Saturday, April 03, 2010

GKC: Holy Saturday

They took the body down from the cross and one of the few rich men among the first Christians obtained permission to bury it in a rock tomb in his garden; the Romans setting a military guard lest there should be some riot and attempt to recover the body. There was once more a natural symbolism in these natural proceedings; it was well that the tomb should be sealed with all the secrecy of ancient eastern sepulture and guarded by the authority of the Caesars. For in that second cavern the whole of that great and glorious humanity which we call antiquity was gathered up and covered over; and in that place it was buried. It was the end of a very great thing called human history; the history that was merely human. The mythologies and the philosophies were buried there, the gods and the heroes and the sages. In the great Roman phrase, they had lived. But as they could only live, so they could only die; and they were dead.
[GKC The Everlasting Man CW2:344-5]

You may be wondering why "second" cavern? The first was the cave of Bethlehem, and hence the first chapter of Part II of TEM is called "The God in the Cave" - but there is also a strong echo of the primary (primeval?) theme of the first chapter of part I, which of course is called "the Man in the Cave". (You mean you haven't read it yet? What on earth are you waiting for - an engraved invitation? GO READ IT. And if you read it before, go read it again. It's good any time of day or year, and quite nourishing too.

Also, I find that I must - simply MUST - quote another English writer today - one whose name is often associated with GKC, and indeed whose popularity has been claimed to date from GKC's book about him. [I will give the ref if anyone desires, but not today.] It is from a book you may already be familiar with, but not one which is often linked to the very special events of this sacred and silent time. But, since we are detectives in the very best sense of the term [more on that soon], it is very good that we hear these words, which might come from any grand mystery story - and in fact are echos of the Greatest of All Mystery Stories, the real one we are presently commemorating! But let us proceed.
--Dr. T.

Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge's name was good upon `Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to.

Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Mind! I don't mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country's done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.


The mention of Marley's funeral brings me back to the point I started from. There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.

[C. Dickens, A Christmas Carol opening lines of Stave One, emphasis added]

Please, please, please, my dear reader. Please read those bold-face lines again and think about them very carefully - until tomorrow.
--Dr. T.

1 comment:

  1. I just watched the new Sherlock Holmes. And the contrast between the "death" of Lord Blackwood and the death of Marley is quite apparent!

    Thank you for these beautiful meditative posts for Holy Week, Dr. T! And Happy, Blessed Easter to everyone.


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