rang with genitive plurals—and there was such a prelatical issuing of admonitions, exhortations and benedictions that it was a wonder the whole congregation did not go to heaven on the spot. Even the Pope, who was as keen as anybody that the thing should go with a swing, had kindly sent a number of indulgences for everybody he could think of.
Liber Tertius:
Chapter 2:
[Lancelot] wanted to be the best knight in the world, so that Arthur would love him in return, and he wanted one other thing which was still possible in those days. He wanted, through his purity and excellence, to be able to perform some ordinary miracle—to heal a blind man or something like that, for instance.
Chapter 3:
In those days you generally named your children in the same way as we name foxhounds and foals today. If you happened to be Queen Morgause and had four children, you put a G in all their names (Gawaine, Agravaine, Gaheris, and Gareth)— and, naturally if your brothers happened to be called Ban and Bors, you were doomed to be called Gwenbors yourself. It made it easier to remember who you were.
Chapter 6:
What sort of picture do people have of Sir Lancelot from this end of time? Perhaps they only think of him as an ugly young man who was good at games. But he was more than this. He was a knight with a medieval respect for honour. There is a phrase which you sometimes come across in country districts even nowadays, which sums up a good deal of what he might have tried to say. Farmers use it in Ireland, as praise or compliment, saying, "So-and-so has a Word. He will do what he promised."
Lancelot tried to have a Word. He considered it, as the ignorant country people still consider it, to be the most valuable of possessions.
Chapter 10:
If it is difficult to explain about Guenever's love for two men at the same time, it is almost impossible to explain about Lancelot. At least it would be impossible nowadays, when everybody is so free from superstitions and prejudice that it is only necessary for all of us to do as we please. Why did not Lancelot make love to Guenever, or run away with his hero's wife altogether, as any enlightened man would do today?
One reason for his dilemma was that he was a Christian. The modern world is apt to forget that several people were Christians in the remote past, and in Lancelot's time there were no Protestants—except John Scotus Erigena. His Church, in which he had been brought up—and it is difficult to escape from your upbringing—directly forbade him to seduce his best friend's wife. Another stumbling block to doing as he pleased was the very idea of chivalry or of civilization which Arthur had first invented and then introduced into his own young mind. Perhaps a bad baron who believed in the Strong Arm might have gone off with Guenever, even in the face of his Church's councils, because taking your neighbour's wife was really a form of Fort Mayne. It was a matter of the stronger bull winning. But Lancelot had spent his childhood between knightly exercises and thinking out King Arthur's theory for himself. He believed as firmly as Arthur did, as firmly as the benighted Christian, that there was such a thing as Right. Finally, there was the impediment of his nature. In the secret parts of his peculiar brain, those unhappy and inextricable tangles which he felt at the roots, the boy was disabled by something which we cannot explain. He could not have explained either, and for us it is all too long ago. He loved Arthur and he loved Guenever and he hated himself. The best knight of the world: everybody envied the self-esteem which must surely be his. But Lancelot never believed he was good or nice. Under the grotesque, magnificent shell with a face like Quasimodo's, there was shame and self-loathing which had been planted there when he was tiny, by something which it is now too late to trace. It is so fatally easy to make young children believe that they are horrible.
Chapter 13:
Elaine was only eighteen, and it is fairly easy to explain the feelings of a child—but Guenever was twenty-two. She had grown to have some of the nature of an individual, stamped on the simple feelings of the child-queen who had once received her present of captives. There is a thing called knowledge of the world, which people do not have until they are middle-aged. It is something which cannot be taught to younger people, because it is not logical and does not obey laws which are constant. It has no rules. Only, in the long years which bring women to the middle of life, a sense of balance develops. You can't teach a baby to walk by explaining the matter to her logically—she has to learn the strange poise of walking by experience. In some way like that, you cannot teach a young woman to have knowledge of the world. She has to be left to the experience of the years. And then, when she is beginning to hate her used body, she suddenly finds that she can do it. She can go on living—not by principle, not by deduction, not by knowledge of good and evil, but simply by a peculiar and shifting sense of balance which defies each of these things often. She no longer hopes to live by seeking the truth—if women ever do hope this—but continues henceforth under the guidance of a seventh sense. Balance was the sixth sense, which she won when she first learned to walk, and now she has the seventh one—knowledge of the world.
The slow discovery of the seventh sense, by which both men and women contrive to ride the waves of a world in which there is war, adultery, compromise, fear, stultification and hypocrisy—this discovery is not a matter for triumph. The baby, perhaps, cries out triumphantly: I have balance! But the seventh sense is recognized without a cry. We only carry on with our famous knowledge of the world, riding the queer waves in a habitual, petrifying way, because we have reached a stage of deadlock in which we can think of nothing else to do.
And at this stage we begin to forget that there ever was a time when we lacked the seventh sense. We begin to forget, as we go stolidly balancing along, that there could have been a time when we were young bodies flaming with the impetus of life. It is hardly consoling to remember such a feeling, and so it deadens in our minds.
But there was a time when each of us stood naked before the world, confronting life as a serious problem with which we were intimately and passionately concerned. There was a time when it was of vital interest to us to find out whether there was a God or not. Obviously the existence or otherwise of a future life must be of the very first importance to somebody who is going to live her present one, because her manner of living it must hinge on the problem. There was a time when Free Love versus Catholic Morality was a question of as much importance to our hot bodies as if a pistol had been clapped to our heads.
Further back, there were times when we wondered with all our souls what the world was,what love was, what we were ourselves.
All these problems and feelings fade away when we get the seventh sense. Middle-aged people can balance between believing in God and breaking all the commandments, without difficulty. The seventh sense, indeed, slowly kills all the other ones, so that at last there is no trouble about the commandments. We cannot see any more, or feel, or hear about them. The bodies which we loved, the truths which we sought, the Gods whom we questioned: we are deaf and blind to them now, safely and automatically balancing along toward the inevitable grave, under the protection of our last sense. "Thank God for the aged," sings the poet:
Thank God for the aged
And for age itself, and illness and the grave.
When we are old and ill, and particularly in the coffin,
It is no trouble to behave.
Guenever was twenty-two as she sat at her petit point and thought of Lancelot. She was not half-way to her coffin, not ill even, and she only had six senses. It is difficult to imagine her.
A chaos of the mind and body—a time for weeping at sunsets and at the glamour of moonlight—a confusion and profusion of beliefs and hopes, in God, in Truth, in Love, and in Eternity—an ability to be transported by the beauty of physical objects—a heart to ache or swell—a joy so joyful and a sorrow so sorrowful that oceans could lie between them: then, as a counterpoise to these attractive features, outcrops of selfishness indecently exposed—restlessness or inability to settle down and stop bothering the middle-aged—pert argument on abstract subjects like Beauty, as if they were of any interest to the middle-aged—lack of experience as to when truth should be suppressed in deference to the middle-aged—general effervescence and nuisance and unfittingness to the set patterns of the seventh sense—these must have been some of Guenever's characteristics at twenty-two, because they are everybody's.
Chapter 16:
Lancelot, while Elaine was planning his capture, remained with the Queen at court. But he now remained without the temporary peace of heart which he had been able to invent for himself while the King was away. In the King's absence he had been able to drown himself in the passing minute—but Arthur was perpetually at his elbow now, as a comment on his treachery. He had not buried his love for Arthur in his passion for Guenever, but still felt for him. To a medieval nature like Lancelot's, with its fatal weakness for loving the highest when he saw it, this was a position of pain. He could not bear to be made to feel that his sentiment for Guenever was an ignoble sentiment, for it was the profound feeling of his life—yet every circumstance now conspired to make it seem ignoble. The hasty moments together, the locked doors and base contrivances, the guilty manoeuvres which the husband's presence forced on the lovers—these had the effect of soiling what had no excuse unless it was beautiful. On top of this stain there was the torture of knowing that Arthur was kind, simple and upright—of knowing that he was always on the edge of hurting Arthur dreadfully, although he loved him. Then there was pain about Guenever herself, the tiny plant of bitterness which they had sown, or seen sown, in each other's eyes, on the occasion of their first quarrel of suspicion. It was a pain to him to be in love with a jealous and suspicious woman. She had given him a mortal blow by not believing his explanation about Elaine instantly. Yet he was unable not to love her. Finally there were the revolted elements of his own character—his strange desire for purity and honour and spiritual excellence. All these things, working together with the unconscious dread of Elaine's arrival with his son, broke his happiness without allowing him to escape.
Chapter 19:
It was a fine winter morning with the fields frosted, no wind, and a light fog which was not enough to confuse the pigeons.
Chapter 25:
[A] new generation had come to court. In their own hearts the chief characters of the Round Table felt the ardent feelings which they had always felt—but now they were figures instead of people. They were surrounded by younger clients for whom Arthur was not the crusader of a future day, but the accepted conqueror of a past one—for whom Lancelot was the hero of a hundred victories, and Guenever the romantic mistress of a nation. To these young people, a sight of Arthur as he hunted in the greenwood was like seeing the idea of Royalty. They saw no man at all, but England. When Lancelot rode by, laughing at some private joke with the Queen, the commonalty were amazed that he could laugh. "Look," they would say to each other, "he is laughing, as if he were a vulgar person like ourselves. How condescending, how splendidly democratic of Sir Lancelot, to laugh, as if he were an ordinary man! Perhaps he eats and drinks as well, or even sleeps at night." But in their hearts the new generation was quite sure that the great Dulac did no such things.
In the abbeys all the monks were illuminating the initial letters of the manuscripts with such a riot of invention that it was impossible to read the first page at all.
Chapter 37:
This knight's trouble from his childhood—which he never completely grew out of—was that for him God was a real person. He was not an abstraction who punished you if you were wicked or rewarded you if you were good, but a real person like Guenever, or like Arthur, or like anybody else. Of course he felt that God was better than Guenever or Arthur, but the point was that he was personal. Lancelot had a definite idea of what he looked like, and how he felt—and he was somehow in love with this Person.
The Ill-Made Knight was not involved in an Eternal Triangle. It was an Eternal Quadrangle,which was eternal as well as quadrangular. He had not given up his mistress because he was afraid of being punished by some sort of Holy Bogy, but he had been confronted by two people whom he loved. The one was Arthur's Queen, the other a wordless presence who had celebrated Mass at Castle Carbonek. Unfortunately, as so often happens in love affairs, the two objects of his affection were contradictory. It was almost as if he had been confronted with a choice between Jane and Janet—and as if he had gone to Janet, not because he was afraid that she would punish him if he stayed with Jane, but because he felt, with warmth and pity, that he loved her best. He may even have felt that God needed him more than Guenever did. This was the problem, an emotional rather than a moral one, which had taken him into retreat at his abbey, where he had hoped to feel things out.
Still, it would not be quite true to say that he had not come back from some motives of magnanimity. He was a magnanimous man. He was a maestro. Even if God's need for him was the greater in normal times, now it was obvious that his first love's need was pressing. Perhaps a man who had left Jane for Janet might have had enough warmth inside him to return for Jane, when she was in desperate need, and this warmth might be compared to pity or to magnanimity or to generosity—if it were not unfashionable and even a little disgusting to believe in these emotions nowadays. Lancelot, in any case, who was wrestling with his love for Guenever as well as with his love for God, came back to her side as soon as he knew that she was in trouble, and, when he saw her radiant face waiting for him under shameful durance, his heart did turn over inside its habergeon with some piercing emotion—call it love or pity, whatever you please.

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