Thursday, December 28, 2006

Dr. James Taylor's Response to Lake Almanor and St. Andrew's Academy

I was thrilled, as was the rest of the faculty and the St. Andrew's Family, to have Dr. James Taylor visit us in November and be our speaker for our St. Andrew's Day Conference as well as visit the school and sit in on classes, join discussions, etc.

Below is his response, which he wrote as his weekly column in his local paper in Kansas. Thank you Dr. Taylor for such kind words.




NOTES FROM NORTHEAST KANSAS… and Lake Almanor, California
By James S. Taylor

The name is enchanting – Lake Almanor. It could have been used in a poem by Edgar Allen Poe, but when I arrived at this destination nearly two weeks ago in northern California, I was informed otherwise.

According to local historical sources, in 1914 the vice-president of Great Western Power Company was persuaded to finance a hydroelectric facility that, with the building of a dam to catch the flow of the Feather River, became one of the largest man made lakes in California. It is approximately 52 square miles, rests at an elevation of 4,500 feet, is thirteen miles long and six miles wide, and is 90 feet deep at its deepest point.

There was something of a poetic and romantic history to the lake after all: Guy C. Earl, the vice-president, named the lake after his three daughters, Alice, Martha, and Eleanor – thus, Almanor.

And 1914 was truly an explosive year for the region. The Mt. Lassen National Park sources record that in May of that year the volcano Lassen Peak burst into eruption, beginning a seven-year cycle of sporadic volcanic outbursts. The climax of the episode took place in 1915, when the peak blew an enormous mushroom cloud some seven miles into the stratosphere.
My two room shore side resort apartment at the Dorado Inn offered a wide picture post card view of the Lake, the mountains and Mt. Lassen. The sunsets were such a palette of pastels melting into deep reds spreading over the purple mountains and reflected in the Lake, a tourist, like me, will pull the car off the road to watch, and the locals never tire of commenting on the beauty.

But the lasting impression for me were the trees, Ponderosa pines, Sugar pines, cedar, rising 100 and 150 feet high on both sides of the highways and standing like brave and stalwart sentinels up the sides of the mountains. They are so silent and calm in the morning fog and mist, so deeply green and imperious against a blue sky and high sun. Logging has been the business up here for a long time, but if there have been abuses like clear cuts, I did not see them from the road and suspect over the years laws have been enacted to protect against such destructive greed. These silent giants are obviously thoughtfully thinned to space them just enough not to choke or clutter the growth. As a result, the eye is led over the tawny colored pine needle floor and into the cool darkness of the forest.

The highways, which are in good shape, snake around the sides of mountains through the tall hallways of the pines. Now and then a logging truck grinds up a grade then roars down the other side carrying its stacked load of harvested trees, the circumference of the smallest log bigger than a 50 gallon barrel drum.

I had not come here just to look at the trees and the mountains and the Lake, though that would be a perfectly good thing to do and nothing else. My immediate purpose was to visit a school, a rather special one now in its sixth year. It is small by some standards, maybe by any standards. There are about 30 students, K – 12. There are six teachers. Each morning before school and every day after school, they sing together. They sing hymns according to The Hymnal of the Anglican Church and they say prayers from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. The boys and girls of St. Andrew’s Academy wear uniforms and are among the happiest and most cheerful group of students I have met. After listening to their singing, seeing how song transforms their faces and their behavior, there is no question in my mind where their composure comes from. Oh, they have their mischief and weaknesses, and they have some of the particular wounds children carry in the modern world; and like other students they need direction, correction, and encouragement.

But I came as an educational consultant or some such inflated title, and as is usually the case, I am the one who learns. And what was that? I saw that the school has sought to be a faculty of friends and the light of this friendship naturally extends to the students who, by the way, stand when teachers or adults enter the room and address them formally, more or less naturally and without stiffness. They have developed a curriculum based on the liberal arts appropriate for grammar and high school. This can be seen in their grammar school writing program based on Aesop Fables and their high school Latin class now translating Caesar; the richness of the literature and philosophy classes; the approach to math and science that along with the rigor does not neglect seeing the beautiful in numbers and order. And they sing, sing and sing. Every student is a member of the school choir under the direction of the headmaster, Fr. Brian Foos.

The morning of my return to Kansas my airplane lifted up to clear the mountains around Reno, Nevada, a little over a hundred miles from Lake Almanor. I looked out the window at the rounded tops of the sparse Sierra Nevada range flattening out as we gained altitude and I thought about how bright the students would have sung in choir that morning, shoulders squared, chins slightly lifted, standing straight and strong as the tall green pines in the forests around Lake Almanor. It seemed that all of creation was singing then. And maybe it was.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Angels

Any ideas why our culture, and ones that have gone before, have portrayed angels as babies, cherubs, or little children? Is that the best we can do when thinking about purity and innocence, or is there something more? Would we like to ignore the Scriptural picture of the terror-striking angels of Isaiah's writing or the flaming sword of the cherubim that guarded in every direction? Just curious. -N.M.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Reminiscing


The St. Andrew's Academy Choir in Chicago after a wonderful pub meal at the Elephant & Castle.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Purgatory? Is there an Anglican position?

A cross posting from Father Derrick Hassert. In response to a question in today's high school Bible class.

XXII. Of Purgatory.The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory. . .is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.

Often, when in debate or discussion with other Christians, it is posited that Anglicans believe in “Purgatory.” I often reply “Why do you think that?” The answer usually is “Because you pray for the dead.” Indeed, we do pray for the dead, and we believe the dead pray for and with us—but does this mean that we follow the peculiar teaching of the Church of Rome on this matter? The answer is, based on historical and dogmatic theology, an emphatic “no,” but one that often demands explanation to both Anglicans and those outside of the Anglican tradition.

The equation of Purgatory with the Intermediate State (in the Anglican teaching, the state in which the souls of all of the faithful departed exist before the Resurrection of the dead) is an erroneous one, especially since the Roman Church elaborates upon both Purgatory and the Intermediate State (in this line of thinking, occupied when “the souls” pass out of Purgatory before the Resurrection, translating their status from that of mere “souls” into true “saints,” and thus necessitating the feast day of All Souls along with that of All Saints); to adopt the Roman terms while attempting an Anglican description usually results in linguistic confusion and theological consternation (See Bishop N.T. Wright’s For All the Saints ). Indeed, in that the Roman teaching is clearly rejected in the East, such a teaching can in no wise be held as a “Catholic” doctrine proper. When we read Eastern Orthodox texts on such issues there are often narrow variances of opinion than those found in the West and far less elaboration. This from Father Pomazansky’s Orthodox Dogmatic Theology:

"Concerning the state of the soul after the Particular Judgment, the Orthodox Church teaches thus: “We believe that the souls of the dead are in a state of blessedness or torment according to their deeds. After being separated from the body, they immediately pass over either to joy or into sorrow and grief, however, they do not feel either complete blessedness or complete torment. For complete blessedness or complete torment each one receives after the General Resurrection, when the soul is reunited with the body in which it lived in virtue or in vice (The Epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs on the Orthodox Faith, paragraph 18). Thus the Orthodox Church distinguishes two different conditions after the Particular Judgment: one for the righteous, another for sinners; in other words, paradise and hell. The Church does not recognize the Roman Catholic teaching of three conditions: 1) blessedness, 2) purgatory, and 3) gehenna (hell). The very name “gehenna” the Fathers of the Church usually refer to the condition after the Last judgment, when both death and hell will be cast into the “lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15)."

Here it would seem difficult to apply the “Purgatory” label as many moderns wish to use it. When we look at other Anglican dogmatic texts, such as Browne’s Exposition on the Thirty-Nine Articles, or The Christian Faith by C.B. Moss we are confronted with differing views on these issues within a narrow range of opinion, seeming closer to the Orthodox teaching than to the Roman.

Few Anglican authors and even fewer Orthodox authors use the term or designation “Intermediate State” to denote a place of pain, suffering, or retribution for sin. However, the Roman Catholic tradition, and some Anglo-Catholics modeling their views after it, emphasizes the pain and satisfaction that are required of the sinner for the sins of his life. How are we to keep this line of thinking in concert with the Comfortable Words (all from the Holy Scriptures) of the Anglican Eucharist, in which we are assured from Scripture that Christ is the propitiation for our sins? Indeed, how are we to read such a view of purgation (in which a satisfaction of pain is required) in light of the Anglican Eucharist’s canon that states Christ is the “full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world”? N.T Wright summarizes the issue when he says in For All the Saints:

"I cannot stress sufficiently that if we raise the question of punishment for sin, this is something that has already been dealt with on the cross of Jesus. Of course, there have been crude and unbiblical versions of the doctrine of the atonement, and many have rightly reacted against the idea of a vengeful God determined to punish someone and being satisfied by taking it out on his own son. But this is to mistake caricature for biblical doctrine. Paul says, in his most central and careful statement, not that God punished Jesus, but that God 'condemned sin in the flesh' of Jesus (Romans 8.3). Here the instincts of the Reformers, if not always their exact expressions, were spot on. The idea that Christians need to suffer punishment for their sins in a post-mortem purgatory, or anywhere else, reveals a straightforward failure to grasp the very heart of what was achieved on the cross." p 30

We should view any period of “purgation” (if we are even to employ the term, perhaps “growth” or “purification” would be better terms) in the Intermediate State as the 1549 English and 1928 American Prayer Books put it; as simply a period of “continual growth” in God’s “love and service,” a view I have heard espoused by Lutherans, Anglicans, Orthodox, and Baptists alike (a Baptist New Testament professor of mine from Westminster Seminary described it in this manner). This way of thinking of the Intermediate State puts to rest notions of satisfaction for sin and places the emphasis on the inexhaustible nature and love of God; it also eliminates any notion of the ahistorical and theologically incoherent idea of an “Anglican doctrine of Purgatory.”

I include the Eastern Orthodox position to show that the notion of Purgatory as found in Roman teachings is not found in the East, and therefore cannot as such be labeled as “Catholic,” unless we take the Roman doctrine to be the measure of the terminology. Indeed, the classical Anglican position on prayers for the departed bears a greater resemblance to Orthodoxy than it does to the medieval concepts of the Church of Rome. As Meyendorff (1979) recounts in Byzantine Theology:

"The debate between Greeks and Latins (on the question of Purgatory). . . showed a radical difference in perspective. While the Latins took for granted their legalistic approach to divine justice—which, according to them, requires a retribution for every sinful act—the Greeks interpreted sin less in terms of the acts committed than in terms of a moral and spiritual disease which was to be healed by divine forbearance and love. The Latins also emphasized the idea of an individual judgment by God of each soul, a judgment which distributes the souls in three categories: the just, the wicked, and those in a middle category—who need to be “purified” by fire. The Greeks, meanwhile, without denying a particular judgment after death or agreeing on the existence of the three categories, maintained that neither the just nor the wicked will attain their final state of either bliss or condemnation before the last day. Both sides agreed that prayers for the departed are necessary and helpful. . .even the just need them;. . .in particular. . .the Eucharistic canon of Chrysostom’s liturgy. . .offers the “bloodless sacrifice” for “patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and every righteous spirit made perfect in faith,” even for the Virgin Mary herself." p 220-221

So here even the state of the most blessed is to be viewed
". . .not as a legal and static justification, but as a never-ending ascent, into which the entire communion of saints—the Church in heaven and the Church on earth—has been initiated in Christ. In the communion of the Body of Christ, all members of the Church, living or dead, are interdependent and united by ties of love and mutual concern; thus the prayers of the Church on earth and the intercession of the saints in heaven can effectively help all sinners, i.e., all men, to get closer to God." p 221

This view of growth during the Intermediate State as a “never-ending ascent” is expressed, as was mentioned above, in the Anglican Eucharists of the 1549 English and 1928 American Prayer Books. The emphasis is not on penance, nor on pain, nor satisfaction for sins (which Christ has already paid) but on growth “in the knowledge and the love of God” of those who have “died in thy faith and fear.” This emphasis is the Body of Christ as the Communion of Saints, who all continue in their walk with God before the Resurrection, is taught in the American Prayer Book—but it goes no further than this measured theology and it is accepted by and differentiated from Purgatory by Reformed minded Anglicans. Litton’s Introduction to Dogmatic Theology, a text that places Anglican theology firmly in the Reformed (Calvinist) school of thought, summarizes the difference between the Roman concept of Purgatory and the traditional doctrine of the Intermediate State shared by most Christians not in the Roman Communion (notice the similarity to Meyendorff’s logic):

"The Romish doctrine of purgatory must not be confounded with the belief of spiritual progress in the intermediate state, against which no objection from reason or Scripture can be urged. . . .But the doctrine of the Roman schools is of a different character. It is forensic in nature, and implies the payment of debt not fully discharged in this life. "

As noted above, in Orthodox theology, the prayers for the faithful departed are even offered for the Virgin Mary (assuming that she too is increasing in grace and the knowledge and presence of God and being conformed to His image—theosis). Therefore, praying for the faithful departed—as expressed in the 1928 American Prayer Book—is a truly “Catholic” doctrine and can be held by Anglicans, as is praying with them in the worship of the Church: “Therefore with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious Name. . .” We pray for the faithful departed in their growth in love and knowledge of God’s love as well as with them in the thanksgiving of the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The First Day of School At St. Andrew's Academy


The Waterman Girls make their appearance and all is well and prepared for another year at St. Andrew's Academy.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

I was afraid that no one would see these thoughts and questions, as they were buried on an old post. So, Serena, I thought I would post them here and see if we can get some takers....



"I'm reading the Brothers Karamazov right now and [the problem of evil] is certainly one of the chief subjects in the book. How could God allow grief and evil and suffering that is completely non-redemptive? But is there such a thing as non-redemptive suffering? Does 'goodness' necessarily mean that God should stop the above? If not, then how should we understand God? Who is this God person anyway? It makes my head hurt, all the possibilities. Ho hum. Life is very complicated. But then, if it wasn't, it would be very boring. Half the fun of living is learning."

-Serena

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

St. Andrew's Academy is Hiring

St. Andrew’s Academy is looking for teachers for the 2006-2007 school year. St. Andrew’s is a K-12, Anglican, classically oriented, college preparatory, parochial school in Lake Almanor, California. We are currently looking for individuals who want to make a difference in students’ lives and the culture at large. Our teachers typically work across a variety of grade levels, but one of our most pressing needs is for grammar school instructors—ones that can provide a stable character influence and set an example of excellence for our youngest students.

Successful applicants do not need teaching experience, but will need to learn and apply instruction. If you have teaching experience, we won’t hold this against you too much. Confidence, honesty, and self-motivation will also be key. Because of the classical emphasis, experience in Latin and New Testament Greek are definite benefits.

The Lake Almanor/Lassen National park area is situated at the northernmost end of the Sierra-Nevada Range and at the southernmost end of the Cascade Range. The environment is alpine with pleasant summers and snowy winters, and the natural landscape is quite spectacular. Recreational opportunities such as fishing, hunting, hiking, kayaking, and cross-country and downhill skiing are plentiful, and the local communities are rural. The school is located about 1.5 hours northeast of Chico, California, and 2 hours northwest of Reno, Nevada.

The motto of St. Andrew’s is “Oratio, Studium, Labor,” which translated is “Prayer, Study, Work,” for this reflects our school’s priorities. Everyday begins and ends with traditional sung prayers, and our students know that our worship is the most important part of the day. Of course, our academic expectations of students are demanding, but in the context of the Christian life, this is viewed as an opportunity to glorify God. We also ask the students to take ownership of their school by helping to maintain the facilities and to work in other ways to serve their neighbors. Involvement at St. Andrew’s is not separable from community life; we constantly seek to encourage and build our community. This is specially important for the faculty as they often lead in this task. As a group of colleagues, we seek to pursue Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, and daily invite our students to join us. This is our educational task. Being involved with St. Andrew’s is rarely easy, but always adventurous and rewarding.

Applicants must understand that St. Andrew’s has always been a work of faith, and as such, there is some risk involved. This is therefore a step of faith for all our staff, but please understand that God has always met our needs—and the needs of our faculty—and the ethos of the school would not be the same without constant dependence on Him.

If this mission intrigues you, please give us a call at 530-596-3343 and ask to speak to Father Brian Foos, Headmaster, or Mr. Kent Bartel, Assistant Headmaster, or drop us an email at . If you have a chance, please email your Curriculum Vitae (academic resume) to the same address.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

St. Andrew's 2006 Drama Production

This year we did two short plays rather than a single long one.

Our first play was "The Coming of Gowf," a comedy based on the story by P.G. Wodehouse, about a melancholy king who discovers a new religion: Gowf. It cheers him up mightily, and when his bride-to-be confesses she also is a worshiper of the great Gowf, they (naturally) live happily ever after.


How shall we cheer up the King?


The King discovers Gowf.


Princess, your slave!


The cast of "The Coming of Gowf"


Our second play was "The Blue Cross," adapted from G. K. Chesterton's story of the same name. It is a detective mystery, in which the famous Valentina follows mysterious clues all over London, to find what seem to be merely two harmless clergymen, sitting in a park. But as it turns out, neither one is exactly as he seems.


Flambeau's in England! They don't call him a master of disguises for no reason.


Ah, but Valentina's coming soon.


Just two clergymen in the park.


Or are they?


Caught!


The Cast

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Moral Obligation?

Do you have a moral obligation to pursue truth.

If so, how? If not, why not?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

OUR SAN FRANCISCO 2006 TRIP


One of the great blessings of this year's cultural trip (and there were many) was attending worship, and leading it a few times, in churches where we don't normally get to worship. The most different from our normal venue was a Russian Orthodox Cathedral, which took place half in English, half in Church Slovanic, and lasted an hour and one half. Did I mention that the Orthodox stand for their whole service? Except when they are prostrating themselves on the ground, that is. Even though I felt like I knew a bit more what heaven would be like --continually praising God in a setting completely not like mundane life -- I certainly was thankful for Thomas Cranmer and his wise "trimming" of the services so that congregations could also participate. For, as beautiful this Orthodox service was in its own way (a certain faculty member might disagree here!), it was anything but participator-friendly. And I don't think they mean for it to be especially participator-friendly. I mentioned its length already. They also spoke remarkably quickly, and had no time factored in for congregational responses. I suppose either of these being changed would lead to a service twice as long (this was vespers, compline and mattins all in one -- eep!). People walked around the back of the... nave?.. during the whole liturgy, offering their own private prayers, a few pausing for a while to hear the service, between where we the congregation sat and the choir area. Then, of course, the entire chancel area was blocked off from congregants, with no altar visible. Aside from the theology of it, I found this set up to be visually disorienting, giving no place for the eye to rest.
I supposed I would get used to it if I had need to, and I still think I have more in common theologically with the East than with Rome. But it would really be a loss to do away wtih congregational participation, and a service in a known language, since in this service at least, they spoke so quickly that even the English I could pick out didn't qualify as a known tongue to me except about two words out of ten.
But the music was amazing. Haunting and eastern, to western ears, but with resolution and some measure of tonic rest at the conclusion of the phrases which (I think) we don't find in other eastern music. The heightened tension, if I can speak as one with little music training, seemed to show how far above us God is, and then the resolution at the end said, "You can still come near." I'd like to hear that again.
And of course, never forget the hats of the Orthodox bishops, which only sort of conceal the long ponytails that go with their long beards. We met a very gracious bishop from the Orthodox Church of America, the Bishop of Berkeley, Bishop Benjamin, who showed us around Holy Trinity Cathedral for as long as he could until he had to leave to do a funeral. We appreciated it very much.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Saint Patrick's Breastplate

(For those who are always requesting hymn 268)


Fáed Fíada - The Cry of the Deer

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the
Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession
of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.

I arise today through the strength of Christ with His Baptism,
through the strength of His Crucifixion with His Burial
through the strength of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
through the strength of His descent for the Judgment of Doom.

I arise today through the strength of the love of Cherubim
in obedience of Angels, in the service of the Archangels,
in hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
in prayers of Patriarchs, in predictions of Prophets,
in preachings of Apostles, in faiths of Confessors,
in innocence of Holy Virgins, in deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through the strength of Heaven:
light of Sun, brilliance of Moon, splendour of Fire,
speed of Lightning, swiftness of Wind, depth of Sea,
stability of Earth, firmness of Rock.

I arise today, through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me, God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me, God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me, God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me, God's shield to protect me,
God's host to secure me:
against snares of devils, against temptations of vices,
against inclinations of nature, against everyone who
shall wish me ill, afar and anear, alone and in a crowd.
I summon today all these powers between me (and these evils):
against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose
my body and my soul,
against incantations of false prophets,
against black laws of heathenry,
against false laws of heretics, against craft of idolatry,
against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
against every knowledge that endangers man's body and soul.
Christ to protect me today
against poison, against burning, against drowning,
against wounding, so that there may come abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right,
Christ on my left, Christ in breadth, Christ in length,
Christ in height, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the
Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the
Oneness of the Creator of creation.
Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of Christ. May Thy Salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Shrove Tuesday for Latin Students & Teachers

According to http://en.wikipedia.org, on Shrove Tuesday, at 11 am at Westminster School in London, a verger from the Abbey leads a procession of eager boys into the playground of the school for the Annual Pancake Grease. The school cook, who must be something of an athlete to manage it, tosses a huge pancake, reinforced with horsehair, over a five meter high bar and the boys frantically scramble for a piece. The scholar who emerges from the scrum with the largest piece receives a cash bonus from the Dean. The cook also gets a reward. Were the cook to fail to get the 'pancake' over the bar within 3 tries, he or she would have been booked, or pelted with (rather heavy) Latin primers; it is rumored that this took place on (at least) one occasion.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

St. Andrew's Colloquy & the Problem of Evil




Professor Chris Paul was the guest for the St. Andrew's Colloquy this last Thursday. He lectured on the "Problem of Evil" which is a fairly strong and popular argument against the belief in a Christian God. He presented a Christian Response and took questions from the audience.



Perhaps the High School students at St. Andrew's could fill in some details....


Saturday, February 11, 2006

Regarding Vocation: A Prayer for Every Man in His Work

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who declarest
thy glory and showest forth thy handiwork in the
heavens and in the earth; Deliver us, we beseech thee, in
our several callings, from the service of mammon, that we
may do the work which thou givest us to do, in truth, in
beauty, and in righteousness, with singleness of heart as
thy servants, and to the benefit of our fellow men; for the
sake of him who came among us as one that serveth, thy
Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Vocation

Our philosophy reading for today's discussion discussed Marx's concern with vocation, essentially, although I don't think that word was used. Marx was good at noticing the problems but not so good, it seems, at finding solutions.

I remember reading Dorothy Sayers on the idea of vocation and how important she thought it was. Are we really that connected with our calling/vocation--with what we do as a "job" or "career"? Is it a matter of life and death--at least spiritual? Sayers seems to think so...and Marx, though dealing with it in an economic rather than spiritual context, at least sees the problems, though he would likely deny the spiritual realities that Sayers would employ to even talk of the matter.

Some of you students seemed to be saying that you thought a person’s vocation determines how others think of that person as well as how that person might think of himself. Is it just that, or does one's vocation actually, in some way, determine who one is? --not just economically or socially, but metaphysically?

father foos+

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Christmas: For Miss Steinberg & Her Students

I found this in one of my "Christmas" books, A Wreath of Christmas Legends by Phyllis McGinley.

Story for an Educated Child

It used to be, when the world was young,
Animals spoke a Christian tongue,
Articulating clearly.
And still do those of peaceable bent
Practice the kind of accomplishment
On Christmas evening, yearly.

With human wit, in a human voice,
The beasts of the barnyard all rejoice
From Vespertime to Matin,
Recounting tales of the little God
Over and over. But isn't it odd?
The speech they speak is Latin.

The strident Cock lifts up his crest,
Stuttering, "Christus natus est!"
Till midnight splits asunder.
Laborious from his stable box,
"Ubi? Ubi?" lows the Ox,
Bemused with sleep and wonder.

The somnolent Sheep, adrift from dreams,
Bleats "Bethlehem!" and her quaver seems
Half question and half promise.
Then Ass that wears by an old decree
A cross on his back for prophecy,
Brays forth his loud "Eamus!"

And there they gossip while night grows gray
And curious stars have slipped away
From shimmering thrones they sat in.
So many a child might brave the cold
To hear them talking. But I am told
He mustn't be more than six years old.
And who at six knows Latin?

Merry Christmas,

Mrs. Foos