In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free,
While God is marching on!

. . . from the BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Time Out, More or Less

Here it is again, more than a week since I last posted. Par for the course these days, but very disappointing to me. There is SO much I have to say, about so many things, but agonizingly little time within which to do it. I used to manage two or three posts a week, then two, and then maybe one--and now, perhaps one every week to 10 days. And that still seems more than I can manage. There's always something more urgent--office work, which the company now expects us to do at home--caring for the house, yard, and pets, keeping up with the checkbook and bills, etc. And there are other things I desperately want and need to do, such as genealogy and Bible study.

So, this is to let my readers know that I'm still here and eager to speak, even if you don't hear from me quite as often as you used to--at least, for a while. For the next few months I may be able to post only every couple of weeks (but will do so more often if I get the opportunity). If most of my recent posts have focused on family, faith, and music, it's because they're the nearest and dearest things to my heart, and can be written more extemporaneously than posts on politics, law, or even history, which require more research and labored composition. If you need to keep up on political, economic, and social developments that aren't reported much in the mainstream media, I know of no better place to go than the Drudge Report--bookmark it and visit often; the page is crammed with important headlines and links, and is refreshed every few minutes. For more in-depth conservative commentary, go to Pajamas Media. Two unbeatable resources for faith-oriented news, commentary, and information are Crosswalk.com and Everyday Christian. I'll continue adding links like this to my sidebar as I get the opportunity.

I may also, if time permits, make some adjustments to the layout of this site with Blogspot's new template design tool. So, if the site looks different or even odd now and then, that's probably the reason. I'll get things settled as soon as I can. By all means, write and let me know what you think, or if you have any tips or advice to impart.

Thank you for your patience!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Spring Has Sprung!

I discovered this past weekend that nothing beats the rush of standing out in your yard on an early April day, soaking up sunshine and warmth, and gazing across brilliant green grass up to the budding trees! Just six weeks ago we were under a foot and a half of snow, and hosting a small herd of deer trying to scratch some sustenance from under the frozen blanket. Mercifully, we saw hardly a flake of snow after that weekend, and in recent weeks have enjoyed remarkably warm temperatures and copious sunshine (for this area).

Who would have thought that the season's first occasion for what most deem a drudgerous chore would fill me with delight?

As I mowed, Melany began working in the little flower garden beside our house--but not without interruption by Princess Chloe, who demanded adulation as she reclined on the sun-warmed driveway!

I think that if our long winters weren't so desolate and depressing, our spirits wouldn't soar as high as they do in the Spring, and we wouldn't appreciate this wonderful season so much. And with our world so widely plagued with conflict, misery, and fear, perhaps we should regard this time as a blessed portent of better things to come for all mankind:
For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations. ~ Isaiah 61:11
HAPPY SPRING, EVERYONE!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Why Seek Ye the Living Among the Dead?

It's impossible for us to imagine how crushed Jesus' disciples and followers felt in the two days following His crucifixion. How could Hope and Love itself, the greatest Light mankind had ever known, be destroyed by the ignorance and hate of sinful men? How could they have faith in something apparently so fragile, so mortal, so easily and quickly snatched away? What else could they see but the triumph of Satan and of Death, who had always ruled the world and, seemingly, always would?

And then, in the midst of blackest despair, the greatest miracle in all history . . .

Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered his words, and returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest. (Luke 24:1-8)
On Christ's Resurrection and eternal Life hang our entire faith, and the Hope of all mankind. He didn't just tell us about Heaven, but lived the whole journey from humble birth, through death, to resurrection and Glory Everlasting right in front of our eyes. He not only died for us, but overcame death and lives for us as well--right now, every moment. Because of this, we have the promise of rising and living with Him and each other always, where there is no more suffering, no more tears. Because of Him, as Paul said to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 15:54-55),
Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is thy sting?
O grave, where is thy victory?
A HAPPY AND BLESSED EASTER TO EVERYONE!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Bread of Life


And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live. ~ Deuteronomy 8:3
We're in the middle of a week that is sacred to billions of people around the world: Holy Week for Christians, and Passover for Jews. Of course, these two events are closely intertwined. At Passover Jews commemorate their deliverance by God from slavery in Egypt. During Holy Week Christians celebrate the deliverance of all men from bondage to sin, through Christ's Passion, death, and resurrection--which occurred in Jerusalem, during Passover.

On this Holy Thursday, when Christians commemorate the Last Supper of Christ and his disciples, it struck me what a central role bread plays in the observance of both Passover and the Last Supper.

The main symbol of the Passover holiday is matzo, or unleavened bread. The Torah contains a divine commandment to eat matzo on the first night of Passover and to eat only unleavened bread during the entire week of Passover. Jewish teaching is that this is because the Hebrews left Egypt with such haste that there was no time to allow baked bread to rise; thus, flat bread, or matzo, is a reminder of the rapid departure of the Exodus. Other scholars teach that in the time of the Exodus, matzo was commonly baked for the purpose of traveling because it preserved well and was light to carry (making it similar to hardtack), suggesting that matzo was baked intentionally for the long journey ahead.

The New Testament is rife with teaching that characterizes Jesus Christ as the "bread of life." The best example is the Gospel of John, Chapter 6. Here Christ himself declares:
For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. ~ John 6:33

I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. ~ John 6:35

I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. ~ John 6:48-51
Of course, the central moment of the Last Supper itself is Christ's breaking and offering of the bread:
And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. ~ Luke 22:19 (see also Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; 1 Corinthians 11:24)
As we break bread together with our families this week, whether at Passover seder or Easter Sunday dinner, let us remember with reverence, gratitude, and joy how miraculously God sustains us!

As it turns out, what really got me thinking along these lines today wasn't Scripture or the holidays themselves, but--music! I was listening to radio over the Internet at work (through headphones, of course!), and heard what is, in my humble opinion, one of the most beautiful pieces ever composed: Panis Angelicus. The text forms part of the hymn Sacris Solemniis, written by Saint Thomas Aquinas for the Feast of Corpus Christi in 1264. The music was composed in 1872 by C├ęsar Franck. The text speaks simply and eloquently about the miracle of Christ as the Bread of Life offered us from Heaven, of which even the humblest may partake and be filled! Here is the Latin text, followed by two slightly different English translations (they tend to vary).
Panis Angelicus
Fit panis hominum.
Dat panis coelicus figuris terminum.
O res mirabilis,
Manducat Dominum.
Pauper, pauper, servus et humilis.

*****
O, gracious, heavenly bread
Whereby mankind is fed.
O, power of love divine, long promised by a sign.
O, deepest mystery,
One, with our Lord, to be.
Humble, lowly, to all men offered free.

*****
Thus Angels' Bread is made
the Bread of man today:
the Living Bread from heaven
with figures dost away:
O wondrous gift indeed! the poor and lowly may
upon their Lord and Master feed.
The ultimate experience of Panis Angelicus is through Cesar Frank's music. Here is one of the most moving (if not the most polished) renditions I've ever seen and heard, by Charlotte Church while she was yet in the innocent time of her life:



Additional marvelous performances have been rendered by tenor Andrea Bocelli and Chloe Agnew of the group Celtic Woman. For a full choir version, enjoy this one by the Ambrosian Singers.

God bless everyone this wonderful Passover and Holy Week!