Friday, April 25, 2008

No Lectionary Notes this week

I am sorry to announce that I am not able to post notes on the readings for this Sunday. I hope to return to a better schedule next week. In the meantime, don't forget that you can refer to the Commentaries on the Revised Common Lectionary,

Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Tales From the Slippery Slope: V. How Cardinal de la Cueva Almost Became Pope

“I was tidying up some papers the other day,” I began, when John Strype interrupted with a grumble, “As long as I’ve known you, you’ve been tidying up some papers.”
“Knock it off, John,” said Tom “He has a lot of papers, and every time he opens a box one of the papers reminds him of something. It’s a well-known failing of badly ordered-minds.”
I laughed politely. I had gone to Alicubi after mass this Sunday to enjoy the spring weather and join my friends John, Tom Chillingworth, and Fr – now the Rev'd Canon - Sidney Smith Hawker, to celebrate Hawker’s new appointment. We were having a pint or so at the Slope before a barbecue at Tom’s. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon at The Slippery Slope. The doors were open and we sat on the deck watching the river flow gently by.
“As I was saying, while going through some papers, I came across a story you might like. This one is history – not like those old jokes that we’ve been enjoying. It’s one of the funnier things that’s happened at a papal conclave. Are you sitting comfortably? Good, then I'll begin."

In the old days when the cardinals went into the conclave, each was allowed to bring an attendant, or two if they were sick. Later the number was increased, but in the twentieth century no more were allowed. That was at about the same time that food was no longer delivered for each cardinal. One conclavist These servants, called Conclavists, could get involved in schemes and intrigues. In the conclave of 1559 one of these schemes almost made a particular cardinal pope. The cardinal in question was Bartolomé de la Cueva y Toledo de Alburquerque of Spain, a son of the second duke and duchess of Alburquerque.

“Albuquerque?” asked Tom.
“More or less,” said Canon Hawker, “Albuquerque, New Mexico, was named for the 8th duke of Alburquerque, who was Viceroy of New Spain from 1653 to 1660. It is said that the now American city lost the ‘r’ sometime in the 19th century because the postmaster couldn’t pronounce it! Speaking of New Mexico, can anyone tell me an historic link between Santa Fe and Toronto?”
I knew, but kept quiet. Hawker went on contentedly, “In 1807 when he was on his southwestern expedition, Pike was captured by the Spanish authorities and brought to Santa Fe on the way to Chihuahua. He was apparently the first American explorer to reach Santa Fe. In 1813, Pike was with the American forces that took York, now Toronto; he was killed by a chunk of rock when the powder magazine at Fort York was blown up on April 27.”
“Thank you, Canon,” I said, as the other two expressed their appreciation for this bit of knowledge.
“Now, if you’re all sitting comfortably, and your mugs are full ….” I realized my mistake too late.
Ten minutes later, when everyone had a fresh pint, and Keith had joined us for the story, I continued.

You can look up Cardinal de la Cueva’s career on Salvador Miranda’s meticulous web site The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church,[1] if you like, so I don’t need to go into detail. I’ll just say that he was ordained in Spain (after studying law and having an illegitimate son), and in 1529 went to Italy with Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor-elect, who was crowned at Bologna the following year by Clement VII (the last time an emperor was crowned by the pope). I have no information on what he did next, but he was made cardinal priest by Paul III on 9 December 1544. He is said to have been a a friend of St Ignatius Loyola. De la Cueva was ordained bishop in 1549. As Cardinal, he took part in the elections of Julius III (1549), Marcellus II (1555), Paul IV (later in 1555), Pius IV (1559). From 1558 to 1559 he was also lieutenant-general of Naples for the emperor. In September 1560 he was named Archbishop of Manfredonia, in Puglia.[2].

I noticed Hawker trying to catch my eye, so I quickly added that Manfredonia, originally called Siponto, was rebuilt sometime around 1260 and named by King Manfred of Sicily, the natural son of Frederick II.

De la Cueva died on June 29, 1562. In The Triple Crown: An Account of the Papal Conclaves Valérie Pirie says that he was a congenial fellow, and witty in his conversation, and popular among the younger cardinals. But Pirie doesn’t say where he got that. [3] Anyway, if it had not been for accident or providence, de la Cueva might have became pope in the conclave of 1559.
Pope Paul IV died on August 18th 1559. The rule that the nine days of papal mourning should be followed at once by the beginning of the conclave on the tenth day were, as Pastor puts it, “not exactly observed” It was not until September 6th that the conclave began;; it would be take four months before a pope was chosen. At the pope’s death the college had fifty-six member: four died before the conclave began, six others were absent from Rome, leaving forty six. One died during the conclave and two left on the advice of their physicians before the final ballot.
The election was a difficult one, fraught with numerous problems, both personal and political. Each of the factions was strong enough to exclude a candidate, but none strong enough to gather the necessary two-thirds majority for a candidate. As well, the seventeen Spanish cardinals were waiting to hear some indication of the wishes of Philip II. The result of all this was that the first rounds of voting were just skirmishes, with no expectation of an election. In the first scrutiny, on Saturday, 9 September, twenty-eight candidates received votes, the highest number being fifteen for Cardinal Pacecco; our friend de la Cueva was one of five who received three votes each. Since one of these five was Giovanni de Medici (not one of those Medici), the cardinal who was finally elected, it would fair to say that any of the cardinals might have held a hope of winning the tiara at this stage. (Is it just an accident that papal elections used to, and horse racing does, aim at a triple crown?)
The next day de la Cueva’s conclavist, a Spanish knight named Ferdinand de Torres, did a little campaigning. Going around quietly he asked each cardinal to consider voting for de la Cueva in the morning’s ballot. Not that he expected his master to win, he assured them, but because it would give him such joy to receive a vote. Just the same, they might bear in mind de la Cueva’s many outstanding qualities, and consider giving him a little joy with that one vote, the voto di onore. Moreover, since de la Cueva had no hope of winning, and he was quite ignorant of this little scheme, de Torres asked that the request be kept a secret. Flattered, and unaware that de Torres had asked anyone else, each cardinal gave his promise. What would one vote matter, after all? Eventually de Torres gathered thirty-three promises, more than the two-thirds required for election: the papacy would have been settled in the morning except for an accident, or as Pallavicino said, except for the divine providence, which did not mean for popes to be made by accident.
Looking at some plans of the old conclaves, it is hard to imagine how anyone could manage to plot. The cardinals were housed for the duration in small wooden cells, which were crammed into the chapels and hallways. It was apparently believed that discomfort would make for speedy elections. How could one be secret? It is said that cardinals often attended to their plotting near the latrines, which were apparently bad even for the sixteenth century. My sources give no details of de Torres' campaign, and I have refrained from trying to imagine it.
In the morning the cardinals filed into the Pauline Chapel for the scrutiny. (In those days the cardinals’ cells were erected in the Sistine Chapel, where today the voting is held.) When it was almost time to place their ballots in the chalice, there was a delay while the votes of those too ill to attend were collected and the cardinal dean, was expected. Amid some idle chatter, one cardinal said to his neighbour, "You'll never guess for whom I filled in my ballot this morning!" After a little talk, the name was revealed, and it turned out that the neighbour had made the same choice. This got the cardinals whispering, and realized what de Torres had done. The result was that La Cueva lost most of his support and received only seventeen votes. He maintained that level of votes in most of the next 66 or so scrutinies, which suggests that he had some real support. Still, he was not elected, and since he died while Pius IV was still pope, and never had another chance.

When I was finished de la Cueva's story, we went over to Tom’s for barbecued lamb and some respectable Shiraz and enjoyed the lovely Spring evening in Alicubi.


This account is mainly taken from Cardinal Sforza Pallavicini's History of the Council of Trent (French translation, Migne, 1844), co, 833, with reference to Antonio Guido’s account of the conclave publsihed in Sebastian Merkle's collection Concilii Tridenti Diariorum (Freiburg: Herder, 1963), pp 612-613, and volume 15 of Pastors History of the Popes, p. 17. For the numbers of votes, see Pastor, 382f. De la Cueva was born in 1499.
[1] (ed.)
[2] (ed.)
[3] This book is online at It has a bibliography, but no proper references.
[4] Ludwig Pastor says that it was Count Francis von Thurm, who was the Imperial Ambassador. Von Thurm and de Torres seem to have been the same person. However, neither Guido nor Pallavicino describe him as an ambassador.

Friday, April 18, 2008


The Beatings will continue until morale improves.
Among my friends and family I have a reputation for knowing or being able to find out obscure facts and origins of words or expressions. I enjoy that kind of research, but sometimes the information is too difficult to find. I never really give up, but since I can’t persuade my family or friends to pay me, I move whatever query it might be to the back burner and hope that something will turn up.
A good example happened some time back when a colleague asked if I could track down three “ditties” that he had known for years. I found two, but one still eludes me. (I’ve put them at the end of this piece, in case you’re interested.
Another happened just last week. A friend asked whether I happened to know the origin of the saying “The Beatings will continue until morale improves.” I didn’t, off the top of my head, but said I’d look into it.
This expression is found on t-shirts and bumper-stickers, pirate flags and posters, and all manner of motivational paraphernalia, but not in Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, or any of the standard dictionaries of quotations. This is often the first sign that a search is going to be difficult. Worse still, Google turned up none of the usual web sites that are devoted to quotations (and I tried every variant I could think of for beatings: floggings, lashings, and whippings).
The phrase does have its own entry in Wikipedia, where it is described as “a famous quote of questionable origin.” The rigorous standards of Wikipedia are shown by the tag ”citation needed” appended to the claim that “The origin of the phrase is largely unknown, causing some to speculate that it is apocryphal.” Possible origins are mentioned, each with notes, but all the references were dead ends, other web sites that asserted an origin for the phrase but on no authority.
The Wikipedia article claims that the most common explanation of the phrase come from the Japanese Imperial Navy during World War II; sometimes more particularly to the Commander of the Japanese Submarine Force. A variant is that it was meant facetiously, and referred to Japanese losses rather than physical beatings. (Actually, the writer said “literal physical beatings”.)
Finding nothing but unsupported statements, I decided to check with a friend who studies in Japan. He did an internet search there. He came up with no hits on Japanese-language sites, and only one on a bilingual Japanese-English site of “American Jokes”, where it was under the heading “Office sayings”. My friend added
In any case, the problematic phrase is translated here as "Only when one criticizes people harshly does moral improve." While not definitive proof of anything, of note here is, of course, the fact that this phrase isn't recognized as being "Japanese" by the translator, or is seen to have any ties to a preexisting/known Japanese phrase (the Japanese translation doesn't generate any other hits, for instance).
He also thought the suggestion that it might be facetious somewhat unlikely, since the pun on “beatings” doesn’t seem to work in Japanese. (Puns are notoriously hard to translate.)
On a different site I found the only version of the Japanese commander explanation that seems at all likely. “An old navy officer from WWII” posted a note to a blog stating that the beatings in question were beatings of Americans prisoners. Ths makes sense, but I would be happier with some fuirther information.
One other fragment of evidence comes in an expression familiar in the Canadian forces, “leave will end until morale improves,” which seems to have been quoted by John Dieffenbaker in the Commons in 1967 (quoted from Winnipeg Free Press, 3 March of that year in This saying was also quoted to me by another friend last weekend as soon as I mentioned the "beatings" line..
Oter people on other sites suggest that the saying goes back to such individuals as Blackbeard, Captain Crunch, and “the Renowned and Formidable Madam Clare of Chelsea”, apparently a Dominatrix.
There is no doubt that someone with the time could track this saying down to its source, but I doubt that I shall be on the hunt any time soon. For all I can tell it was made up by some clever wag, unhappy at work, to encapsulate his feelings about his boss.
Perhaps someone who knows something definite will read this and let me know. I only ask that if you do have an answer, you provide names and dates, and above all references. The most annoying thing about e-research is how often one meets unfounded assertions.
The Three Ditties
The first was “A little bit of butter for the middle class's bread, when Baldwin said, 'Why margarine will do just as well instead'". It’s on the back burner now: I’ve looked through the standard reference books, I’ve googled every version of it I could think of, and looked through books on Stanley Baldwin, but to no avail. I think I know what the ditty refers to, and since it is obviously a parody of Milne’s “The King’s Breakfast” {“Could we have some butter for The Royal slice of bread?", though in that poem marmalade was the suggested substitute}, then it must have appeared after 30 January 1924, when Milne’s poem was published in Punch. But that's all I can say so far.
The next obvious step is to go through every issue of Punch and then all the other periodicals and newspapers until it is found. If I don’t get around to it, and you find it, please let me know.
The next one, "Mustard with mutton: sure to be a glutton”, turned up in various books of proverbs, such as B. Whiting's Modern Proverbs and Proverbial Sayings, which refers it to N. Monsarrat, Life (1966), 1, 9: “Mustard with Mutton was the sign of a glutton.” This form also turned up frequently on the internet. But the saying goes back a long way under other guises. The earliest entry for "Mustard is meat for a glutton", is in Tilley's Dictionary of Proverbs in England in the XVI & XVII Centuries, dated 1611. I found "Flesh of a Mutton is food for a glutton (or so was held in old time, when Beefe and Bacon were your only dainties),".but need to remember where. In Proverbs, Sentences and Proverbial Sayings (mostly XV Cent), Whiting cites the Townley Plays, 1460: "A Moton of an ewe that was roton. Good mete for a gloton".
The last was the easiest: “There are many things you can do at the seashore that you can't do in town. Picture Mother with her legs all bare paddling in the fountain in Trafalgar Square!" A simple search on Google provided not only the lyrics, but also a recording of an old Musical Hall song:
You Can Do A Lot of Things at the Seaside
Have you ever noticed when you're going by the sea,
The things that people do with impunity?
If they did the same things when they're up in town,
Moral Mrs. Grundy on her face would wear a frown.
Father, Mother -- all the family --
Trundle down to have their paddle by the sea.
Mother takes her stockings off upon the sandy shore,
And shows a lot of linen that she's never shown before.
You can do a lot of things at the seaside
that you can't do in town.
Fancy seeing Mother with her legs all bare,
Paddling in the fountains at Trafalgar Square,
Bobbing up 'n down in the water
Would make a policeman frown.
(And those are just some of the things I do for fun!)

Some Notes for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A

First Reading, The Acts of the Apostles 7.55-59. The readings from Acts have shown the early Christian community as united in heart and soul, and sharing all things. In Chapter 6 we hear of grumbling between two groups of disciples, the “Hellenists” and the “Hebrews” (the difference isn’t that important for our immediate purpose.) The Hellenists felt that their widows were being “neglected in the daily distributions.” The Apostles felt that this distributions were distracting them from the work of preaching the word, though as the New Oxford Annotated Bible notes, Jesus, who came as one who serves, seems to have considered that waiting on tables was compatible with the word of God (Luke 22.27). The Apostles called a church meeting at which seven disciples were chosen for the ministry of “serving tables,” an expression which can also refer to financial administration (Acts 6.1-6). The seven chosen have traditionally been accounted the first deacons (from the Greek diakonos, servant).
One of the seven was Stephen. We know nothing about Stephen’s earlier career, except that his being selected shows that he was well-known in the commmunity. The new position seems to have given him new energy and a new scope of ministry, for we find him not only serving in administration, but also preaching with power, and doing great signs among the people. This suggests that service is not really a distraction from proclaiming the word! Stephen’s preaching led to his arrest for blapshemy and trial before the Council (6.9-7.54), in which he acused the people of Israel of disobedience to God and the murder of the prophets, culminating in his own day with the crucifixion. The council heard these words ith increasing anger and “ground their teeth against him.” It is at this point that today’s reading begins.
Stephen must have known that the anger of the council meant his death, but he was fillled not with fear or hatred but with the Holy Spirit; he gazed into heaven (7.55) and declared, :”I see the heavens opened and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God” (cf John 1.51). This only infuriated the council more, and they rushed him out of the city to stone him (see Leviticus 24.14; Deuteronomy 17), and Stephen was killed. Here we first meet a young man called Saul, who wll play a larger role later in the book.
Stephen is considered the first martyr, which means “witness”. The martyrs are those who by their death witness to their faith in Christ. Stephen not only witnesses by his faith; in his last moments he showed that the Lord Jesus waa the model of his actions in death as well as life. Unlike the prophet Zechariah, who as he died said “May the Lord see and revenge” (2 Chronicles 24.22), Stephen echoed the words of Chrst on the Cross, saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (comp. Luke 23.46) “Lord Jesus, do not hold this sin against them” (comp. Luke 23.34).
With the death of Stephen, animosity to the Church in Jerusalem reaches its peak. In Chapter 8 of the Acts, the spreading of the good news to non-Jewish areas begins.

Psalm 31.1-5, 15-16. Refrain: Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit. Psalm 31 is a lament, a prayer for deliverance from personal enemies. The reason it was chosen for today is clear from verse 5, “Into thy hand I commit my spirit, for you have redeemed me, O Lord, O God of truth,” which links the psalm to the first reading, and recalls Christ’s words on the cross. This verse has come to be used as a responsory at the late evening office of Compline. In the verses chosen for this Sunday we read the pslamist’s cry for help and his expression of confidence in God (1-5) and his confident prayer for vindication (15-16).

The Epistle: 1 Peter 2.2-14. We remember that the first letter of Peter was addressed to the Christians of the northern part of Asia Minor. Many in his audience, if not all were recent converts to the faith. See 1:3 (By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead) and 1:23 (You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God). Now he encourages them to seek the spiritual nourishment by which they will grow in grace. Compare 1 Corinthians 3, where St Paul reminds his readers of his first teaching: I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready (v.2). We should take a moment to note the exopression “pure, spiritual milk:” This translation only renders part of the original meaning. The word rendered “spiritual” is logikos, “pertaining to the Word or Reason”, which recalls the Word (Logos) of God in John 1.1-18. Now “logical milk” is admittedly meaningless in English, but we should have some sense of “milk of the Word”, that is “of Christ,” in mind when we read this passage.
Haslam notes that In vv. 4-5, two metaphors for believers are used. They are as living stones making up God’s building (“spiritual house”), and as a priesthood dedicated to God (“holy”) presenting lives of faith and love (“sacrifices”) to him on behalf of all humans. Christ is the “living stone”, the cornerstone, the foundation of the building, the Church. The writer goes on to show that Psalms, Isaiah and Hosea foretell this building image of Christ, Christians and the Church (vv. 6-8). In v. 7, Christ is the “stone”; he is rejected by the community’s pagan persecutors but to us he is of great value (“precious”). On verse 10, see Hosea 1:6, 9, 10 and 2:23, as well as Ex.19.5 following, Deut 7:6. The expression “God’s own people” literally, “a people for his possession” is based on the old Greek version of Isaiah 43:21 and Malachi 3:17 (Haslam).
This passage is obviously appropriate to the celebration of Holy Baptism We all know the Church as a very human community of people seeking to know God and his love, 1 Peter tells us — and those seeking baptism — what the Church is at the level of faith: a temple (the place of God’s presence), of which the members are the living stones, a people sharing in the royal priesthood of the Lord Jesus, a consecrated nation, a people God claims as his own. When we come seeking God and community, the passage reminds us of the words of Christ: “You did not choose me, but I chose you” [John 15:16].

The Sentence of the day, which is used in the Alleluia verse, is our Lord’s saying in the Gospel passage, John 14.6.

The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Saint John 14.1-14. As we move through the Easter season and towards the feast of the Ascension, the Sunday Gospels are chosen from John’s account of the farewell discourse of Christ at the Last Supper. Before his passion, Jesus prepared his disciples for his departure; the words are as important for us after the resurrection.
The Gospel according to Saint John is a tightly written text, which deserves more detailed comments than I am able to provide in these notes. I cannot provide a better brief summary than the one provided at the “Revised Common Lectionary” site, for which the URL is Some other points may be considered
Just before today’s passage, Jesus predicted that Simon Peter wil deny him (13:36-38); this is why his disciples are troubled. He now comforts them with the assurance that he is going to prepare a plae for them in his Father’s house and that he will come again to take them to himself. The saying in my Father’s house are many dwellng places has been taken to refer to different degrees of glory or blessedness, or to different spheres of existence, but this is not necessary; the principal meaning is that there is room for all of Christ’s people. The image itself may come from the fact that the Temple, of which Father’s house is the heavenly antitype (see Joh n 2:16), was surrounded by many side chambers.
Often in John’s Gospel, people ask questions to which Jesus responds by take us deeper into his teaching. In this passaage we find that his words have satisfied neither Thomas, who wants a clear road map of the way Christ is going, or Philip, who demands a direct vision of the Father. Each of these questions leads Jesus to state clearly that he is the revealer of the Father, whose words he speaks, and whose power is manifest in his works. This is not a passage to be passed over in a moment.

The Week of Easter V (20-26 April, 2008)
On April 21 the Church celebrates rhe Memorial of Anselm, Arhchbishop of Canterbury, Teacher of the Faith, 1109. See For All the Saints, pp 146-7, 513. You may quickly learn more about Anselm at

On April 23 the Church observes the Commemoration of George, Patron of England, Maryr, 4th Century. We need only comment that St George was not English but was adopted as Patron Saint of England by King Edward III, and that the story of the dragon, a later addition to his story, is no reason for doubting the existence of George. For All the Saints, pp 148-9; you might like to see This day is also traditionally observed as the birthday of William Shakespeare.

On April 24 the Church observes the Memorial of The Martyrs of the Twentieth Century. In the twentieth century more Christians have suffered death because they chose to reamin faithful to the gospel than at any other time in the Church’s history. “If we were not careful, the sheer number of martyrs might stagger our efforts to remember them,a nd why and how they died. So, today’s memorial is meant to be a small act of resistance, a refusal to be silent in the face of terror and injustice.” (For All the Saints, pp. 150-1, 517.)

On April 25 the Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Mark the Evangelist. John Mark is mentioned frequently in the New Testament; the authorship of the second Gospel is traditionally attributed to him. In addition to the material in For All the Saints (p. 152-3, 528), see

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Tales from the Slippery Slope: IV

It must have been a day like this Thursday that the Mole felt Spring moving in the air and the earth and “suddenly threw down his brush on the floor, said ‘Bother!’ and ‘O blow!’ and also ‘Hang spring-cleaning!’ and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat.” At any rate it was so nice out I decided to follow Mole's example, and made it to Alicubi much earlier than usual. After a capuccino at Well, Latte Dah! and just leaning over the parapets of the stone bridge for about half an hour, first one side and then the other, I went over to the bookstore to liberate Tom Chillingworth from whatever earnest endeavour had him trapped and dragged hiim to The Slippery Slope to have a pint.
The Slope was bright and full of air: Keith had opened the large back doors for the first time this year. “It’ll be too cool in the evening to keep them open,” said the landlord, “but I'll keep them open long enough to blow out the winter cobwebs.”
“I don’t know if anyone else will be by,” said Tom. “John Strype is busy at something, and Fr Hawker was away all day at some clergy gathering.” Susan is off somewhere else to enjoy the weather and I haven't seen Simpson for a while.
I said, “Sidney told me about the clergy meeting. I just thought I‘d enjoy the weather and then head home. I think a quiet night woul do me some good. I'll go, put me feet up and read something old and familiar, maybe Pigs is Pigs by Ellis Parker Butler.
“Good story, that,” said Tom, “but before you go I'l tell a story that your mention of Pigs is Pigs reminded me in mind of."
Just then Keith came over to find out if we were going to be in for dinner. I said I wasn't, and Tom said he'd think about it. So Keith made sure the other customers were furnished with drinks, asked David to watch the bar and sat down for the story.
Tom began, "I’ve never run into it in a modern book or heard anyone tell it, but it seems to have been popular a few centuries back. It's a story of the sort that gets attached to different characters. I found three versions in old joke books, but I’ve mostly followed the one told about John Scoggin the fifteenth-century jester. I like it better than the others because but its ending isn’t as unkind as the others. It isn't Pigs is Pigs, so much as Sheep is Pigs, or even better,

Hogs or Sheep?

John Scoggin was an MA of Oxford and later became the favourite buffoon in the court of Edward IV. Once, when Scoggin was a scholar at Oxford, he and his roommate found themselves in the vacation without money and without employment. His friend said, “How on earth are we going to get any money?”
Scoggin replied, “I know an excellent trick, if you just follow my lead. We’ll go to the market at Thame,
[1] and on the way we’re sure to meet someone going or coming driving hogs; just do what I tell you and we’ll get some money.”
So they set out early the next morning, and sure enough, before they got to Thame they spotted a man herding sheep along the road.
Scoggin said, "You go ahead and meet this man, and lay a wager that his sheep are not sheep, but hogs, and get him to agree that the next person who comes along will be the judge of it. I’ll go around by he field and make sure I’m the next man who comes along.”
So they separated, Scoggin going off through the field, while his friend went up and wished the shepherd a good morning; the old man returned his greeting. The scholar said: “Now Father, where did you get these fine hogs?”
“What hogs? said the shepherd.
“These hogs that you drive before you,” said the other
“They be sheep.”
“What?” said the scholar. “Do you take me for a fool?
Do you think I don’t know hogs from sheep? Hear how they squeak and grunt and snore: a sheep never bleated so.
“I think you must be half asleep, if you think my sheep be hogs.
“Will you lay a wager on it?” said the scholar
“Yes,” said the shepherd, “I will lay all the money in my purse against aything you like, that these be no hogs.”
“How much do you have?”
The shepherd said, “I have two shillings.”
The scholar laughed rudely, “Two shillings! That is nothing. Would you bet half your hogs and two shillings; and I will lay as much against it?
“Strike hands, then, and he that loses, pays.”
“Done.” said the old man;
“but who will decide? Let’s go to Thame and have someone judge.”
“No, no,” said Scoggin, Thame is out of my way; let the next man we meet be the judge.”

“That will do me,” said the old man.
Just Scoggin came along the road. The shepherd said, “Here’s a stranger coming; let him decide.” The other agreed and laughed, “I don’t know him from Adam, but your hogs are still in danger, friend.”
Scoggin stopped and stood some yards off gazing at the throng of grunting hogs. Then he called to the old man, “What would you sell a hog for? I see some fine ones there.”
His friend laughed in triumph: “There! He calls them hogs! And hogs they are, for all that you call them sheep. I have won my bet; one is mine to keep. And you—you’re lucky you didn’t bet them all.”
The shepherd stared and cried, “If sheep are pigs, then I have lost my wits.”
“And that you have,” said Scoggin, “to your loss”
Then the friend said, “Give me my money, and divide these hogs, for I must have half of them.”
“Alack,” said the shepherd, “I bought them for sheep, and not for hogs; I am undone.”
“No,” said Scoggin, "I’ll be an indifferent judge between you both; let the scholar have the two shillings, but you keep your hogs and take them away with you."
The old man said: “Blessed be the time that ever you were born, Sir! Hold, scholar, here are two shillings."
The fellow was glad not to have lost his hogs, which were sheep. What became of him afterward, I cannot tell; all I know is, that called sheep pigs, just in case, for ever after. Scoggin and his friend made quite merry on their two shillings, as one could in those days.

After a moment Tom added, somewhat apologetically, "Of course it's nothing like Pigs is Pigs, really. There weren't even any real pigs in it. And Pigs is Pigs is about guinea pigs. In the other versions I know the old man is a "hoggerd" and the two friends presuade him that his herd is really sheep, not hogs, but since I've always thought sheep more valuable (for wool and all that), I think the version I told makes better sense."
We talked about that for a while, and then some other things, until I noticed it was only 5:30, and there was time enough to get home and make an early night. So off I went, hoping to see Tom and Keith and the rest of our friends next week.
[1] A market town in Oxfordshire, England, on the River Thame between Aylesbury and Oxford. In Tolkein’s Farmer Giles of Ham the name of the village is said to come from the dragon Farmer Giles tamed.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Fame among internet gamers was the last thing I had on my mind a decade ago when I left parish ministry to return to University. Indeed, I would have been foolish to think about it. Leaving a job in mid-life to go back to school is impractical enough; to do so with the hope that some day you will be cheered in the Bloor Cinema would be downright foolish. Like so many good things in life, it came about by accident. (But there are no accidents! you say. I'm not sure. There are things that sure act like accidents, and this was one of them. Whether you say accident or providence makes little difference, as long as you say "Thank you".)

I was a Junior Fellow of Trinity College. I was quite happily occupied with the study of what James I was up to on 12-18 January 1604 (scholarship has a narrow focus these days), the life of the Senior Common Room, and finding enough Church gigs to keep body and soul together. Out of the blue, it seemed, Geoff Lepaire, the Physics Don, asked if I could say “Coming soon”, the way they say it in cinematic trailers. So I said “Coming Soon”. I had no idea that Geoff and his friend Jarett Cale were just then taking the first steps towards a phenomenon.

A little later Geoff had me record “Coming soon”, and some lines about “Pure Pwnage,” whatever that was. (It’s pronounced “Pure Ownage” by the way … if that helps at all.) Then I just recorded the words "Pure Pwnage", then a strange series of questions. After that, from time to time Geoff would have me come and record some strange words. By this time, of course, I knew that Pure Pwnage was an internet TV series that tells the story of the pro-gamer Jeremy though the camera of his brother Kyle. I'm not going to give a synopsis; that's what the Wikipedia article is for.

My understanding of the series grew every time Geoff asked me to toddle along and record some lines. In episode 2, “Girls”, the questions I had recorded made sense, though to this day I insist that I had to learn one of them phonetically. In Episode 4, “Pwn Or Be Pwned” the character of “The_Masterer” appeared. Geoff played him on camera; I did the voice. Once I was even on camera (Episode 5, in “Kyle’s movie”, Strong Man, Angry Man). I love the appearances of Teh_Masterer (even though he sometimes sounds like a refugee from Hallmark - "It's the decisions you make when you have no time to make them that define who you are"). In the opening credits of each episode, that’s my voice saying "Pure Pwnage".

Financed by the sale of t-shirts and other paraphernalia, Pure Pwnage continued and became more and more famous. (But why have I never heard of it? I hear you ask. Don’t worry, we’ll get to that.) What all this meant never hit me until the first premier of an episode in the Bloor Cinema; but this calls for a digression.

I suppose I should have realized that people rented movie theatres to show their own films; if I had thought of it, though, I might have written it off as somewhat Florence Foster Jenkins-ish. Now I know better; some friends of mine seem to do it all the time. During the rise of Pure Pwnage, Geoff asked if I could record something for a friend from Massey College. For the premiere of his film Yellow Ninja Six: Sword of Sochi, Davin Lengyel wanted a real trailer (for a non-existent movie). This led to the wonderful moment of hearing myself say “If adventure had a name, you could find it in the phone book. Indiana James and the Campus of Doom.” Back to the main point.

The premiere was crowded and exciting, and showed me the effect of toddling along and recording a few words. I heard my voice boom out in a cinema again. Most amazing of all, a large number of pleasant young people seemed very glad to see me; several wanted pictures or autographs. I am grateful for their interest – even the ones who stop me in the street, look confused, and say, “You’re …. that guy … from that show!” I've been to a few premieres now, and I'd like the fans to know that their interest and kindness still surprises me a bit and definitely makes me feel good.

Pure Pwnage is up to sixteen episodes now. There have been premieres across Canada, in the States, in the UK and in Australia. Nonetheless, most people have never heard of it. Although I keep hearing that the world is “becoming one”, it seems that at the same time it is becoming more stratified. Thousands of people are fans of Pure Pwnage, but it has made barely a ripple in the parts of the world I usually inhabit. This would be fine, I suppose, except for one thing. Geoff and Jarret and the rest of the people who make Pure Pwnage are clever, talented, and inventive young Canadians, and deserve recognition in the wider culture. This series is mostly filmed in Toronto - particularly around U of T amd the Annex - and is seen all over the world.

Perhaps the most surprising thing - and the best thing I can say about the quality of the work - is that I, who haven't much interest in internet gaming (I even gave up pinball in about 1979), think it is odd enough to be interesting, well-written, and funny. Try it.
Of course, watching all sixteen episodes of Pure Pwnage might be too much of an immersion in the world of gaming. So if you have to choose, just watch the ones with Teh_Masterer!

Clicking on the title of this posting takes you to the Pure Pwnage page. You migt also like to check out the Indiana James Trailer:

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Acts 2.44-45: A Further Note on Easter IV

In today’s first first reading we are told that

All who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and sitributred them to all, as many had need. ~Acts 2:44 (RSV)

Another passage in Acts gives the same picture:

Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common property to them. And with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were possessors of lands or hosues sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet; and distribution was made to each as any had need …. [Barnabas] sold a field which belonged to him, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet. [4.32-37 RSV]

The literature on these passages from the Acts of the Apostles is too vast for even a shallow summary here. It is usually held that this experiment in communal or family living was only attempted by the Church at Jerusalem and only for a while. The mention of Barnabas is seen as a specal case (or why else should it be mentioned?) and proof that not the practice was not universal; indeed it is pointed out that Barnabas sold a field, not his whole property. The later incident of Ananias and Sapphira (5.1-11) is adduced as evidence that it was not compulsory. Others reject this as an attempt to weasle out of the clear evidence of Scripture (see, for example, Conrad Noel, Socialism in Church History (1911), pages 97 ff.) Many the Church Fathers clearly thought that the Church in their day had betrayed and declined from this ideal (for example St John Chrysostom).

Without attempting a judgement on the question of this “apostolic communism,” I offer a few thoughts. W. M. Furneaux in his commentary on Acts, notes that this community of goods was an extension of the apostles’ own experience:

During the Lord’s ministry the little band of disciples had been a brotherhood with a common purse, recruited by he gifts of women and others, who ‘ministered to him of their substance’ [Lc 8.3]. The Twelve would have been steeped in this life. By Christ’s command they had practiced its principles in the earliest mission journey [Mc 6.8], and they naturally sought now to realize on a large scale the perfect type of all society, the family, as a true expression of the new bond of brotherhood.

He holds that while Acts 2 and 4 idealize the picture of the early Church a little, there is some historical basis to it:

Though all who possessed property did not literally remounce their private interest in it, all did cease to feel that they held it for their own exclusive benefit. They felt that they were trustees and stewards, bound to consider the community rather than the individual. What was any brother's was the brethren’s. To men so enthusiastically ‘of one heart and soul’ separate interests seemed treason and coldness.

Furneaux expects us to follow the example of the early Church in this generosity of spirit.
One point that seems very important to me is that there is no hint of compulsion. It seems that the new Christians have felt a unity with one another in heart and soul and in response give freely of their possessions for the benefit of their brothers and sisters.
But there is a question in my mind. If I have nothing, how can I give? If all things are shared, with what can I be generous? “God loves a cheerful giver;” how can I make a gift of what is ours? There has to be room for giving if men and women are to become generous, and community of property seems to me to act against it. The life of the first Christians in Jerusalem unquestinably passes a judgement on the Church of later ages and on human society in general, but it does not seem to be a blueprint for organizing society, or solving the tension between individual and community.
So there are some thoughts and questions arising from the reading of Acts, but no answer. I only have a quotation from G. K. Chesterton’s essay The Theology of Christmas Presents that needs to be thrown into the mix:

Christmas stands for this superb and sacred paradox: that it is a higher spiritual transaction for Tommy and Molly each to give each other sixpence than for both equally to share a shilling.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Some Notes on the Fourth Sunday of Easter (Mostly for Saint Matthias')

The Theme of this Sunday is “Christ the Good Shepherd”, as may be seen from the Sentence of the Day (used at Massa as the Alleluia verse before the Gospel), the Psalm, the Epistle, and above all the Gospel. The Gospels for this Sunday in all three years are from John 10 and contain Good SHpeherd sayings. In the Prayer Book lectionary, the Good Shepherd Gospel was read on the Second Sunday after Easter (i.e. the Third Sunday of Easter), as was John 10:11-16 in the old Roman Missal
First Reading: The Acts of the Apostles 2:42-47. This passage concludes the account of the first Christian preaching on the Day of Pentecost. The apostles and the Jerusalem crowd have witnessed the coming of the Holy Spirit, and Peter, on behalf of the apostles, has interpreted the event. Many have turned to Christ and were baptised. The chapter concludes with a summary. The first part of Acts is made up of such summaries and example stories. Our reading is the first summary; it gives us a glimpse of the very early church, of the response of the newly baptised.
What is most noticed — or at least most usually commented on — in this passage are the verses, “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds [Gk them] to all, as any had need.” St John Chrysostom once declared that the reason there were no more miracles is that Christians had abandoned this standard and embraced private property. But it is not clear how long,or how strictly this was a rule, and not merely an ideal. In Acts 5, when St Peter condemned Ananias and his wife Sapphira for witholding some of the price they received for selling their land, he said, “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, were not the proceeds at your disposal?” It was in the lie that they sinned. However, while the New Testament does not demand that we live in a commune, it does challenge us to think seriously of why God has given us what we have, and whether we might do more to address the inequalities among members of Christ’s Body.
Psalm 23, a song of trust, expressing confidence in God’s protection, is easily the most beloved of the Psalms. In the biblical text the psalms usually have titles or superscriptions which are omitted in the liturgical psalter. This is one titled “a psalm of David”; nearly half the psalms are ascribed to “the sweet pslamist of Israel” (2 Sam 23.1), though perhaps not all were originally his. The confidence of this psalm does, however, conveythe spirit of David, whom God chose “and took him away fron the sheepfolds; he brought him from following the ewes, to be a shepherd over Jacob his people and over Israel his inheritance” (Ps 78.70-71). From the Gospel passage about the Good Shepherd, Christians have naturally understood this psalm as referring to Christ. So when the Revelation to John says “the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water,” it echoes verse 2 of this psalm. St Augustine put the matter simply when he wrote of this psalm, “The Church speaks to Christ: ‘The Lord feeds me, and I shall lack nothing.’”
Epistle: First Letter of Peter, 2.19-25. The 1 Peter here addresses the situation of a person unjustly afflicted with pain and suffering in order to show us the right thing to do. Some commentators say that this passage uses the shepherd-theme, but it seems to me that the appeal to look to Jesus's patient suffering is reallya use of the theme of Jesus the Lamb of God. (But we may ask ourselves whether these themes are really so far apart.)
True as it is that the first thing we should do in our own times of suffering is to remember Jesus' passion, there are difficulties here, which arise particularly when individuals afflict suffering on one another. We are by no means invited to accept passively any and all suffering. However, the verses preceding this passage show that the readers are addressed as a group within society looked on with suspicion, hatred, and even fear by their neighbours; they are advised to “maintain good conduct” so that even if they are maligned, their good works will be known. The immediate situation the writer has in mind is of the slaves of a cruel master. The pasage ends with the reminder that having been saved by Christ for righteousness, we must respond even to unjust suffering with his patience and righteousness, and reminds us that he is our Shepherd and Guardian.
[Like a sheep I must bleat from time to time. This passage contains a verse which I believe to be badly translated. The New Revised Standard Version, which we read at mass, gives verse 24 as: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” “The cross” here renders τὸ ξύλον, which means “tree, wood, timber” (compare xylophone]. This expression, which in the early Church connected the sacrifice of Jesus to Deuteronomy 21:22-23, is also used in Acts 5.30, 10:39, 13:29, and Galatians 3:13 [NRSV uses “tree” in all these passages]. In this verse the translators have explained a metaphor, as they so often do, rather than allowing us to make the connection. True, the NRSV does offer in a note the alternative, “carried up our sins in his body to the tree.” But my experience is that many people have an inexplicable tendency to skip over footnotes.]
The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St John, 10.1-10. In Chapter 9, Jesus has angered some pharisees by healing a blind man on the Sabbath, and added to the offence by saying, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind” (9:39). When they asked, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” (9:40) he replied. “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.” (9:41) Thinking themselves worthy makes them unworthy in God’s eyes.
Now Jesus uses image of the sheep-fold to make his point. Both he and his audience were had been brought up on the image of God as Shepherd of his people (cf. Ps 80.1). In Palestine, sheep roamed freely during the day but were confined to a common enclosure at night, to protect them from predators. The owners of the sheep employed a gatekeeper to see that no unauthorized person got at the sheep. Each morning, each shepherd called his own sheep, who followed him to pasture, and then brought them back at night . Throughout chapter 10 Jesus uses a number of different metaphores or titles based on this image. In today’s passage Jesus describes the true shepherd: the one who comes in by the gate, and is admitted by the gatekeeper. The sheep know him and will follow him, unlike the stranger “who climbs in by another way” (10.1-6). That the sheep “know his voice” suggests an ability of God’s people to recognize the voice of the Lord. How may we learn to recognize him for sure?
At verse 7 he describes himself not as the shepherd, or even the gatekeeper, but as the “door of the sheep” (cf. John 14.6: “I am the way, and the truth and the life”).Through the door the sheep find pasture and safety (they “go in and out and find pasture”). Jesus has come that we may have life abundantly. The “strangers” are thieves and brigands. By speaking of those who came before him, he may mean those who had claimed to be the Messiah; the response of the audience at v. 31, however, might more readily suggest that they took his words as condemning the whole religious establishment.
At verse 11 [note that 10.11-18 is the passage to be read next year] he shifts the metaphor and says “I am the Good Shepherd”. Here the contrast is not with thieves and robbers, but with the hireling, who cares nothing for the sheep. The good shepherd lays down his life for them. In Year C, 10.22-30 is read, shifting the metaphor back to the claim that Jesus’ sheep are those who hear his voice and know him.
The changing of the title sand metaphors in this passage is ijnteresting. As we hear the gospel we should bear in mind the complexity of the images of Jesus as at once Good Shepherd and Lamb of God, Priest and Victim, Suffering Servant and Victorious Saviour.
To end, here is a flippant little tale from some centuries back that was told as a warning against teaching the Scriptures too literally. I have modernized the story somewhat.

from A Hundred Merry Tales, ca. 1525
A certain confessor in the holy time of Lent, enjoined his penitent to say daily for his penance this prayer: Agnus Dei miserere mei, which explained was as much as to say in English “The Lamb of God have mercy upon me”. This penitent accepted his penance and departed.
At the same time twelve months later he came again to be confessed by the same priest, who demanded of him whether he had kept up the penance he had enjoined him the year before. The pentient said, “Yes, Sir, I thank God I have fulfilled it. For every morning I have said, “The Sheep of God have mercy upon me.”
The confessor said to him, “No! I told you to say, Agnus Dei miserere mei, that is, the Lamb of God have mercy upon me.”
“Yes, Sir,” said the penitent, “what you say is true. But that was last year. Now it is a twelvemonth later, and it is a sheep by this time. So now I have to say, the Sheep of God have mercy upon me.”
By this tale you may perceive, that if holy scripture be expounded to the lay people only in the literal sense, peradventure it shall do little good.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tales from the Slippery Slope: III

I was too late getting to The Slippery Slope this Thursday, and missed dinner. When I arrived I found Susan Bond, the owner of the bathroom fixtures emporium Vanity of Vanities, talking to John Strype the undertaker and Tom Chillingworth from the bookstore. Fr Hawker was nowhere to be seen. Tom said, “You picked a good night to miss dinner, Will.”
“Oh?” said I.
“Mike and David were having some kind of spat,” John began, but Susan interrupted, “More of a tiff, I think.”
“Tiff, then,” continued John. “No idea what it was about, but the boys were upset, the food below par, and the service worse. Fr Hawker and Keith went off to talk some sense into them.”
Just then the priest and landlord returned. “Peace in our time,” said Keith, who greeted me, and went to get me a glass of claret. Fr Hawker sat down and picked up a glass.
“Generosity of heart is one of the secrets to good cooking;” he said, “anger and peevishness drive out generosity. But I think we have restored charity to those lads. They are too fond of each other to fall out seriously. Hmmm ... Generosity of spirit and cooking; makes me think of the old story of Stone Soup.”
Susan said, “Funny that you should mention Stone Soup. Last night I found a variant of it in The Sack-Full of News (a book of tales from the mid-sixteenth century). It might be a good tale for this evening.”
“I’m not sure I remember Stone Soup,” said the undertaker.
I said, “Can I give it quickly, Susan? She nodded, and I began,

Stone Soup
Once upon a time, two wanderers came at the end of the day to a poor little village, and sat down by the roadside to rest their weary feet. After a bit they go into the village to beg for food, but are told that no one has any food to share. “We’re starving ourselves!” was the constant refrain.
“Oh,” said the first vagabond, whom we’ll call Bob, “then we’ll have to share with you.”
“O ho!”, said the vllagers, “you were begging, and now you’ll share?”
The second traveller, Jack, said, “But my friends, we know how to make soup from a stone.”
The villagers watched with growing fascination as Bob lit a fire, and Jack filled a
pot with water and set it to boil. Some who tell this tale say that the two carried the pot with them on their travels; others that the villagers were willing to lend them that, even if they had no food to share. I don’t know which is the true version. I do know that the travellers chatted amiably with the villagers while the water came to a boil, at which Jack put in one medium-sized, clean stone. “Note this, my friends; the stone must be put in boiling water. They all nodded gravely.
“Hmmmm,” said Bob; “this will be wonderful, a soup to gladden the most sensitive gourmet” They all nodded gravely.
Soon enough, a woman snorted, “Not much flavour that I can smell; you haven’t put in enough onion – good soup needs onion.” With that she ran home and chopped a couple of onions and brought them for the soup.
Well, I won’t give all the details of how the other villagers, partly take in by the performance, and partly refusing to be outdone by their neighbours. brought everything that can make a wonderful soup – and possibly some that can’t.
In the end, of course, everyone enjoyed the soup. After the travellers left, they were remembered fondly, and even in the worst of times the villagers remembered how to make soup from a stone.
“Thank you,” said John, “I remember it now. Now Susan, what’s your version?"
“It’s not as nice a story,” she said, “nor perhaps as moral, but it is funnier, I think. With that, she began the tale of

Buttered Whetstone
They tell of a friar who lived in London back in the days of the old religion. This friar often used to visit a particular old woman in town, but every time he came to her house, she hid all the food she had. In these stories friars are often looking
fro food. So one day the friar came to her house along with a few friends. When
they all came into the house he demanded if she had any food.
She said, “No,” just like that.
“Well”, said the friar, you don’t have a whetstone do you?
“Yes,” said the woman; “what do you want to do with it?”
“Why, I want to make food from it,” he said, and added under his breath “Since you won’t share any.”
So she brought a whetstone.
Then he asked her if she had a frying-pan.
"Yes,” said she, “but what the devil are you going to do with that?
The Friar answered, “Why, you shall see by and by what I will do with that!”; and when she gve him the pan, he set it on the fire, and put the whetstone in it.
“Cock’s body!” said the woman, “you’re going to burn the pan.”
Susan stopped the story a moment, “I was wondering. What’s ‘Cock’s body’? It’s in a lot of these old anecdotes.” Fr Hawker said, “People in those days often said ‘Cock’s’ instead of ‘God’s’. It seems to have been a corruption rather than a euphemism.” “Odd, that,” said Susan, and carried on.

“No, no,” said the friar, “if you will give me some eggs, it will not burn at all.” She wanted to take the pan from him, convinced that it was in danger; but he would not let her, and insisted that she fetch him some eggs. Finally she got him two eggs.
“Tush,” said the friar, “These are hardly enough! Go fetch ten or twelve. So the good woman had to fetch more, for fear that the pan should burn; and when he had them, he put them in the pan.
“Now,” he said, “unless we add some butter, the pan will surely burn and the eggs too.”
So the woman, who was understandably reluctant to have her pan burnt, and her eggs lost, has to get a dish of butter, which he put into the pan.
When the eggs were all cooked, he served them to his friends at the table, saying: “Much good may it do you, my Masters; now may you say, you have eaten of a buttered whetstone.” At this they all laughed, but the woman was exceeding angry, because the friar had subtly tricked her out of her food.

Tom said, “No, it’s not as nice a story as Stone Soup. And the moral is different: the villagers learn generosity; this woman is only punished and mocked for hiding her food away. She doesn’t even seem to get any of her own eggs.”
"And the friar is sharper than Bob and Jack,” said Susan.
“That’s why he used a whetstone,” said the priest, at which we all laughed politely and called it a night.
With apologies to the real Susan Bond, who deserves more thanks than this for coming up with the perfect name for a shop that sells bathroom fixtures.

Monday, April 7, 2008


This Sunday past I was asked about the reference in the leaflet to the fact that William Law (feast day 9 April) “joined a group known as the Non-jurors.” Here is a short note on the Non-jurors with some references for further information.

In 1688 King James II (of England and Ireland) and VII (of Scotland ) fled the country in the face of an invasion by his son-in-law William of Orange, Stadtholder of the main provinces of the Dutch Republic, who had been invited by “a group of worthies.” After the King’s flight the Convention Parliament declared the throne vacant and offered it to William and his wife Mary as joint rulers, which they accepted. On February 13, 1689, Mary II and William III jointly acceded to the throne of England, and on May 11 to that of Scotland.
The difficulty came in the Church when the government required an oath of allegiance to the new sovereigns, which many of the bishops and clergy scrupled to take on the grounds that it were impossible to swear allegiance while the king to whom they had already sworn theire allegiance was still living. To cut a long story short, William Sancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury, and eight other bishops, including Thomas Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells (feast day, March 22), along with some four hundred of the clergy and an unknown number of laity, refused the oath. The bishops were deprived of their sees and others appointed in their place.
These Non-jurors (i.e., “non-swearers”) refused to recognize the new bishops. Some of the Nonjuring bishops later consecrated successors to maintain the episcopal succession, and so the schism continued until it finally petered out around the end of the eighteenth century. Of course, like all Anglican schisms, the Non-jurors held that they were in the right and were therefore the real Church of England.
In Scotland the entire episcopate was deprived for refusing the oaths and the Presbyterian order introduced (or re-introduced: Scottish church history can be somewhat confusing). The Scottish Episcopal Church continued until the present despite an extended period of persecution. It was the first Anglican Church to govern itself not as a church established by law.

Some further reading:
The Wikipedia Article,, is a bit skimpy, but has references and external links.
H. Overton The nonjurors : their lives, principles, and writings (1902) online at:
Project Canterbury, a useful collection of Anglican writings, offers:
For Scotland see:
Frederick Goldie, A short history of the Episcopal Church in Scotland : from the Restoration to the present time, St Andrew Press, 1976. 181 p.
The Website of the Scottish Episcopal Church:

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Tales from the Slippery Slope: II

Yesterday evening I found the Slippery Slope dark and empty except for Keith the landlord talking to Fr Hawker at the bar. The priest seemed to have just come in. When he saw me he took off his overcoat and sat on a stool.
“We might as well wait here to see who shows up,” he said. “I doubt there’ll be trouble finding a table.” Keith asked what we’d have. I wished him a good evening and asked for a pint of bitter; Fr Hawker asked for the same. While Keith pulled the pints he remarked that it would be nice when he could open up onto the deck.
“I suppose it’ll be some time before the weather is warm enough for long enough,” said Fr Hawker, “or even to do without a fire.”.
“That’s right,” said Keith, and handed us our pints.
We drank in companionable silence for a while, chatting about minor personal affairs. The pub door opened, and a lovely breeze came in, along with Tom Chllingworth and John Strype, who were discussing something heatedly. On this Fr Hawker got up and led me over to the table by the fire to welcome our friends, who stopped their talk long enough to greet us.
The pause wasn’t long. “Everybody knows he said it!” said Strype as if that clarified everything. Then he looked at the priest and me: “Oh, sorry. Tom has been trying to tell me that C. D. Howe never said “What’s a million?” He looked at Chillingworth as if he had three heads. Just then Keith came by to take drink orders.
When the beer arrived, Tom said to me, “Will, I'm aware that when you hear the words ‘Everybody knows’ you reach for your automatic, so I'm sure you’ve heard that “What’s a million” was what the Opposition made out of a remark in a War Appropriations debate, but that Howe really said something like “A million dollars from the War Appropriations Bill would not be a very important matter."
I replied quickly, “Well, actually Tom, I’ve never really looked into it. I’ve seen things, but that's not to say that I know anything. For that I’d have to look up Hansard and old newspapers. It’s enough for me to know that everybody remembers that it was said. And I'm not about to bother” Since John seemed ready to leap back into the fray I quickly added, “Anyway, what brought this on?”
“Oh, John was going on as he usually does about governments and their cavalier spending habits, and used the “What’s a million” line as an example. So rather than get into a serious discussion on a Thursday evening, I used your favourite trick and derailed the argument with a quibble.
Just as I was starting to carefully distinguish my usual objections from quibbles, Fr Hawker said, “Cavalier spending — hmmm— reminds me of a story — more of an anecdote really — about making spendthrift ruler realize the value of money.
John said, “Sorry, Father, but no stories till after we’ve eaten!’
“All right," he replied, and called over to the bar, “Keith! what’s Mark worked up for us tonight?” Mark is Keith's son, who had trained as a chef, and shares a flat above the pub with his friend David, who waits on tables and for admission to grad school.
The landlord called over, “Rabbit in a mustard sauce, small white potatoes boiled and green peas. There’s a consommé and salad.”
Dinner was a pleasant as it sounded, and with the excellent house wine it was enjoyed by all. At last we were sitting back comfortably, and Fr Hawker said, “Now let me tell you how about the value of money.
“When James VI of Scotland came to the English throne as James I ….”
I had to interrupt. “James VI & I! I can never help reading that in a book title as “James the Sixth and I,” as if it were the author’s memoirs of court”. A bit arrogant, eh?
The painful silence that ensued was broken by Tom. “And you never get tired of saying it, do you. Let Fr Hawker get on with it.”
So the priest began again,
James VI & I and Robert Cecil's Lesson on the Value of Money

When James VI of Scotland came to the English throne, he must have felt as if he has been made king of El Dorado. In Scotland in those days there wasn’t a lot of money in use. The English used to sneer that a Scottish pound wouldn’t pay for the shoeing of a horse. But James was generous, and had favourites, always an expensive combination.
Some said that Robert Cecil, his principal secretary, whom he later made lord treasurer, had persuaded him that the treasure left by Elizabeth and the other resources of England were an inexhaustible mine and all he had to do was dig. This wasn’t fair to Cecil, who seems to have been more concerned with curbing James’ profuse spending than inciting it. He once remarked to the Earl of Shrewsbury that so many people came to the King for relief of their poverty that he scarcely know how to get money for the day-to-day needs of the royal household.
In his "Traditional Memoirs of the Reign of King James," Francis Osborne tells how Cecil tried to teach the King the cost of extravagance. This story must have happened after 1608, when Cecil became treasurer, and before 1612, when he died. Osborne gives no dates, and I don’t know where he got the story.
James’ first English favourite was a young man named Robert Carr. At one point in Carr’s rise in favour and influence, he had obtained from the King a peremptory warrant to the Treasurer for £200,000. When Cecil saw this warrant he realized, as Osborne put it, that “not only the Exchequer, but the Indies themselves” would in time be unable to feed so immense a prodigality, and that he would have to find a way to show the King the value of what was demanded, fearing that he would easily be led into even greater expenditures. The plan he hit upon was simply to put £200,000 in gold on the floor of a room that he knew the King would be passing through.
When the King went into the chamber, he was amazed at the quantity of money, perhaps more than he had ever seen before, and asked the treasurer, “Whose money is that?
Cecil answered, “Your Majesty’s, before you gave it away.” At this James fell into a violent passion, and crying out that he was abused, and had never meant to give any such gift, he threw himself down on the heap of gold and, quickly grabbing two or three hundred pounds, swore that Carr should have no more.
So he learned his lesson – at least for the moment. What almost spoils the story is that he learned the lesson too well, and Cecil had to backtrack. Carr was still the favourite after all, or as Osborne says, the “minion,” and it wouldn’t do to put his nose that far out of joint. So Cecil had to calm the king down, speak in favour of Carr, and with no little difficulty, get him half the original sum.

We didn’t say much about finance after that. For my part I was afraid anything I could say would make James I seem like an expert in economics. Tom sighed and wished that we could track down where old writers got these anecdotes, and that got us off onto discussing sources and footnotes, and that kept us happy till Tom called “Time” and I toddled off with the priest to the Rectory, a nightcap, and slumber.

Some Notes for the Third Sunday of Easter Year A: Mostly for St Matthias'

The Third Sunday of Easter does not seem to have as many names and nicknames as we saw that the Second Sunday has. I mention this again because just the other day Pope Benedict noted that “during the Jubilee Year 2000 ‘Servant of God John Paul II ordained that throughout the Church the Sunday after Easter, apart from being 'in Albis' Sunday, should also be called Divine Mercy Sunday.’” (It was on the Eve of Easter II, 2005, that John Paul II died.) Strangely enough, in mediaeval documents this Third Sunday was known as Misericordia Domini, "The Mercy of the Lord," from the first words of the Introit. Does this mean there are two Divine Mercy Sundays?

The Readings
A Reading from the Acts of the Apostles
(2:14a, 36-41). Last Sunday we heard part of Peter’s speech on Pentecost, in which he interpreted the events of the day of Pentecost for the crowd that had gathered in response to the loud noise. Starting from the Prophet Joel he declared that the mighty wind and fire, and the apostles’ preaching were signs of the end time, when all who call on the Lord will be saved. Today we hear his concluding words and the effect his speech had. He tells the people of Jerusalem, God has made Jesus, whom they had crucified, both Lord and Christ [v. 36]. At this bold declaration of their responsibility “they were cut to the heart.” At their reply, “What shall we do?” Peter called on them to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins. Three thousand people were “added” (that is, by God’s grace and action) to the 120 believers (Acts 1:15) that day.
People of different ages have used the Bible in different ways, often by asking different questions of it. This passage gives us a good example of how the Bible used to be used to support points of doctrine. At the Hampton Court Conference in January 1604, King James I noted that the English Prayer Book seemed to give permission for lay people to administer baptism in an emergency. This had not been allowed in his native Scotland, and the King didn’t like it. He was especially put off by the idea that women might be baptizing (as in fact many midwives did). Many in the English church disapproved of this practise as well. James discussed the matter with the bishops, and they agreed to change the service to remove the apparent permission (the effect of this was limited, since they did not declare lay-baptism invalid). During the discussion, the Bishop of London Richard Bancroft, used this passage from Acts to support Baptism by lay persons, since to baptize 3000 in one day, “for the Apostles alone to do, was impossible, at least improbable; and, besides the Apostles, there were then no Bishops or Priests”. Therefore, he concluded, lay people must have administered the sacrament [William Barlow, The Summe and Substance of the Conference, London: 1604, p. 15]. Today we might consider it anachronistic thus to distinguish between clergy and laity in the very early Church. We would probably just assume that all the disciples took part and not give it any more thought. Far more likely, we will ask about the idea of numbers being "added", of God's work, and perhaps link it to the idea that Christ and his passion were "destined before the foundation of the world" (1 Peter). However, even if we don’t use the passage in the way Bishop Bancroft did, reading about this controversy over Baptismal Ministry and how the Bible was applied to it can spark our minds to think about how we understand the place of the ordained ministry in the Church and how it derives from the ministry of the Apostles in the early Church.

Psalm 16.1-3, 10-17. This Psalm [vv 1, 10-17] was also used on Maundy Thursday. The psalmist tells of his love for God, for “hehas heard my voice”. Since God helped him in his time of “distress and anguish” (v. 3, serious illness), he will “call on him” (v. 2) for the rest of his life. He was near death; as life slipped away he felt as if death and the grave (literally Sheol, the place of the dead) were grabbing hold of him. He called on the name of the Lord and was rescued from death. What is his response to the Lord’s goodness? To pay his vows, to raise the cup of salvation. The meaning of verse 13 , Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his servants is that the Psalmist believes that such a death is rarely allowed to happen. Another translation is Difficult in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his pious ones. This verse should be kept in mind while listening to the words of the epistle that speak of our being ransomed not with silver and gold but with the precious blood of Christ.
The psalm prayer given in the BAS [p. 865] declares that the experience of the Psalmist is Christian experience: Gad has “given us hope for life here and hereafter through the victory of his only Son” and prays that when we share in Christ’s cup of salvation, the joy of this everlasting gift might be revived in us. With this linking of ideas, and remembering that this psalm was also sung on Maundy Thursday, we would do well to meditate on the cup of the blessing of the Last Supper, the cup Christ asked to have pass from him in Gesthemane, and the cup of salvation. The cup of the passion was necessary for the cup of salvation and blessing.

The Epistle: First Peter 1.17-23. This short passage describes the death of Christ and the salvation it has worked for us in terms of Israel’s sojourn in Egypt, a strange land, and their Passover deliverance by the bood of a spotless lamb. Though we are still in exile, we have been delivered by Christ, the true lamb without blemish. Through him, that is throug Baptism into him, we may address God as Father; but this means that in all our life we must hold God in reverent respect [v. 17], and set our faith and trust on him [v. 18]; we can live in genuine mutual love because our souls have been purified by obedience to the truth [v. 22], and reborn by the living word of God [v. 23].

The Holy Gospel: St Luke 24.13-35. St Luke’s account of how the the Risen Jesus appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, is a well-loved story. The story itself is clearly told, and we do not need many comments here. Stress is usually (and rightly) put on the fact that he was known to them in the breaking of the bread, which is obviously a eucharistic reference. However we must note that when Jesus came up to them, “their eyes were kept (or even held back) from recognizing him”. The text does not tell us who held there eyes, though it is natural to assume that it was God. However it has always struck me as odd that when Jesus upbraided them as “foolish and slow of heart to believe” the disciples didn’t start to twig to who it was; it sounds so like him! However some interpreters seem to take their lack of recognition as being of his divinity. So Chris Haslam wrote in his notes that “from Jesus’ interpretation and their hospitality to this “stranger” (v. 18) “their eyes were opened” (v. 31), i.e. they develop a deeper understanding of who Jesus is, that he is divine.” If this is true the recognition must be double: that it is Jesus and who Jesus is.

The Week of Easter III
all weekdays of Eastertide count as part of the festival of the Resurrection.
In the Daily Office Lectionary the Old Testament readings are from Exodus, Chapters 18 to 25, while the Gospel readings are taken from St Matthew, Chapters 1 to 4. The psalms and readings for each day may be found in the BAS on pages 464-5,
Wednesday, 9 April: Commemoration of William Law, Priest and Spiritual Leader, 1761. (William Law was the Author of A Serious Call to a Holy and Devout Life, a classic of Anglican Spirituality.)
Friday, 11 April: George Augustus Selwyn, First Missionary Bishop of New Zealand, 1878.