Thursday, March 27, 2008

Easter: Dr. Thursday

Authority: Riddles and Puns, Burglars and Police


Ah - the Octave of Easter! It's a week of eight Sundays. (No this is NOT an allusion to The Man Who Was Thursday.) The Canadian rock group "Rush" has a song called "Time Stand Still" - but here we have just a hint of that mystic eternity as the Church suspends all other feasts for these eight days! (the Annunciation, which falls during this week in 2008, yet cannot be suppressed, shall be celebrated next Monday.) Yes, despite some curious and confused looks from the less attentive in the congregation, the careful and reverent priest will chant sed in hac potissimum die or "...on THIS EASTER DAY" in the Preface of each Holy Mass during this week.

Yes, indeed, O ye rockers! Time DOES stand still. How? Click here to find out.Truly we HAVE to celebrate during this week of Sundays, because this Son was dead and has come to life again - this Brother of ours was lost - and now He is found!!! [cf. Lk 15:24]

"Early in the morning of the first day of the week, when the Son had risen..." [cf. Mark 16:2]

Puns - did you say puns? Yes, of course - there are lots of puns to handle - one of the funniest is this thing about RISING - which occurs during the feast of Azymes, the ancient Pasch, the Time of the Unleavened - where we are the New Leaven. [1Cor 5:6-8] Leavening, for those of you who don't bake, is any agent added to dough to make it rise - to make it get lighter than it is... (And we hear our big-billed toucan friend murmur, "Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly." CW1:325) Typical leavening agents are lard or butter, baking powder, baking soda and some acid, and so on, but most of all, yeast, which is zumh = "zyme" (long E) in Greek.

An aside: if you're wondering why "zyme" sounds familiar, it's in the word "enzyme" (something found IN YEAST)... But we're not going to talk biology today, as exciting as it might be, and even though this feast is about the resurrection of the BODY...

No: instead, we'll take just a tiny glance at one paragraph from Orthodoxy, then we can resume our festival.

Here it is:

The sages, it is often said, can see no answer to the riddle of religion. But the trouble with our sages is not that they cannot see the answer; it is that they cannot even see the riddle. They are like children so stupid as to notice nothing paradoxical in the playful assertion that a door is not a door. The modern latitudinarians speak, for instance, about authority in religion not only as if there were no reason in it, but as if there had never been any reason for it. Apart from seeing its philosophical basis, they cannot even see its historical cause. Religious authority has often, doubtless, been oppressive or unreasonable; just as every legal system (and especially our present one) has been callous and full of a cruel apathy. It is rational to attack the police; nay, it is glorious. But the modern critics of religious authority are like men who should attack the police without ever having heard of burglars. For there is a great and possible peril to the human mind: a peril as practical as burglary. Against it religious authority was reared, rightly or wrongly, as a barrier. And against it something certainly must be reared as a barrier, if our race is to avoid ruin.
We've had a pun or two already, and will probably have more. So... perhaps you are wondering, does GKC actually advise us to do physical harm to the officers of the law? Of course not. Perhaps you'd prefer to think of posting negative comments in a policeman's blogg, or writing editorials against the idea of Law Enforcement.... Well, again, it's not quite that either.

Let me try something. Anyone who has read many of the best "Boy's Books" - like, let's say, The Mad Scientists' Club or even The Phantom Tollbooth, or to vary the genre, the Sir Henry Merrivale mysteries by John Dickson Carr - if you HAVE read such things, you know that boys of all ages especially like to do daring tricks, and play hilarious pranks. Not real crimes of course, but pranks... Wrong, perhaps, but NOT (emphatically NOT) evil...

Such is the kind of "attack" GKC is suggesting. Pranks, I say, not crimes, things no "mature adult" would do, more out of embarrassment than out of "respect" for the Law, at the border where there's still some light to the humour even though some shadows are looming....

There is a certain rebel in so many of us, which gives rise to practical jokes, to boldness - but this is not a "Boy's Book". We are NOT talking about playing tricks in the town square! No, as usual, GKC is desperately trying to construct a metaphor about a exceedingly complex idea, and one which will bring out far more argument and debate than any merely civil power, police force, bad cops, or corrupt city governments have EVER had.

Let's just say, for discussion, that GKC really meant to "attack the police" - let us take this in its extreme sense to mean "to abolish the police utterly"... to destroy Authority.


GKC tells us how stupid it would be to reject the idea of police as if we had never heard of burglars...

There IS something real that threatens us, something dangerous in this life, something we need protection from...

GKC is about to reveal that the authority "in religion", just as the authority "in the police" or "in the Law", exists for a very good reason, and was placed there as a protection against a Very Real Threat.

And that threat is NOT what you might otherwise have guessed. But for the answer you will have to come back next week.

For now: back to the feast! It's still Easter Sunday for another three days...

--Dr. Thursday


  1. Can anyone help me identify the "constable" who recruits Gabriel Syme to become a "philosophical policeman" in THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY. I'm convinced it's not Sunday himself, but neither is it Lucian Gregory. Who is it? Help, please!

  2. Ralph:
    The consensus of the powers that be here at the ACS is that the constable is just a random character, just an "extra" on the set at The Man Who Was Thursday.

    I hope that helps.


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