The "Seven Things" Meme

Brother Causticus has been tagged by the estimable St. Pat in what appears to be an amusing diversion called “Seven Things.” Assured by his spiritual director, the Reverend Isaac Bickerstaff (late of the Church of Ireland) that response would not constitute an unseemly descent into frivolity, BC offers these modest rejoinders for your consideration:

1. Name a book that you want to share so much that you keep giving away copies

The Ecclesiastical History of the English People by the Venerable Bede, which reminds BC that the Ecclesia Anglicana has always been a fractious body. Particularly redolent of the Current Unpleasantness is the poignant account of a plague that swept through his monastery, leaving only the abbot and young Bede to sing the Divine Offices. Despite BC’s best efforts to give this most instructive volume away, he is met only with demurrals and a swift turn of the discussion to the latest theological musings of Anne Lamott.

2. Name a piece of music that changed the way you listen to music

Beethoven’s String Quartet in A minor (Opus 132). After challenging to the point of baffling exposition in the first movement, the second movement features an atypical (for this Beethoven period) minuet with trio over a sustained tonic that evokes in BC’s mind hunting horns sounding over soft green fields as shafts of sunlight pierce a cloudy sky. It is a sweetness in the general sturm und drang of the late quartets that comforts BC and inexplicably renews his nearly spent hope for our Church.

3. Name a film you can watch again and again without fatigue

This is Spinal Tap. It becomes even more amusing if one imagines bassist Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer) as the Archbishop of Canterbury. The assignment of the other roles to prominent Anglican ecclesiastics is left as an exercise for the reader. BC particularly commends the observation by the otherwise inept Ian Faith (Tony Hendra) that “in the topsy-turvy world of heavy rock having a good solid piece of wood in your hand is often useful.”

4. Name a performer for whom you suspend all disbelief

BC does not normally suspend all disbelief save during the recitation of the Creeds. But he very nearly did in the 1980s for Bono of U2 until the release of Rattle and Hum (film and album). While on this topic, BC reminds fortysomething clergy that twentysomething young people might not find a “U2charist” as cutting edge as said clergy believe it to be.

5. Name a work of art you’d like to live with

One of Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park paintings, perhaps number 54. BC finds the quality of light in this series captures most nearly the feel of standing on a California coastal cliff the moment after the October sun has dropped below the Pacific horizon.

6. Name a work of fiction which has penetrated your real life

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce, something of a manifesto when BC read it first, now a rather wry commentary on the grandiosity of youth. Sadly, BC’s real life seems more informed by two works of non-fiction these days, Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism and Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer. Lord, have mercy.

7. Name a punch line that always makes you laugh

“Rectum? It killed ‘um!”

BC suggests the full import of this witticism is apparent only when delivered by a bishop with three fingers of Lagavulin in him.

Speaking of bishops, Brother Causticus has searched for the blogs of the Archbishop of Abuja and the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, but alas, in vain, and so he elects to “tag” the Reverend Susan Russell and Canon Kendall Harmon for the next round of “Seven Things.”

Texas Hold 'Em

Brother Causticus does not generally track the machinations of the various instruments of the worldwide Anglican Communion due to the volatility of his spleen condition, but he is told something called a Panel of Reference has endorsed the Bishop of Fort Worth’s practice of sending women seeking Holy Orders down the freeway to his brother bishop in Dallas so as to avoid laying hands – in an episcopal manner, BC hastens to add – upon those possessed of a putative call, but lacking the requisite Y chromosome. The thusly benighted are then to contemplate in those somewhat more congenial environs any lingering aspirations to ordained ministry in the western Metroplex and, should they find the flaming evangel still alight, make the return trip down the interstate where they will be welcomed in manner consonant with the local understanding of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason. This car-clogged thirty miles is said to be one of the loneliest stretches of road in North America.

In predictable fashion, reaction to the report ranged from hailing it as a magisterial verity to dismissing it as another bit of eccentric transatlantic dithering, depending upon the particular bent the reader – or, as is typical in the blogosphere, readers of readers of those who read – was previously inclined. This postocracy of one hundred or so souls fired their pro forma salvos, then returned to bickering about whether their opponents are apostates or merely heretics.

In such a burst of by-the-numbers outrage, the “hate Kate” consortium – for whom anything other than text messaging Bishop Duncan “just kidding! keys 2 815 under mat lol” would be an inadequate response - excoriated the manner of the Presiding Bishop’s accession to the invitation of the panel to comment favorably upon this arrangement and assure the Christians of Fort Worth they will not have foisted upon them a bishop engaged in practices consistent with the canonically expressed will of the other 98% of Episcopalians.

While no doubt sublimating thoughts akin to those of a rabbi drafted to deliver an rousing keynote to a pork packers convention, the Presiding Bishop averred that, yes, the “Dallas Plan” was a plan that had been put in place and, yes, it was indeed a plan that had been executed exactly as planned, and, what can one say, but…there it is: a plan. And it will continue to be one, as planned.

Anglican authority thus exercised, tea followed.

Though admittedly the Presiding Bishop’s statement did not ring with the same conviction as her conflation of the Millennium Development Goals and the Great Commission, BC urges his readers inclined find fault to agree, in a spirit of Christian charity, it was certainly at least on par with the Presiding Bishop’s public endorsements of Jesus Christ and move on to more pressing topics such as the seating chart for next month’s Primates Meeting in Tanzania.

Brother Causticus will, in the meantime, occupy himself around his home parish of St. Euphemesius-By-The-Freeway with his usual tasks: stacking hymnals, sweeping floors, dusting the credence table. And replacing light bulbs. The church seems to have grown very dark of late.

The Procession of the Holy Spirt (Part Three)

The past several weeks have been bleak indeed for BC’s home parish of St. Euphemesius-By-The-Freeway, the Episcopal Church, and the Anglican Communion. In keeping with his avowal to speak unless things are perfectly unspeakable, BC has kept silent in the face of desultory goings-on here, there, and, it would seem, everywhere, but is at last compelled to offer what small commentary he can muster without aggravating his spleen condition unduly.

You have no doubt heard the reports of our St. Euphemesius Day observance, gleefully dubbed “The Saint’s Day Melee” by the local punditry. As BC noted previously, just as the annual procession was to commence, alarming rumours of a lurking bishop ran wild amongst the assembled saints.

BC was called upon to investigate and, as he drew near, encountered a knot of Christians loudly demanding to know whether a rather florid-faced middle-aged gentleman was “Windsor-compliant” while an equally vociferous contingent speculated angrily that he was an emissary from the Church of Nigeria seeking to lay forcible claim to our crumbling Gothic Revival pile of a sanctuary. Our rector, the Reverend Dr Hammond Burton-Coggles, hurriedly commenced a disquisition on the historic episcopate and its multitudinous local adaptations in methods of administration, attempting to lull the fractious faithful into somnolence.

Though an astute reckoning by a shepherd knowing well his flock, dear Dr. Burton-Coggles failed to factor in the widespread reversion to primatal behavior – and, no, BC is not referring to Lambethian shenanigans, though he wholly appreciates any possible confusion – evinced by Episcopalians in the presence of a purple shirt. Later, the good rector remarked to BC that a homily on tithing would have no doubt dispersed the congregants, but thought that rather strong medicine indeed.

Though BC wielding a stout verge caused a slight falter in the hubbub, it was a heroic thurifer who prevented further precipitation of feces flinging – BC speaks here metaphorically, but just barely – amongst the faithful. Arcing his orb robustly, he cleared a swath in front of the beleaguered bishop, scattering one faction who simply wished to avoid a solid drubbing, another who found the deed smacked of popery and retreated to find a scriptural proof text to buttress their queasiness, and a third group – led by Ms. Laeticia York of the Peace and Social Justice Committee – who huddled to craft a resolution condemning an appalling lack of inclusivity for the scent-sensitive. A bruised crucifier painfully picked up the pieces of the processional cross shattered in the melee.

Though the immediate uproar was quelled, bickering and backbiting continued to ripple through the assembly and soon the saints fell to fighting for reasons most could not fully enunciate when queried, only observing pointedly that their co-disputants were clearly not possessed of the faith once delivered to the Ecclesia Anglicana and its offspring. The arrival of the local gendarmerie and a television camera crew ended any hope of the procession proceeding, although a small, but significant coterie queued to provide the proffered microphone their learned analysis of the situation in thoughtful, nuanced manner that was edited for public presentation down to a four-word blip unrelated to any actual comments uttered.

“What the hell is an Episcopalian?” BC heard one mediamonger muttering, to which a bored cop standing by replied, “They’re like Catholics, only with fewer kids and more masters degrees.”

Hell, indeed, avers BC.

It was somewhat anti-climatic to discover that the proximate target of all this disquietude was not a bishop at all, but merely an innocent bystander wearing a white turtleneck with a purple crewneck pullover who claimed no church affiliation whatsoever.

This pricked the ears of several loitering evangelicals who sought to lead him to knowledge of his utter depravity and bring him to a moment of decision, but to no avail. He seemed relieved when the secular authorities swooped in to disengage him from the erstwhile soulwinners, who muttered darkly about godless government persecution of the faithful. Missing the details, but catching the general tenor of dissatisfaction with police activity, Ms. Laeticia York lay down in front of the squad car singing “We Shall Overcome” and demanding to be arrested. The bored cop closed his notebook, slid behind the wheel, backed up the cruiser, and drove off smoothly, leaving Laeticia lying in place, unnoticed by anyone as the crowd slunk away.

It remains to be seen whether the procession will continue in the coming year. The Reverend Dr. Burton-Coggles believes much study and discussion is warranted. BC is told senior warden Augustus Seabury “Buzz” Lancaster has convened a committee to plan for an alternate procession to replace the current one, which in his estimation, has grown scandalously lax. Most members of St. Euphemesius-By-The-Freeway just hope things might go on as before, but know in their heart of hearts it is unlikely to do so.

All this makes for a perplexing new year, but BC simply sighs and fervently prays that the Light hinted at in Advent and glimmering forth at the Feast of the Nativity has waxed radiant in your lives this Christmastide and, as Epiphany draws near, that the luminous gift of the Incarnate Word fully shine in and through each one of us to a world dark and yearning for redemption.

Pray for me, a sinner. And stay in peace to love and serve the Lord.