26 December 2017

martyr for the good king (or the best king?)

The 2nd day of Christmas, that is December 26, is the feast of St. Stephen.  The New Testament records him as the first martyr for Jesus Christ.  There were some people who hated him for being a “witness” (the Greek is μαρτυς, martus), a “martyr” to Christ.  He was dragged before the council, the Sanhedrin, where he was ordered to “testify,” to “witness.”  After giving a quick overview of Israelite history, he turned his attention to his inquisitors.  He lambasted them for, among other things, “opposing the Holy Spirit” (Acts 7:51).

They were not very happy about that.  Oh, and one other point: he claimed to have a vision of the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.  That did it!  They floated the idea about throwing rocks at him.  And so it was.

A little time went by, and an English fellow named John Mason Neale published the carol, “Good King Wenceslas” in 1853.  He was inspired by a certain 10th century duke of Bohemia of that name.  That fellow, first known as Vaclav the Good, was murdered by his evil brother, Boleslaw the Bad.  (Seems to be a proper nickname!)  History remembers him as a king.  What’s the connection with the New Testament martyr?  Well, here we go…

“Good King Wenceslas looked out on the Feast of Stephen. / When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even. / Brightly shone the moon that night, though the frost was cruel, / When a poor man came in sight, gathering winter fuel.”  According to the song, the good king helps the poor, freezing peasant.  The song was set to the tune Tempus Adest Floridum, which is also used for “Gentle Mary Laid Her Child.”

Numerous renditions have been done, including Sheldon Cooper’s on The Big Bang Theory.  (We don’t see him sing the entire thing, but what we have is enough, maybe too much!)

For some things, it is preferable to not be a martyr / witness!

07 December 2017

women’s rights are breaking silence

The news of the past couple of months, that is, reports of sexual harassment and abuse of women has seemingly caught some people off guard.  (I’m not sure if it would be helpful or not to say, “This has been going on for millennia,” so I won’t say it!)  Powerful men in business, athletics, entertainment, and politics—politics at every level—have been exposed.  Some have even admitted and bragged about their behavior.

This Sunday is Human Rights Day.  The date goes back to 1948, when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations.  The phrase “women’s rights are human rights” gained momentum in the 1980s and became well-known after Hillary Clinton’s 1995 speech in Beijing.

As we’ve seen, Time magazine’s Person of the Year is (are?) The Silence Breakers, associated with the #MeToo movement.  These are women from every part of society, from superstars in acting and music to migrant workers.  No woman is immune from mistreatment.  Thankfully, many men have stood up and taken their place, brothers speaking out for their sisters.

Of course, we aren’t without trailblazers.  In the gospel of St. John, Jesus is having a discussion with a Samaritan woman at a well.  His disciples arrive, and we’re told, “They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman” (4:27).

Some silence is meant to be broken.

27 November 2017

a deep well

Something Henri Nouwen said of writing is “it can open in us deep wells of hidden treasures that are beautiful for us as well as for others to see.”

A deep well of hidden treasure.  My well feels so deep that I can’t see the bottom.  Let me lower that bucket and see what comes up.  Is it bone dry?  Is it at least moist?  Wow, maybe there’s some water to quench the thirsty traveler.  Maybe there’s something down there after all.

“Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty.”  Give me some of that.  Prime the pump.  Let the words flow.  Can their impotence, their powerlessness, their ugliness, be something life-giving, something to be admired?  They need spirit; they need fire.  They need a butt-kicking.

Is it enough to write just for the sake of writing?  I think so.  Is it the will of God?  That’s a good question!  Never mind—just do it.