Think on the very làmentable pain,
Think on the piteous cross of woeful Christ,
Think on His blood beat out at every vein,
Think on His precious heart carvèd in twain,
Think how for thy redemption all was wrought:
Let Him not lose what He so dear hath bought.
The text for this portion of the service is the Benedictus, or Canticle of Zechariah. Though this canticle, comprising Luke 1:68-79, is part of the Church’s morning prayer every day of the year (at the hour of Lauds), it has a special resonance on these days.
Because of the compassionate kindness of our God,
the dawn from on high shall break upon us
To shine on those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
to guide our feet in the way of peace.
– for D.F.
“What do you want with me…?”
“We pigs are brainworkers.” – Napoleon
“Who is going to save me?” – Wilbur
Sundays during slaughter time, when work and days
Are a matter of acres and seasons, pink flesh
And exposed blue-white bone
Are surely signs of progress—satisfaction—fertility.
And when autumn begins to spit snow from its mouth
We’ll fire up the fifty-gallon drums for boiling skin
From the herd. With our blue knuckles now scalded red
We’re allowed to pretend we know Odysseus’s swineherd.
He’s a neighbor, say, who might need to borrow a pritch,
Lend his spare block-and-tackle or resharpen a bell scraper
On our millstone.
And that’s when Monsignor comes by to bless it all
One bullet at a time. It doesn’t take long after we call
And he’s there almost immediately.
There’s no dying soul,
No family grief; it’s all just business. “Tail
To snout” he likes to say, quoting from some other good book.
So Monsignor takes off the blacks and Roman collar
This Sunday, leaves them back at the rectory
And dons red buffalo plaid and tattered bibs.
“Scares the devil out of the herd,” I once heard him explain
“Don’t like black or maybe they just know.”
Is one of his strong points.
This day is full of a sky
Afflicted with a tin-foil glare from broken clouds—
It’s the day he’s chosen to come help because
He generally likes the business
And specifically on a Sunday. “Not unnecessary work.
A form of relaxation, I would call it.”
He grew up downwind of a giant swine operation
And of course raised his own and has some opinions on swine.
He knows his pig flesh, alright, the way
A horse trader knows teeth and hoofs.
Monsignor lowers the blue-barreled gun,
A pistol without history – it knows neither wars nor duels
But only a resting place between hunting seasons.
He stares the hogs down, and anoints
Their lives with purpose, cruel
For business, and kind but for no kind of fun.
Afterwards, he walks back to his car
To clean the muzzle and chamber.
Throats cut, they wait
With us for his return.
We don’t let him near the boiling pot.
He’s no good at that part.
But he has a great eye
For parting flesh with a .45.
And maybe for that reason he was made a Monsignor,
But when he scalds the flesh he scrapes too much flesh with the hair
And very little hair with the flesh.
Put him off to visit with the children
Or maybe put a beer in his hand and tell him to rest a bit,
Though rest isn’t in his nature anymore than
It is in the clouds that scud like corpuscles across the sky.
He was born on a farm and to hear him tell it he fought
Half the day with earth and flesh, the other half,
All blood work.
If given half a chance he could shine
Like the best of rural vicars and squires.
At any rate, his place in literature
May one day be secure—
Interpolating experience and innocence
With marksmanship and common sense:
“Pigs are a good investment—nothing wasted if you do it right.
Efficiency is in the nature of swine.”
“Why else,” Monsignor would add, “would the desperate demons
Of Gerasene plead with our Lord. ‘Let’s get the hell out of here!’
You can almost hear them say. It must have been a favor,
Well, maybe not a favor; more a false mercy, for our Lord
To provide that herd, that cliff, the sea beneath.
But there’s no mercy for demons, of course. That’s a figure
Of speech is all. Literature is full of them. But Scripture
Only uses it on purpose. No levity with that sort of business.”
Literature, indeed, I nod. Napoleon and Wilbur
Might talk past each other among the cold clouds
That gather and disperse in winter configurations above our heads.
But also in the sense that fictional pigs make of life and death.
It’s all fantastic friendships for nostalgia’s sake
Or a drudging work detail
To serve as footstool for naked power—
Pink flesh and blue-white bone for them—and sometimes for us.
But Monsignor? He doesn’t even bother to say–
And he gives it no more thought
Than a man of the cloth ought to be
Expected to do:
We watch him hold the pistol like an aspergillum.
And he anoints them both—Wilbur and Napoleon—
With one shot.
From the Sister Sinjin blog: What Does Creativity Look Like Within the Covenant and Constrictions of Life’s Obligations?
When we met for the first time we talked about creativity as our culture celebrates it: Freeing yourself from distractions, surrounding yourself with all things beautiful, being lost inside the space created for yourself whether in nature or a coffee shop, throwing off any labels the world has placed on you and discovering your true self. Who doesn’t want all of that from time to time?
We are at a different stage in our lives, however, where time for leisurely creativity is at a premium. And do we even want that? We all have families and loved ones that we’re not willing to sacrifice to art.
Elise threw out the phrase “Creativity of Obligation” as a topic for exploration. What does it mean to be creative while embracing the roles, responsibilities and obligations of mother, wife, friend, minister, employee, Christian?
What if creativity does not flow best into the limitless space we strive to create around ourselves? What if, instead, it is pressed out of us by the constant, repetitive, unending cycle of daily life? What if creativity is not the result of acting on our every desire, but rather what’s found after everything else has been drained from us?
Maybe there, in the uncomfortable realities of our lives is where creativity is expressed, because it must be in order to survive the exhausting and the mundane. Maybe creativity is more incarnation than transcendence.
Creativity of obligation requires us to show up with all our baggage and create something anyway.
Two weeks after we first met we began recording an album. We have carved out space though it has been brief and hard won. Most of our creative process, however, has happened with children surrounding us, in dirty kitchens and cluttered cars.
If we had all the time and resources in the world we could create something more grand, more elaborate, but not more beautiful. What results will be all of what we had to give in a brief period of time with pinched pennies and crying babies at our side.
Our obligations do not stop us from creating, they compel us.
Walk into a Catholic church, and tell me what you see
A dead man, pierced and naked, hanging from a tree
A God you’re told to worship, though he looks like you and me
A dead man, pierced and naked, hanging from a tree
An ad that sells you sorrow, with some pain thrown in for free
A dead man, whipped and bloody, hanging from a tree
And you wonder how, with such a pitch, it ever came to be
A dead man, whipped and bloody, hanging from a tree
Since no one’s seen a dead man rise since AD 33
A dead man, sent to save us, hanging from a tree
But I’m energized – Big League – at least it’s going to someone who actually understands the difference between sovereignty and totalitarianism…
Well, shit, if you think I’m wrong about it – the laddy said it right here. I quote unquote quote:
“Edited clips of Trump replied: “I will build a great, great wall on our southern border and I will have Mexico pay for that well.”
“A wall? Like the Berlin Wall? Like the Great Wall of China?” Bono, a donor to the Clinton Global Initiative, shot back to the video screen.”
Well, let me uncling mesself from thissere gun, religion and God type-a-thing before I continue. [Sipping at a cold one now, hold on…]
Well, shit, what I mean to say is, hell and hard nuts, America is so tired of thissere electionation process… Oh, hell, let’s just all go home and hope that we have jobs come Monday… I’ll buy the keg (Quinn, can I borrow 40 bucks? The Hamms is on sale…)
Well, as I look out at this wonderful U Ass of A we gots usself here, I can’t help but thinks about that what which Bono’s countryman and fellow string-strummer once said, “That’tare ain’t no country for old menfolk…”
Well, Cormac, I guess you can be fixin your Nobel year to be—
Hell now, look at that, Mr. Tweedy, you made me spill my Blatz.
No, excuse me – EXCUSE ME, Mr. Tweedy, but we happen to got womenfolk in the audience just now, so you just you shut your jaw the fuck up, now you hear. I realize you got a grimace like a hound dog trying to pass a peach pit. But just heel now, y’hear? You’ll have your chance at the carcass after Cormac gets a gnaw!
Well, I guess that’s about alls I got to say – ummagonna end the conversation righ-chere.
Love and peace and I’m all with Her and all.
Rotate Caeli has a great sermon for this past Sunday (Extraordinary Form) by a priest in full communion with Rome on the Holy Father’s new document, The Joy of Marriage Sex. Listen and you’ll be mad you did – but at least now you can say, you know, you know.
…I figger it’s high time the rest of us started in blogging again. Otherwise, people might start to get suspicious. They might think we were doing meaningful work behind the scenes. Can you imagine?
Anyway, we had our parish priest over for dinner last night. He gave a fine homily for Trinity Sunday about the necessity for experiencing the dynamic of love within the Trinity as being rather more important than understanding its workings, and he closed with a bit from a book written by a father raising a severely autistic boy. On a day when the readings made explicit reference to believers as children of God, it was easy to substitute myself (and all of fallen humanity) for the afflicted son. I recast it thusly:
The Horse and the Boy
The child is simple – anyone can see it
The way he blindly flails about the barn
– in here, where blade and beast might do him harm
and him without the beastly sense to flee it
It’s not his fault – the flaw’s been there since birth
or further back; it’s left him largely with himself
for company, untroubled by the wealth
of words and rules that circumscribe the earth
Thank God, old Betsy has the patience of a saint
Another horse, with some less gentle spirit
Might kick, and stop his cry before I’d even hear it
(If his mother knew I brought him here, she’d faint)
But once I’ve helped him up upon her back
He flashes forth the longing to be known and know
the world beyond himself in just two words: first “up” then “go”
to seek and find what he and I and you still lack
I’ve been rereading this 1899 novel by Machado de Assis, and came across this passage, which seems somewhat related to the conversation JOB and I have been having over the last month or so.
God is the poet. The music is by Satan, a young and very promising composer, who was trained in the heavenly conservatory. A rival of Michael, Raphael and Gabriel, he resented the preference they enjoyed in the distribution of the prizes. It could also be that the over-sweet and mystical style of these other pupils was abhorrent to his essentially tragic genius. He plotted a rebellion which was discovered in time, and he was expelled from the conservatory. And that would have been that, if God had not written an opera libretto, which he had given up, being of the opinion that this type of recreation was inappropriate to His eternity. Satan took the manuscript with him to hell. With the aim of showing that he was better than the others—and perhaps of seeking a reconciliation with heaven—he composed the score, and as soon as he had finished it, took it to the Heavenly Father.
“Lord, I have not forgotten the lessons I have learned,” he said. “Here is the score, listen to it, have it played, and if you think it worthy of the heavenly heights, admit me with it to sit at your feet …”
“No,” replied the Lord, “I don’t want to hear a thing.”
“But, Lord …”
“Not a thing, not a thing!”
Satan went on pleading, with no greater success, until God, tired and full of mercy, gave His consent for the opera to be performed, but outside heaven. He created a special theater, this planet, and invented a whole company, with all the principal and minor roles, the choruses and the dancers.
“Come and listen to some of the rehearsals!”
“No, I don’t want to know about it. I’ve done enough, composing the libretto …”
If we imagine that the score is by Schoenberg, maybe the passage will make even more sense!