Let’s Read James Joyce’s “Ulysses” This Summer!



This Summer, some friends of mine and I will be reading through James Joyce’s Ulysses–a mid-century modernist juggernaut that’s considered by many to be the greatest novel in the English language–and I want to invite all of you to join us. Feel free to pass this post (and its accompanying Google Doc) to anyone and everyone you think might be interested. You can purchase the book here.

The Bloomsday 2019 Kick-Off

Ulysses is at it most basic level, about one 24-hour period on June 16th, 1904 in the life of Leopold Bloom. For book nerds, that calendar day has subsequently been dubbed “Bloomsday”. Here in Philadelphia, there is a library and museum called The Rosenbach which has one of the only complete manuscripts ofUlysses, handwritten by Joyce. Every June 16th they throw a massive day-long block party celebrating Irish culture and James Joyce.

Our little reading group will begin on Bloomsday 2019, and we invite anyone in or near Philadelphia to come to The Rosenbach to party. We’ll then read through the book and, for those interested and able, we’ll occasionally meet in various Irish cafes and pubs around Philly to talk about the book. I’ll also try and blog a bit through the book here.

If you want to be added to an email list for info on the readings and meetings, you can do that on this form. You need not be in the Philadelphia area to join us.
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BOOK REVIEW: “The Remains of the Day” by Kazuo Ishiguro


The Remains of the Day
Kazuo Ishiguro
Vintage Int’l, 1989
(Amazon Link)


Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day is, as the Amazon product page calls it, “universally acclaimed”. It won the Booker prize the year of its release, and no less a pedigree than Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson graced the screen in its film adaptation. I personally received recommendations for this book from people that both know me well and whom I greatly respect for their taste in literature.

Imagine my surprise, and the depth of my self-doubt and questioning of my own aesthetic inventory, when I read this book and really, really despised it.
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Ascension: Our Glory & the Bible’s Hinge


jesus-christ-ascension-iconToday in the Christian Church Calendar is Ascension Day, where we celebrate Christ ascending into heaven after his resurrection and now sitting at “the right hand of God the Father.”

The Useless Ascension

“Ascension” doesn’t get a lot of attention nowadays in the Church. This, in spite of the fact that it’s an essential part of all the Church’s earliest doctrinal formulations. Additionally, the New Testament sees it as the primary proof of Jesus’ divinity and “lordship” and it’s the subject of the most-quoted Old Testament verse in the New Testament: “The Lord says to my lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.'” (Remember this verse.)

Maybe we neglect this because the Ascension isn’t really a “doctrine”–it’s an “event” and a “declaration”; and we western Christians love our systematic “doctrines” that we can pick apart ad nauseam and/or figure out how we can “apply it to our lives” in such a way that we can feel like we’re “good Christians.” But honestly, the Ascension isn’t “useful” to us in that way. There’s not much we can “do” with it.

Which is precisely why it’s so valuable. More than many other aspects of the Gospel and Christianity, the Ascension isn’t an “idea” to mull or unpack, but rather “news” to receive and let it act on us.
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Shame and The Unforgivable Sin Against the Holy Spirit


Some Thoughts on Blaspheming Oneself

I’m going to talk some theology today, but first let’s talk about some feelings. I’ve got a dear friend that struggles from time to time with deep fears, shame, and insecurity around his relating to God and the state of his soul, and his anxious heart tends to latch onto religious and theological reasons for these feelings.

In the years I’ve walked with him, different aspects of Christian faith and theology have shaken his assurance that he is, in fact, a Christian and that he can have a hopeful belief in his present and future relating to God.

Recently, he’s been struggling with an idea that’s gone by a few different names throughout history: “The Unpardonable Sin”, “Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit”, “The Unforgiveable Sin”, among others. It’s repeated and reframed in a few places of the Bible, but here is Mark’s version:

[And Jesus said,] “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—for they [his enemies, the Jewish leaders] had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Many, many of you out there may brush this aside as one more cryptic saying of Jesus on which you can’t base the whole weight of eternity. Others may think this is such theological minutiae or so random out of everything in the Bible that they find it confusing someone would be overly concerned with it.
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Saturday | Meditation for Easter Week (2019)


From Liberti Church’s Lent & Easter Prayerbook

From an Easter sermon
Melito of Sardis, 2nd-century

But he rose from the dead
and mounted up to the heights of heaven.
When the Lord had clothed himself with humanity,
and had suffered for the sake of the sufferer,
and had been bound for the sake of the imprisoned,
and had been judged for the sake of the condemned,
and buried for the sake of the one who was buried,
he rose up from the dead,
and cried with a loud voice:

“Who is he that contends with me?
Let him stand in opposition to me.
I set the condemned man free.
I gave the dead man life;
I raised up the one who had been entombed.
Who is my opponent?”

“I,” he says, “am the Christ.
I am the one who destroyed death,
and triumphed over the enemy,
and trampled Hades underfoot,
and bound the strong one,
and carried off man
to the heights of heaven.”

“I”, he says, “am the Christ.”

~give time for silence, prayer, & meditation~

Holy Saturday | Meditation for Holy Week (2019)


From Liberti Church’s Lent & Easter Prayerbook

Easter Oratorio
excerpt, by N. T. Wright

On the seventh day God rested
in the darkness of the tomb;
Having finished on the sixth day
all his work of joy and doom.
Now the Word had fallen silent,
and the water had run dry,
The bread had all been broken,
and the light had left the sky;
The flock had lost its shepherd,
and the seed was sadly sown,
The courtiers had betrayed their king,
and nailed him to his throne.
O sabbath rest by Calvary,
O calm of tomb below,
Where the grave-clothes and the spices
cradle him we did not know!
Rest you well, beloved Jesus:
Caesar’s Lord and Israel’s King,
In the brooding of the Spirit,
in the darkness of the spring.

~give time for silence, prayer, & meditation~

For Holy Saturday: “The Elements” [a poem]


death-of-salesman-clothes-hangerWelcome, hello
Come in.

Take your shoes off
Set down your suitcase
And hang your jacket

Enjoy the fire; enjoy the tea
Rock the chair, back and forth

That’s all you can do right now.
Rest.

Your items will still be there when it’s done.

Your shoes–
the mud will be dry, they’ll feel like new
to aid you on your way

Your suitcase–
is not all that important, frankly
take it or leave it
it doesn’t do much
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For Good Friday: “Gabriel Came on Friday (Magnificat)” [a poem]


 

Pierced–
Not of flesh nor will of man
But of heart by will of Him.

Deep within a shot was cast and burrowed in the bow
The fine line of ecstasy and horror homoousion‘d among
And within
Obedience was found on worthy lips, blessing bestowed for ages come.
Yet the blessing’s joy was found as a bell in the mist,
Meaning: it was not.

Until the rocks came.
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Good Friday | Meditation for Holy Week (2019)


From Liberti Church’s Lent & Easter Prayerbook

Go To Dark Gethsemane
James Montgomery

Go to dark Gethsemane,
You who feel the tempter’s pow’r;
Your Redeemer’s conflict see;
Watch with him one bitter hour;
Turn not from his grief away;
Learn of Jesus Christ to pray
Learn of Jesus Christ to pray.

Follow to the judgment hall;
View the Lord of life arraigned;
O the worm-wood and the gall!
O the pangs his soul sustained!
Shun not suff-ring, shame, or loss;
Learn of him to bear the cross
Learn of him to bear the cross.

Calv’ry’s mournful mountain climb
There adoring at his feet,
Mark the miracle of time,
God’s own sacrifice complete:
“It is finished!” Hear the cry;
Learn of Jesus Christ to die
Learn of Jesus Christ to die.

~give time for silence, prayer, & meditation~