Thursday, April 12, 2007

Thursday's Dr. Thursday Post

This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad, Alleluia!
On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realised the new wonder; but even they hardly realised that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn. [See Rv 21:1, Jn 20:15, cf Gn 2:15 and Gn 3:18] [GKC, The Everlasting Man CW2:345]
Happy Easter Thursday!

Among the many thrills of this holy time there is one which I find to be exceedingly high-tech. As we know, ever since God created the "Great Light" to rule the day, and the "Lesser Light" to rule the night, and the stars, and set them in motion to govern times and seasons, we have marked off intervals of time by a variety of means: calendars, priests calling out the "kalends", suns, moons, years of the reign of King-x-Son-of-King-y, counting the AUC: Years since the Founding of the City, or the years since the signing of the Declaration, counting the crazy somersaulting motions of the earth and the moon, the long slow motions of the galaxy, the insanely rapid vibrations of electrons leaping from shell to shell in the atoms of krypton or of cesium (whichever is the current standard).

And by many other means.

But none of those is the high tech one.

Not even the French Revolution (Say, just when is the Fifth Thermidor of An 4???), no, not even that Great Fear of 1999, solemnizing the coming the Eetook Comet, making people replace vacuum cleaners, doorknobs, and lightbulbs because they might contain a chip which would fail, could change the demarking of the years since the birth of Jesus.

But there is something which does stop this marking off of time - at least a tiny little bit. Read more.Actually two somethings. Christmas and Easter.

Yes, the highest-tech mechanism of time is the accurate placement of ribbons in the Books of Worship of the Roman Catholic Church: the Lectionary and the Divine Office. (Along with that grand and deeply mystic tech code on the Paschal Candle, but I shall save that for another today.)

For this most solemn octave of days, the Great Clock pauses. No, we are not lunatics, hee hee - the moon and also the sun, the cesium and krypton, the various civil and other demarkings, are proceeding uninterruptedly. We - yes, even the most solemn of us - know that today is Thursday, the day of Sun, Moon, and Stars (See TMWWT for more on that.)

But at Holy Mass today, the priest says: "We praise You with greater joy than ever on this Easter Day, when Christ became our Paschal Sacrifice..." And at Morning Prayer, and Evening Prayer, the psalms repeat (and GKC and the choirs of heaven murmur, "Do it again!") each of these eight days, the same happy psalms of Easter.

Yes, like a little kid, our ancient Holy Mother Church "does it again". The Easter Day lasts a whole 8 days.

Why is this?

This is but our childlike attempt (alas, so weak) at telling each other what Eternity is like. And this is very hard to do, even for the Church. Chesterton admitted the difficulty:
There are twenty tiny minor poets who can describe fairly impressively an eternity of agony; there are very few even of the eternal poets who can describe ten minutes of satisfaction. Nevertheless, mankind being half divine is always in love with the impossible, and numberless attempts have been made from the beginning of human literature to describe a real state of felicity. Upon the whole, I think, the most successful have been the most frankly physical and symbolic; the flowers of Eden or the jewels of the New Jerusalem. Many writers, for instance, have called the gold and chrysolite of the Holy City a vulgar lump of jewellery. But when these critics themselves attempt to describe their conceptions of future happiness, it is always some priggish nonsense about "planes," about "cycles of fulfilment," or "spirals of spiritual evolution." Now a cycle is just as much a physical metaphor as a flower of Eden; a spiral is just as much a physical metaphor as a precious stone. But, after all, a garden is a beautiful thing; whereas this is by no means necessarily true of a cycle, as can be seen in the case of a bicycle. A jewel, after all, is a beautiful thing; but this is not necessarily so of a spiral, as can be seen in the case of a corkscrew. Nothing is gained by dropping the old material metaphors, which did hint at heavenly beauty, and adopting other material metaphors which do not even give a hint of earthly beauty. [GKC, "Appreciations and Criticisms of the Works of Charles Dickens" CW15:311]
One might suspect Tolkien had this in mind when he explained how Bilbo had a good time at Rivendell, but took only a line or two to tell about it, whereas the terrors of the "goblins" and other such things took whole chapters... Well, unlike either the goblins or the dwarves, GKC is hardly a "minor" poet (hee hee) yet he wrote one of the most mathematically perfect poems about eternity, which of course is about the one real thing we know we're going to be doing there: thanking God.

I cannot count the pebbles in the brook.
Well hath He spoken: 'Swear not by thy head,
Thou knowest not the hairs,' though He, we read,
Writes that wild number in His own strange book.

I cannot count the sands or search the seas,
Death cometh, and I leave so much untrod.
Grant my immortal aureole, O my God,
And I will name the leaves upon the trees.

In heaven I shall stand on gold and glass,
Still brooding earth's arithmetic to spell;
Or see the fading of the fires of hell
Ere I have thanked my God for all the grass.
[GKC Collected Poems CW10:210]

Amen, Amen. This IS the Day the Lord has made: Let us rejoice and be glad indeed.

Alleluia, Alleluia.


  1. Beautiful, Doctor. But since this is a week of Sundays, your Thursday post is not on time. But on eternity.

  2. Bravo, Dr. T! But I DEMAND that you write soon -- next week, if possible -- on the tech code on the Pascal Candle. At our Easter Vigil I broke out in tears as our priest intoned the prayers while he carved the Cross, the alpha, omega, and "2007" into the candle ("All time belongs to you").

    I would love to read your musings on that.

  3. Yes, I read that too, and was interested... then I remembered that it was I who had written those words! Ahem.

    Yes, that is a very important aspect of this discussion - OK.... Perhaps I will do that next week, but certainly within the week-of-weeks. Curious how it connects to Tolkien.

    I am surprised that you didn't demand to know why those book-marker ribbons are high-tech.... that too will be examined eventually. Yes, there is a real answer, too.

    But I have also dared to post because I had not given my reference to Eetook, and some people may not know what that was. See here for details.

    And I will post again when I get the exact information about the definition of the second... sorry I left that dangle also.

    --Dr. Thursday


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