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The Vaster End of Blood

[This Good Friday, I commend to you the following excerpt from Chapter 4 of Robert Farrar Capon's most outstanding The Supper of the Lamb.]

In the Law of the Lord,
     Leviticus, the eighth chapter, the fourteenth verse: Aaron
     and his sons laying hands upon the bullock’s head, blood
     poured at the bottom of the altar to make reconciliation;
     the caul above the liver, and the two kidneys and their
     fat—all burnt by fire for a sweet savor.
Smoke, incense,
     wave breast, heave shoulder, rams of consecration, the
     pomegranate and the golden bell, sounding upon the
     hem of the robe round about; priest and temple, death
     and holocaust, always and everywhere.

It is tempting
     simply to write it off as barbarism, nonsense, superstition;
     to fault it and forget it;
But the fact of blood still stands,
     reproving materialist and spiritualist at once; gainsaying
     worlds too small and heavens too thin.
This superadded killing,
     this sacrifice, these deaths which work no earthly inter-
     change, this rich, imprudent waste
The City’s undiminishable size:
Man wills to make of earth,
     not one Jerusalem but two; this sacramental blood de-
     clares the double mind by which he wills to lift both
     lion and lamb beyond the killing to exchanges unaccount-
     able and vast.
Man’s priestliness therefore
     bespeaks his refusal of despair; proclaims acceptance of
     a world which, by its murderous hand, subscribes the
     insupportable dilemma of its being—the war of lion and
     lamb having no other likely outcome here than two im-
The one,
     a pride of victors feeding on the slain; but leaving the
     lion as he was before, trapped in ancient reciprocities by
     which at last all power falls to crows;
And the other,
     a hymn to despair no victim will accept; it is not enough,
     in this paroxysm of martyrdoms, to stand upon the ship-
     wrecks of the slain and praise the weak for weakness; the
     lamb’s will, too, was life; he died refusing death.
Sacrifice therefore
Not written off, but recognized,
     a sign in blood of the vaster end of blood; a redness
     turning all things white; an impossibility prefiguring the
     last exchange of all.

The old order, of course,
     unchanged; the deaths of bulls and goats achieving
     nothing; Aaron still ineffectual; creation still bloody;
But haunted now by bells within the veil
     where Aaron walks in shadows sprinkling
     blood and bids a new Jerusalem descend.
Endless smoke now rising
Lion become priest
And lamb victim
The world awaits
The unimaginable union
By which the Lion lifts Himself Lamb slain
And, Priest and Victim,
The City

[Artwork by Chris Koelle.]

Rabbit Room Review & Reprise 04/18/14

As I sit here and wait for a truckload of Thomas McKenzie’s book, The Anglican Way, to be delivered, let me recap the week.

well1-51On Monday, Heidi Johnston delivered a post called “The Pursuit of Community,” and it hit close to home for a lot of people, me included.

“Community is part of who we are. In its purest form it is a beautiful reflection of the intimate relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in whose image we are made. We have good reason to hope and long for it. The problem is that the practice of community can be a lot less romantic than the theory. The perfect ideal sits in tension with the fact of our brokenness so that life in relationship rarely works out the way we have pictured it.” Read the entire post here.

aspen-grove-harry-strharskyA couple of years ago at Hutchmoot, we asked for essay submissions. We got a lot of great entries, but Alyssa Ramsey’s stole the show. This week she’s here as a guest contributor with a beautiful post called “Tremble – A Lenten Reflection.” Take a few minutes this Good Friday and check it out.

noah-la-7-11-12I saw Noah on opening weekend and really enjoyed it, but I decided to put off a discussion of the film until the ugly firestorm of controversy died down. This week I posted my thoughts about the movie, and some good discussion has followed. I’d love to hear others’ thoughts as well. It’s definitely a thought-provoking film—and that’s a good thing. I’ll also commend to you this short video that was brought to my attention by Aaron Alford; I think it hits the nail on the head.

Janner 2 bannerYesterday, illustrator Joe Sutphin checked in with a behind-the-scenes look at his work on The Warden and the Wolf King. In the post (“How Andrew and I Introduced Each Other to a Boy Named Janner” —2014 recipient of the Longest Post Title Award), Joe discusses the approach he took to developing the appearance of one of the book’s main characters, Janner Igiby.

The Warden and the Wolf King is being printed as we speak, and it, along with all the other Kickstarter rewards, will be delivered to us here in Nashville in the next week or so. We hope to start shipping them out to all of you before the end of the month! We’ll soon be sending out a Kickstarter survey to collect shipping addresses.

How Andrew and I Introduced Each Other to a Boy Named Janner

[Editor's note: Rejoice, Kickstarter backers! The presses are rolling on The Warden and the Wolf King. We'll send out a Kickstarter survey in the next few days to collect shipping addresses, so keep a close watch on your email.]

Around two years ago, Andrew Peterson and I were just shooting the breeze now and then about a nice illustrated map for the fourth and final chapter of his acclaimed Wingfeather Saga. I was pumped about it and itching to get started, but I was secretly telling my wife Gina, “I wonder if Andrew would let me do some other art as well. Like, for free.”

Well it just so happened, while we were on the phone about this time last year, that he popped the question. And I said, “NO, Andrew! I’m happily married!” Wait . . . that’s not how it went at all. We were discussing the map when he kind of fished around, wondering if I would be up to doing some additional art for the book. It kind of sounded like this:

“Well, I would REALLY love to have the book be heavily illustrated, but we don’t have a budget, or any money at all . . . so I probably can’t pay you much—or anything—but I’m sure we’ll find a way to pay you something, somehow.” [Editor's note: Let the record show that thanks to all the generous Kickstarter backers, we did indeed pay Joe for his hard work.]

I didn’t care about the money. I had no major projects in front of me, and I was worn down from my endless search for work amongst the NY publishing elite. I was ready to just do some real art for once, and this series already had a fantastic fan base. So, I agreed to do some art—for free. We weren’t sure how it would all work out, or turn out, but we were excited to collaborate and make something great, no matter what it took.

Discussing Noah

This isn’t a movie review, I’ll leave that to Thomas, but I do want to talk about my impressions of the film and hopefully start some (civil) discussion. It’s undoubtedly a film that challenges expectations and a lot of the comments and reactions I’ve seen online tell me that there are some who aren’t sure what to do with those challenges. If you ask me what I do when a movie like Noah unsettles me, here’s my answer: think about it (calmly and rationally), and then talk about it (calmly and rationally).

To begin with, let me tell you I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. The script has a few clunky spots and some things work better than others, but overall it’s fascinating and packed with good performances, rich visual storytelling, and complex human characters behaving in often surprising yet understandable ways. Yes, the Nephilim are giant stone “ents.” No, that doesn’t bother me—in fact it really excites me. Yes, the story goes some strange places that aren’t factual. No, that doesn’t bother me either, especially considering that the story remains biblically accurate in its essentials. The film certainly embellishes the tale in imaginative ways, but I consider that a good thing, especially because in doing so it raises some thought-provoking questions. In fact, as I sit here and ponder it, I can think of almost no other “biblical” film that has been this interesting, this thoughtful, or this artful (though that’s more a critique of “biblical” films than it is a praise of Noah).

In order to have a meaningful discussion, I’m going to assume you’ve seen the movie. If you haven’t, or if you’re on the fence, it’s definitely a movie to see in the theater (don’t wait for the DVD). I’ll also say that you should leave young kids at home; this isn’t your Sunday School Noah’s Ark story.

If you don’t want to know the details, now’s your chance to stop reading. As River Song would say: Spoilers!

Tremble – A Lenten Reflection

I love aspen trees. When I was a child, my dad often traveled on business and came home with gifts for us. I have abalone jewelry from New Zealand, traditional clothing from India, and coins and pottery from Guatemala. But one of my favorite keepsakes came from a place much less exotic.

When I was eight or nine, my dad came home from Colorado with an aspen leaf pendant for me and each of my sisters. Nothing flashy, just little rust-colored leaves preserved inside a clear coating and dangling from golden chains.

I had never seen an aspen tree, so the gift didn’t initially hold any particular significance for me. It was pretty, and it was from my father. I liked it.

But it came to mean something altogether different to me when I was 11, and my father took us to the aspens.

The Pursuit of Community

For a generation of British children, growing up in the UK meant there was a good chance that you cut your literary teeth on the writing of Enid Blyton. Amongst her best loved work was an adventure series called “The Secret Seven” and I think it was there that I first learned what it was to lose myself in a story. At the centre of the action was an old garden shed where seven children would perch on upturned flower pots, drink lemonade, solve mysteries, and come up with plans to unmask the latest gang of dastardly villains. The plot lines were not particularly complex but it mattered little, such was the appeal of that band of friends. Long before I found the words to name it, I was pulled in by the sense of belonging and common purpose that bound the children together. So much so that I decided to form my own “Secret Seven.”

The perfect headquarters was already in place. A cellar as thick with dust and cobweb as it was with possibility, accessed by a little wooden door at the side of my grandparents’ house and masked by a wall of tall thick trees.

Somehow I managed to convince six of my classmates to sign up. At the pre-arranged time they stole into my back garden, sneakers tracing a silent path through the long shadows. One by one they knocked on the little door, muttered the secret password and slipped quietly into the underground room.

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