Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Random Gleanings

Herewith a few phrases that have comer to our attention recently, in no special order, with a bit of context.

1.  Burke's "Chivalry"

In a wide-randing lecture on the uses of "gothic" and medieval" in English culture, Michael Alexander discusses the fact that the Middles Ages have been appropriated, at different times, by both the left and the right.  When the Houses of Parliament were rebuilt by Pugin, it was because the high Gothic was associated with democracy and public discourse.  Conversely, Edmund Burke famously remarked of Marie Antoinette's death that
I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult. But the age of chivalry is gone. 
Of this remark, Alexander curtly observes,
"Chivalry" is a code word for "a stratified society."
Take that, conservative Romantics.

2.  Cushing's Bacon

At the Second Vatican Council, Boston's Richard Cardinal Cushing gave a powerful speech in which he called for an end to Catholic anti-Semitism, and a new relationship with the Jewish people.  This speech, controversial at the time, helped move the Council toward its breakthrough in Nostra Aetate.

Speaking at Boston College, Rabbi James Rudin mentions a remark attributed to Cushing, for which he can find no credible attestation.  Before he got on the plane, Cushing is rumored to have said:
If I don't bring home the bacon for the Jews, I can't ever show my face in Boston again.
3.  Wright Stuff

N. T. Wright, in the opening pages his slim book entitled Paul in Fresh Perspective, discusses the tension between scholars who see in the apostle's writing the pure exposition of a systematic theology, and those who see rather individualized responses to the problems of particular communities.

To this, Wright offers words of wisdom for all parish pastors:
Anyone who has preached to different congregations, and engaged in pastoral ministry with different kinds of people, will know only too well that the moment when a particular situation presents itself is precisely the moment when you need to draw deeply on something very central and non-negotiable.   
One might almost formulate a general rule that the more specific the situation, the more what is needed is a return to core truth, however freshly stated.
Amen, brother Wright.

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