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Archive for March, 2012

In case you didn’t know, Tolkien Reading Day was this past Sunday, March 25. In honor of the special day, the ladies at the blog Pages Unbound are having a week-long event. They kindly invited me to post something about The Children of Húrin; that post is now up. And, at the end of the week, Lord willing, I’ll post the final installment in a rather lengthy series on Tolkien’s tragic masterpiece over at Lantern Hollow Press’s blog.

Last of all Húrin stood alone. Then he cast aside his shield, and seized the axe of an orc-captain and wielded it two-handed, and it is sung that the axe smoked in the black blood of the troll-guard of Gothmog until it withered; and each time Húrin slew he cried aloud: ‘Aurë entuluva! Day shall come again!’ Seventy times he uttered that cry . . .

The Children of Húrin 59-60 (2007).

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Not long ago, after a layoff of about a decade, I took up running again. And I’m glad I did — I can hardly extol the virtues of a good run too highly.

Of course, not all runs are good ones. You may encounter, in the midst of a streak of delightful runs, an inexplicably difficult one.  I had one such this past weekend.  For the first mile or so, I had virtually no strength in my hamstrings — which I didn’t understand. For on the day of the run I was quite fresh, my legs well rested. But then I remembered something I’d heard about “dynamic stretching.” And I realized that I probably needed to incorporate some dynamic stretching into my pre-run routine.

When I checked into some of the dynamic stretches appropriate for runners, though, I was astounded. For the kinesiologists who’d developed the stretches had been anticipated by, of all things, the Ministry of Silly Walks. Consider, for example, this dynamic stretch:

Straight-leg march

And this one:

Lunge-twist

Attire those guys in suits, and give them hats, briefcases, and bumbershoots, and the foregoing diagrams would scarcely be distinguishable from the following one, of Mr. Cleese:

John Cleese, Minister of Silly Walks

So before my next run, I shall have to fire up the DVD player, turn on episode 14 of the Flying Circus, and carefully examine Mr. Cleese’s moves. And, if the subsequent run goes well, perhaps I’ll apply for a grant to develop the silly walks into a dynamic stretching routine.

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The General Confession begins by addressing God: “Almighty and most merciful Father.” Those five words cannot be skated over quickly. If they are not true, the rest of the confession is of no value whatever. If any of them is untrue, then let’s eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.

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Almighty and most merciful Father, We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare thou those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore thou those who are penitent; According to thy promises declared unto mankind In Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.

The General Confession from The Book of Common Prayer.

Fans of The Princess Bride will remember this scene: Inigo Montoya, having been defeated by the Man in Black in the duel by the Cliffs of Insanity, is back on the outskirts of Florin City, drunk, resisting the Brute Squad’s efforts to get him to leave town. “I will not be moved,” he says. “Vizzini said when a job went wrong you went back to the beginning. Well, this is where I got the job. So it is the beginning. . . I am waiting for Vizzini.”

In the Anglican prayer book, the orders both for morning and evening prayer start with this General Confession. So it is the beginning. It is, however, the beginning in more than that obvious way. When a job goes wrong — which it does, to a greater or lesser extent, every day — it is the place to go to be reminded of, and corrected and strengthened by, basic truths: about God, about ourselves, about our need for grace.

I post this here with the idea that it will be the first in a series on the General Confession. But before I set out in this undertaking, I should post some disclaimers. First, I am not distinguished by any particular skill in reading or parsing sentences, less so by skill in actually living in a manner which reflects and honors Jesus. Second, I hold no teaching office in the Church, and have no inherent authority gained by virtue of advances in learning and holiness. So, if you’ve read this far, and if you happen to read further, take these reflections as the notes of a student, taken first for his own benefit, posted here in the hope they may be some help to fellow students. Whatever value the notes have is a happy reflection of the fact that the General Confession is the beginning, and it doesn’t take much progress to reach the beginning — only the progress of turning around after you’ve gone off in the wrong direction.

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Immortal Heat, O let your greater flame

Attract the lesser to it: Let those fires,

Which shall consume the world, first make it tame;

And kindle in our hearts such true desires,

As may consume our lusts, and make you way.

Then shall our hearts pant thee; then shall our brain

All her invention on your Altar lay,

And there in hymns send back your fire again:

Our eyes shall see you, which before saw dust;

Dust blown by wit, till that they both were blind:

You shall recover all your goods in kind,

Who were diseaséd by usurping lust:

All knees shall bow to you; all wits shall rise,

And praise him who did make and mend our eyes.

George Herbert, Love II, in The Temple (1633).

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