09 August 2007

Margaret Avison

The Globe and Mail carried an obituary today for Margaret Avison, who died in Toronto on July 31, in her ninetieth year. It includes these words:

Margaret wrote poetry almost all her life. She twice received the Governor Generals Award (Winter Sun, 1960, and No Time, 1989). She held three honorary doctorates and in 1985 was named an Officer of the Order of Canada. Her Concrete and Wild Carrot, 2002, was awarded a Griffin Prize for Poetry. Her first six volumes of poetry were collected as Always Now, 2003, and a seventh, Momentary Dark, appeared in 2006.

It does not mention what is my favorite of her works, a poem entitled “The Dumbfounding”:

When you walked here,
took skin, muscle, hair,
eyes, larynx, we
withheld all honor: “His house is clay,
how can he tell us of his far country?”

Your not familiar pace
in flesh, across the waves,
woke only our distrust.
Twice-torn we cried, “A ghost”
and only on our planks counted you fast.

Dust wet with your spittle
cleared mortal trouble.
We called you a blasphemer,
a devil-tamer.

The evening you spoke of going away
we could not stay.
All legions massed. You had to wash, and rise,
alone, and face
out of the light, for us.

You died.
We said,
“The worst is true, our bliss
has come to this.”

When you were sen by men
in holy flesh again
we hoped so despairingly for such report
we closed their windpipes for it.

Now you have sought
and seek, in all our ways, all thoughts,
streets, musics—and we make of these a din
trying to lock you out, or in,
to be intent. And dying.

Yet you are
constant and sure,
the all-lovely, all-men’s-way
to that far country.

Winning one, you again
all ways would begin
life: to make anew
flesh, to empower
the weak in nature
to restore
or stay the sufferer;

lead through the garden to
trash, rubble, hill,
where, the outcast’s outcast, you
sound dark’s uttermost, strangely light-brimming, until
time be full.

07 August 2007

The Inadequacy of ‘Instant Christianity’

Some pithy words from A.W. Tozer (1897-1963):

It is hardly a matter of wonder that the country that gave the world instant tea and instant coffee should be the one to give it instant Christianity. If these two beverages were not actually invented in the United States it was certainly here that they received the advertising impetus that has made them known to most of the civilized world. And it cannot be denied that it was America … that brought instant Christianity to the gospel churches…

The American genius for getting things done quickly and easily with little concern for quality or permanence has bred a virus that has infected the whole evangelical church in the United States…

By “instant Christianity” I mean the kind … which is born of the notion that we may discharge our total obligation to our own souls by one act of faith, or at most by two, and be relieved thereafter of all anxiety about our spiritual condition. We are saints by calling, our teachers keep telling us, and we are permitted to infer from this that there is no reason to seek to be saints by character. An automatic, once-for-all quality is present that is completely out of mode with the faith of the New Testament.

Excerpted from That Incredible Christian (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1964). The article may also be found on the web here.

06 August 2007

August 6

Lest we forget what day this is in the Church’s calendar…

The Transfiguration seems to stand at a watershed in the ministry of Jesus, and to be a height from which the reader looks down on one side upon the Galilean ministry and on the other side on the Via Crucis. The story resembles the baptism of Jesus, inasmuch as it culminates in the heavenly voice proclaiming the Sonship; and it resembles the agony in Gethsemane, inasmuch as it shows the three disciples witnessing a decisive moment in the relation of Jesus to the Father.

Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1961-1974

On a more sombre note, it is also the anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945.