Sunday, February 26, 2012

Oscar night...and books, and baptism, and biscuits...

Well that was interesting -- the FOMC called early-mid evening, as he often does of a Sunday, and I was able to report to him that I was a) watching the Oscars and b)discussing and commenting on them with folks all over North America. Fun, indeed. I missed a bunch of stuff in the middle, however, being on the phone at the time. Parenting apparently has no mandatory retirement date, sigh. And that is all I'm going to say about that.

It has been quite a good day despite very cold temperature -- zero Fahrenheit except right at midday, when it warmed up half a dozen degrees -- there has been a little additional snow atop the 10 inches yesterday. I have the best and kindest neighbours -- they "blew" my city-sidewalk TWICE yesterday, and when I got back from the church about 1 p.m. today, my neighbour was just finishing up blowing the snow off both the sidewalk and my ENTIRE gracious.

The rhythm here is that the neighbours dig and shovel, I go into the kitchen and BAKE and then skip merrily over the snowdrifts with my frilly apron on, delivering little oven-warm goodies into their astonished expressions. It is all so Norman Rockwell, one can hardly stand it.

Yesterday I made sourdough buttermilk biscuits for this purpose. Only I put home made yogurt into them in place of the the buttermilk. Right out of the oven -- with a dab of butter and a little Lanark County wildflower honey? Mighty fine. And fast. And motivated me to re-energize the sourdough starter: all good.
My boss preached this morning very energetically on God's covenant initiatives in the lectionary. We're singing the Merbecke setting for the eucharist, for Lent (with the old words -- trying to jam the new translations into those notes just...doesn't work). I've sung Proulx and I've sung Addington and sometimes we sing sort-of Schubert and St. Curious has its own Mass setting written by a talented former Rector, and that's all dandy, but I'm sorry, to my ear Merbecke = church, and that's that.

My late-night and early-morning reading in bed this weekend has been the most recent New York Review of Books. So much there, so much to reflect on, speculate about, explore. Notable in this last issue a fine review by Peter Brown ("Who Ought To Know, After All") on three or four new books about Ambrose, Chrysostom, and Augustine. At least two of them are by Garry Wills. There is one on Ambrose, Augustine, and baptism (Font of Life: Ambrose, Augustine, and the Mystery of Baptism), that really does make my mouth water~~because I am very taken with Ambrose's baptismal sermon in which his text is 2 Kings 5 -- Naaman the leper and his disdain for the Jordan.

Listen to this, from Brown.

"In 387, ... this baptistery [i.e., in Milan] was not open to all. It was an arcane building, as closed against the uninitiated as was the cave of any pagan mystery cult. In it new things began. ... The ceremony began with an act of solemn exorcism. The culmination of the ritual involved a breaking of the boundaries between heaven and earth. ... It was a rite that 'broke open the incandescence of eternal life.' ... For Ambrose, baptism remained a baroque affair--a moment of rapture and unearthly light set against the darkness of a still-pagan world. Augustine ... came to a very different view of the same ritual. ... The baptized Christian could not expect to be buoyed up by the sense of having been transformed by a single dramatic rite. Human nature did not change so fast. Each believer remained like a leaky ship on the high seas, kept afloat by the constant creak of the bilge pump. The salt water of small, insidious sins dripped through its timbers. If not pumped out by constant acts of penance, prayer, and almsgiving, these small trickles of sin could sink the ship. In this, Augustine preached a doctrine for the long haul, suited to a gray world where almost everyone was a Christian and very few of them were good Christians...."

This makes me very happy.

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