Monday, October 31, 2011

Church of the Living Dead

(Lack Jackson, TX) – Every Sunday morning Reverend Pat Cooper stands at the entrance of his church and is greeted with groans and moans from his congregation as they come shambling into services.  This might seems like a typical Sunday at any church; except, most of his parishioners are unusual to say the least, and they might more rightly be called “perishioners.”  Pastor Cooper is the pastor of the First Church of the Reanimated Lazarus, which is called by locals "the Church of the Living Dead."

When asked why a church of this nature was need, Pastor Cooper said,  “Ever since the Zombie Apocalypse a few years back, church attendance had been dwindling and most of our congregation had been turned into zombies.  One night, I was reading the Gospels and was inspired by the story of Christ resurrecting Lazarus.  I thought, ‘Heck, Lazarus is like a zombie.’ So that is where the idea first began.  Looking at Lazarus and the current state of the world, I realized that the Gospel was for all people, even the living dead.  Who are we to deny the message of Christ and to discriminate against others for no fault of their own and for the mere fact they no longer have a pulse?”

First Church of the Reanimated Lazarus has been a real learning experience for Pastor Pat.  It has required him to change the make up of ministries and church events offered at the church.  The Tuesday soup kitchen was change to a Tuesday Reattaching-Limbs sewing circle because the perishoners keep trying to eat the homeless.  Candy was not a big draw for the zombies, so the Easter egg hunt in now the Easter Live Critter hunt – which consists of hiding various small, still living, critters around the church property in cages for the perishoners to find and enjoy.

New challenges are certainly there. When asked about the dangers of this endeavor, Pastor Cooper said, “Of course there are dangers.  No one is denying that.  Occasionally, one of the living takes the rank of the unliving, but that is just a price to pay for this great new endeavor.  The early Christians didn’t shy away from the lions’ den; I’m not going to shy away from those who are life-challenged.  Besides, this parish really has been breathing life into the community.  The butcher shops are booming with business.”

Despite the new challenges, Pastor Pat says the average member, living or non, hasn’t changed much.  “The singing is about the same,” says the Pastor.  “ Groanings as before, and groanings now.  The difference is one might now argue that the non-living carry a better tune.  Before the outbreak, most of the congregation dressed wildly inappropriately in clothing that was worn and ill fitting, so the dress of the church hasn’t changed much either.   When I preach from the pulpit, zombie or not, I get the same glazed look of boredom, almost like nothing is going on up here, in the mind.  Lastly, no matter how much I talk or tell them or teach them, neither group has a sense of moral right and wrong.”

Whether this new church will continue or Pastor Pat will come to his demise at the hands of his own perishioners remains to be determined.  In the mean time, Pastor Pat will continue preaching to the living-dead.  If you happen to be in the Lake Jackson area, stop by and say hello to Pastor Cooper.  First time visitors receive a free t-shirt of their choice.  You can choose from shirts that have the the following sayings on the front, “Jesus ’s zombies”; “Lazarus was a zombie”; and “The undead is the new living.”

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Teacher's Dream Answering Machine Greeting

No one is perfect, and obviously this school must have had some real problems to use it for a couple of weeks.  However, something high school isn't only about teaching students, but it is also about training parents.

Angelic Doctor, Scripture, and Homily: A Study

The Summa Theologica is pseudonymous with St. Thomas Aquinas to the extent that it is forgotten that Thomas was a member of the Order of Preachers, and he himself did preach and give homilies.  One of my favorite homilies of Aquinas is his Hic Est Liber (This is the Book).  This homily is a run through sacred scripture and the various books and overall messages of those books.  It is well worth a read, and it is an easy read.  I've decided to teach this homily to my class before diving into scripture.  If you want to follow along, you can read the homily and follow along with the questions.  Answers will appear next week.

  • On what three things is the authority of Scripture Founded?
  • What two ways does Sacred Scripture lead a person to live and which way is taught according to the New Testament and the Old Testament?
  • What are the two principal parts of Scripture?
  •  According to what is Old Testament Divided?  What are the two types of commandments?
  •  What are the Three Subdivisions of Sacred Scripture?
  •  What is the fourth kind of book is mentioned by Jerome?  Why did the Catholic Church adept these books if the authors were in doubt?
  • What are the Two Parts of the Law?  What is the focus of each part?
  • What two things are the prophets herald to do?
  •  What is the threefold divine beneficence that the prophets expose to the people?
  • What, according to Saint Thomas Aquinas is the difference between the Major and Minor Prophets?
  •   How do the following prophets lead: Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel?
  •   In what way might the prophets in the previous question be arranged in a second manner (Include Daniel in the mix.)?  Also, to what New Testament books do these prophetic books correspond?
  •   The third part of the Old Testament is broken up into two ways fathers instruct.  What are those two ways?
  • What are the two ways deeds instruct?
  • What are the four principal virtues?  What Old Testament books do they correspond with?
  • What are the Divisions of the New Testament?
  • What is each of the four gospels chiefly concerned?
  • What is another way we can speak of the four Gospels and what is the symbol of each?
  • The Execution of the power of grace is shown in which three New Testament books (or grouping of books) and what is each books main focus?

Monday, October 24, 2011

All Souls Novena Begins Today

Today begins the Novena leading up to All Souls Day, which is celebrate on November 2.  All Souls day is primarily a day in which Christians remember those who are faithfully departed who may already be in heaven and to pray for the holy souls of purgatory.

All Soul's Novena

O God, the Creater and Redeemer of all the faithful, grant to the souls of thy servants and handmaids departed, the remission of all their sins; that through pious supplications they may obtain the pardon they have always desired. Who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, Ora Pro Nobis

[This is a talk/lesson I gave my students before we went and prayed the rosary together in the chapel as a class last week.]

The Rosary is a simple and beautiful prayer.  Prayer in the singular sense as it is one prayer composed of many smaller prayers.  The rosary as we know it today appeared in the late 12th and early 13 century.  There were similar methods of prayer that existed before then, when Christians would count 150 Our Fathers in place of reciting the 150 Psalms using corded beads or stones.  However, the Rosary as we know it in its most early formulation really does appear out of nowhere.  The story of the origin of the Rosary is that the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Dominic and taught him to pray the rosary and instructed him to preach and pray the Holy Rosary so as to convert the hardened hearts of sinners.

Composed of four groups of mysteries in which we meditate on the Life of Christ, the four mysteries act as a frame in order to draw out attention to what the frame incases.  Just like a picture frame, the frame lets us know that what it contains is important.  It is beautiful.  It is worthy of respect and a place of honor.  So what does the Rosary frame?  The life, death, resurrection, and mysteries of Christ.  The rosary in no way detracts from Jesus.  Instead; it is meant to enhance the image, for a beautiful frame draws our attention to what has been framed and in doing so makes for an even more beautiful image. 
The rosary is a simple prayer.  It is a prayer of prayers.  Composed of the Sign of the Cross, which reminds us of our Baptism; Hail Mary – known as the Angelic Salutation; The Our Father, the prayer Christ taught us; The Doxology or Glory Be, which honors the everlasting nature of the Trinity; the Apostles’ Creed, which is the universal expression of belief of all Christian; and the Hail Holy Queen, which expresses Mary has the Mother of the Prince of Heaven.

The Hail Mary is the most prominent prayer of the rosary and it is composed of 5 parts:

The first part is the words of the Angel Gabriel to Mary: Hail Mary Full of grace the Lord is with thee.  These are heavenly words from the Angel Gabriel, words not of human origin.  In its essence, it expresses Mary’s sinless nature, for Mary has been filled sometime in the past with God’s grace and we know that one cannot have God’s grace dwelling in the soul if one if full of any kind of sin.  Also the salutation of the Angel attests to the fact that Mary, though fully human, has been chosen and was granted the special favor from God to be the mother of God made man.

The second part is the words of Mary’s cousin Elizabeth: Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.  By referring to both Mary and Jesus as ‘blessed’ it can be said that it again attests to both Mary’s and Jesus’ sinless natures as well as the intimate union between mother and Son.

The third part is the divine name of the Son of God: Jesus.  At the heart of the Hail Mary is Jesus.   Jesus is the center and core of the mysteries of Christianity.  No Jesus.  No Rosary.   

The fourth part is when we ask Mary to intercede for us sinners in the name of Mother of God: Holy Mary Mother of God Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.  The title in Greek, Theotokos, is, according to Joslarv Pelikin a title through the ages unique to Mary the mother of Jesus.  The Greek word for Mother of God can more rightly be translated as “God bearer,” and is not a statement about who Mary is but about who Jesus is.  By calling Mary the “mother of God” we are in turn saying that Jesus was fully God and fully man from the moment He was conceived by the Holy Spirit.
The final and fifth part of the Hail Mary is a simple and powerful word “Amen,” which translates into “so be it” or “Let it be.”  Here we affirm what it is we have prayed.  It is the plea of a child to his Father.

Padre Pio, the famous Franciscian mystic who had the wounds of Christ, had the ability to read souls in the confessional, and a famous ability of bi-location (to be in more than one place at the same time) called the rosary his “weapon.”  Drawing on a long history of knights, it became customary for knights to wear their swords on their left hand side, likewise, seen as a weapon, it became customary for monks and religious to wear the rosary on their left side.  As it is a real weapon and the war they fight is not against people who pass away but against principalities.  The Rosary, this is your weapon against the devil.  You would be wise to use it.  Only a fool would not raise a weapon to defend himself when attacked.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What's On My Running Playlist?

 I've been toying with the idea of entering a half marathon. Something I have not  done since I tore cartilage in my hip, and since then it has been a slow road to recovery.  I find myself having to spend more time stretching and warming up and cooling down than I did before the injury some 5 or 6 years ago.  As I get back into training, I do 6 miles several times a week at a leisurely 10:00 min mile.  Far slower than my pre injury time of 8 min mile.  I find myself debating over the usefulness, or lack there of, of listing to music while running.  There is a great debate over the advantages and disadvantages of listening to music while you run. Runner's World has even included a number of articles on the pros and cons of such practices.  Some of the pros include motivation and distraction from the actual process of running.  Some of the cons include danger if running on the street and being distracted form the running process by not listening to your body.

So what am I listening to when I run with music?  This is in the order as found on my iPod.  (All links to songs are on YouTube.)

Ants Marching: Dave Matthews Band (I listen to the Live at Red Rocks version)
Viva la Vida: Coldplay
Through the Fire and the Flames: Dragon Force
Fight for LSU (LSU Fight Song): LSU Tiger Marching Band (I did my undergrad here)
Notre Dame Victory Marcy: ND Marching Band (I did my graduate studies here)
Roll Away Your Sone: Mumford & Sons
Three Little Birds: Bob Marley
Here it Goes Again: OK GO
Cave: Mumford & Sons
Eye of the Tiger: Survivor
One Love/People Get Ready: Bob Marley
Digee Dime: Burlap to Cashmere 
Bounding Round the Room: Phish
Crazy: Gnarls Barkley.

My current Delemma is that I actually run longer than the time of my play list.  So I'll have to add a few songs in the coming days.  If you have any suggestions of good songs to add, please leave a note int he annotations.

I don't recall where I got the images from.  I closed the browser before making note.  None of the images are mine.

Down, Down, and Into the Dark: Evil in the Hobbit [Part 3]

Part III: Smaug, Satan, the Seven Deadly Sins, and His Answer.

Toward the end of the adventure, the reader and travelers encounter the Lucifarian Smaug: the evilest evil, the trickster, most proud, and exemplar of the seven deadly sins.  Smaug is Lucifarian in the most obvious of ways -- first in that he is a dragon.  The dragon, in the literary tradition as well as in the Bible, is always an image of Satan.  So, drawing on biblical illusions, to speak of a dragon in literature is to refer to Satan.  Bilbo is not encountering a mischievous demon as with the goblins. Bilbo is now encountering Evil incarnate. Furthermore, Smaug’s dragon nature, redness and greatness might bring to mind the great red dragon of Revelation 12.  Second, Satan’s angelic state before his fall from grace, Lucifer, means “light bearer.”  Satan was a bringer of light likely part of the choir of seraphim angels, whose name means “burning ones” (Gigot).  This is of note because not only does Smaug bring light in the form of fire from his breath, but Smaug also glows, “a great glow” (215).  That is, Smaug literally is a light bearer.  Where he goes he bears light;  though the light he bears is a warning of the destruction to come.  Third, Satan is often casually referred to as “the bringer of death,” for it was by his persuasion that death entered the world, and is echoed in Tolkien’s Smaug.  The obvious is that Smaug is a destroyer of towns and kingdoms. The red worm describes himself in the terms of a military battlement, and Smaug’s last statement is that his “breath [is] death” (226).  This calls to mind biblical images of the angel of death who is commonly identified as Satan.  Fourth, Smaug, like Satan who is the prince of lies, the great slanderer, the great deceiver, does his best to trick up the noble burglar’s trust in his dwarven companions.  Smaug begins by telling Bilbo that he’ll “come to a bad end, if [he] go[es] with such friends” and ends by recounting a similar situation in which Bilbo finds himself at the moment (224).  Smaug’s “overwhelming personality” implants doubts as to the dwarves’ intentions; but it is Bilbo’s loyalty to his friends that allow him to see through the lies of the dragon (225).

The evil and Lucifarian imagery of Smaug is further developed in that Smaug is a committer and propagator of the seven deadly sins.  In brief, the seven deadly sins are sins that can lead to the death of a Christian’s soul.  These sins are also known as the cardinal sins because every other sin hinges upon these seven.  Though a long historical development, the current list of the seven deadly sins – coming from Pope Gregrory the Great of the sixth century – are greed, lust (luxuary), sloth, envy, pride (hubris), anger (rage), gluttony.

Greed, the desire to have something to excess while ensuring that others have not, is one of the first things the reader learns about dragons.  As Tolkien writes that dragons seek out gold and jewels, yet they “never enjoy a brass ring of it” and can make nothing from their horde of gold (23).  It is a greed that gives way to a compulsion of an excessive knowledge of something that they themselves do not need.  It is greed for the mere sake of depriving others of the beauty found in the dragons’ hordes.  Likening it to a passage in the New Testament, one might recall the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.  The rich man, in all his greed, deprives Lazarus of all monetary assistance to the extent that the rich man is damned to Hell.  St. John Chrysostom, in a series of homilies on wealth and poverty, commented on this passage in which he saw the rich man’s denial to help Lazarus as a form of theft from the beggar (Chrysostom 35-37).  Lazarus’ life was stolen from him due to the greed of a rich man.  Tolkien makes it clear that the dragon is a thief and he steals his treasure from dwarves, elves, and humans, but it is also a theft of hording and depriving the dwarves and humans of what is justly theirs (23).

Lust, known contemporarily as an excessive obsession with sex, sexual thoughts, and sexual desires, was not always associated with sex.  Coming from the Latin luxuria, lust in one of its earlier understanding is an excess of extravagance.  In other words, lust is a sin of possession; it is a desire to possess things not needed and not rightfully one’s own property.  The sin of lust is related to greed in that they are both sins of excess.  An excess of extravagance is something Smaug depicts in a way he himself does not understand, for he has no need for extravagance yet is compelled to seek it.  Smaug has even encrusted himself with jewels of various sorts and seeks to possess extravagant things for no other purpose than possession.  Moreover, the sin of lust, might be further exemplified by calling to mind the lustful of Dante’s “Inferno” who are caught in the strong winds of a hurricane when Smaug says of himself, “my wings a hurricane” (226).  The winds of the hurricane are present in Dante because it makes present the wild lack of self control contained in those who lust.  It is only too clear how Smaug’s lack of self-control leads to his hording and rage, which causes him to destroy towns.

Anger (rage or wrath), the desire to seek out vengeance upon another for a perceived wrong committed against the self, is what leads Smaug to destroy and devour Lake-town.  Tolkien describes the worm’s anger as “the sort of rage that is only seen when rich folk that have more than they can enjoy suddenly lose something that they have long and but have never before used or wanted” (217).  The anger expressed by Smaug combined with his pride leads him to blindly burn the Lonely Mountain, its surroundings, and to attack the people of Lake-town.  It is this temporary madness that will ultimately lead to his demise, but not before being a glutton.

Gluttony, the excessive eating of food, is not one of Smaug’s great down falls, but nonetheless it is a deadly sin he possesses.  Smaug comments to Bilbo, “Let me tell you I ate six ponies last night and I shall catch and eat all the other before long” (224).  It is important to note that a pony is not necessarily a young horse.  A pony is a breed of small horse measuring slightly less than five feet in height when fully grown.  Though consuming six whole adult horses the dragon finds himself wanting to devour more, not for the sake of nourishment, but because he is angry and wants to show how frightful he is to others. 

Sloth, the inordinate laziness that prevents a person from performing good acts, is what Smaug exemplifies when Bilbo finds the worm lazily glowing in the dark.  Smaug is a lazy dragon who has spent many years sleeping on his treasure without emerging from his lair.  In fact, Smaug has slept for such an extensive period of time the people of Lake Town have begun to doubt whether or not a dragon actually dwells under the mountain.  Smaug is so lazy one must wonder how often must a dragon feed.  As it appears that until Smaug devours six ponies of the dwarves he had not emerged from his lair to eat for many years.

Envy (jealousy), the resentment of others for what they have and what one does not to the extent that one desires what it is the other has, is the driving force behind Smaug’s treasure stealing.  In brief, he is envious of the gold of men, elves, and dwarves, and he desired to have it for himself.  It is not a resentment and desire to make useful items for being a superior goldsmith as dragons do nothing with their gold but horde it.  Furthermore, his own envy is what drove him to attack the dwarves of the Lonely Mountain and the men of Dale in order to steal gold. 

Pride (hubris), the viewing of one’s self too highly that faults are ignored, is what leads Smaug to show Bilbo his underbelly.  Smaug, believing himself to be invulnerable, rolls over and in doing so reveals to Bilbo his one weakness  -- “a large patch in the hallow of his left breast” (227).  It is this moment that helps Bard, the captain of the Lake-town guards, in disposing of the flying worm.  It is also Smaug’s pride in his intellect that blinds him into assuming that the men of Lake-town are the driving force behind the dwarven expedition.  Smaug wrongly guesses and is sent off into a fiery rage.

It would be futile to make a poison without providing the reader with the antidote.  Luckily Tolkien gives us such an antidote in the person of Bilbo Baggins.  In the Catholic tradition the seven deadly sins (Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy and Pride) have always been balanced by a virtue.  The pairing of a deadly sin with its counter virtue has always varied as one virtue might serve to counter multiple sins, but there has been some consistency to the pairings over the years.  The seven virtues that counter the seven deadly sins are Chastity, Temperance, Charity/love of neighbor, Diligence, Patience, Kindness, and Humility.  Like the seven deadly sins being present in one character, the seven counter virtues are also found in one character: Bilbo Bagins. 

It is important to know that virtues are formed in the pursuit of something.  If the Virtue of Chastity, the virtue associated with right relationships with others,  is to be acquired, Chastity is not pursued.  Instead, knowledge is to be pursued so that chastity will be formed.  Knowledge leads to the understanding of the proper relationships one is to have with others.  It leads to a correct use and not an abuse of another.  Bilbo exhibits his pursuit of knowledge in his fascinations of maps and languages.

In order for temperance to be had in order to counter gluttony, strength of will is pursued.  Bilbo exhibits his strength of will by pushing through tough times.  Though forced into self denial, Bilbo never turns from the pursuit of strengthening his will.  Greed is overcome by the virtue of Charity.  Charity is formed in the pursuit of Generosity.  Bilbo exhibits his generosity in dealing with the dwarves: giving the dwarves plenty of food, goes beyond what the dwarves ask and what the reader expect.  Where most would have given up and left the dwarves stranded to fend for themselves, Bilbo generously rescues them.

To counter Sloth, the most basic remedy is to get up and do something productive.  In other words, doing the right thing at the right time in a manner of diligence.  Therefore the virtue to counter sloth can be either prudence or diligence.  The virtues of prudence and diligence are formed in the pursuit of ethics.  That is, ethics in seeking out the right action, which incorporates an element of justice into the pursuit of the virtue.  As Bilbo is interested in what is rightly owed to others as seen in his releasing the wrongly imprisoned dwarves by the hands of the Mirkwood elves and in the desire to give the humans and elves their gold back that Smaug had collected of the years.

Countering wrath with peace is perhaps one of the more obvious as to what the antidote to wrath might be.  However, peace is not the virtue contrary to wrath.  Patience is the virtue contrary to the vice of wrath, as only time quenches wrath.  Moreover, patience comes from the Latin pati which means “to suffer.”  Implying that where there is wrath so too will there be suffering.  The virtue of Patience is formed by the pursuit of peace.  The prime example when Bilbo pursues peace is when he gives the Arken Stone to Bard in order to ensure that a battle does not errupt between the men of lake-town, the elves of Mirkwood, and the dwarves of the Lonely Mountain.

Envy (jealously) is countered with the virtue of kindness.  Kindness is formed in the pursuit of Love.  For where envy seeks to take and devour what another had, love seeks what is best for the other and seems not to take what is not one's own.  Bilbo exhibits the pursuit of love in his relationship with the dwarves, which takes the form of a brotherly love.  His love of the shire which urges him to the end of his adventure and the desire to return. 

Finally, pride, sometimes seen as the root of all sin, finds its remedy in the virtue of humility.  Humility, the virtue in which a person takes a modest view of themselves and sees themselves for who they really are, is formed by the pursuit of modesty.  As it appears to be the case, perhaps due to their statue, that modesty is a virtue that comes easily to hobbits – at least Bilbo anyway.  For Bilbo hides the knowledge of his magic ring until he is required to reveal it.  Even once the little hobbit has the ring in his possession, he does not use it without good cause in the story.  Bilbo seems himself never as a hero but only as a hobbit.

In conclusion, Tolkien gives a defined view of evil using the classical theme of darkness.  He draws a line between good and evil using hospitality, or the lack of, as the measuring rod.  Finally Tolkien presents to his readers the self destructive power of evil in the Lucifarian Smaug.  Tolkien does this by primarily appealing to the exterior actions of characters.  The reader knows a character is evil by how they act or fail to act.  In doing so, Tolkien confirms, decades prior, much of the theology of Pope John Paul II in that persons are people of action.  That is, a person becomes what it is they do:  One who steals is a stealer; one who runs is a runner. Therefore the person who does evil – the person who is a perpetual vacuum absent of good which then might be filled by all sorts of evil things – is in turn an evil creature. 

Lastly, being a children’s tale, the didactic novel given to the reader – as all children’s stories have in nature a lesson – is a simple lesson, but a necessary one that should be repeated over and over.  The simple lesson is that evil is real, and it is present not only in the world created by Tolkien, but also in the world in which Tolkien and we too now live.

Chrysostom, John. “On Wealth and Poverty.” Trans. Catherine P. Roth. Crestoow: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1984.
Gigot, Francis. "Seraphim." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 21 Apr. 2011 .
“Goblin.” Shorter Oxford English Dictionlary. Sixth Edition.  2007.

“Murk.” Shorter Oxford English Dictionlary. Sixth Edition.  2007.

New American Bible. Nashville: Catholic Bible Press, 1986

Tolkien, J.R.R. “The Hobbit.” New York: Ballantine Books, 1982.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

How To Become a Famous Catholic Blogger

If you know of another way to become a famous Catholic blogger, leave a annotation.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Nunja Reunion Photo

Nunja information

Nunja Video From the Crescat

Nunja Weaponry from the Curt Jester.

This is the Nunja Reunion photo from last year's Poconos Stealth Silent Retreat last year.

Can you find all 12 Nunja in this photo?

Nunja skills include but are not limited to:

  • Holy Mother Rosary Choke Hold
  • St. Nicholas not Santa Sweeping Backhand Punch (especially effective on heretics).
  • St. Joseph of Cupertino Flying Nunja Kick.
  • Silent Wind of the Spirit Noiseless Entry.
  • Proficent in Nunchucks and Nunjutsu.
  • St. Peter Walk on Water Technique
  • Computer Hacking Skills
  • Being Awesome!

Down, Down, and Into the Dark: Evil in the Hobbit [Part 2]

Down, Down, and into the Dark: [Part 1]

Part II: Darkness and Black

A second theme of The Hobbit, is Tolkien’s concept of descent into darkness.  It is simplistic in that evil dwells in darkness and good dwells in the light.  This concept of darkness no doubt echoes the Christian themes of light and darkness as mentioned in the Gospel of John:

And this is the verdict,
that the light came into the world,
but people preferred darkness to light,
because their works were evil.
For everyone who does wicked things hates the light
and does not come toward the light,
so that his works might not be exposed.
But whoever lives the truth comes to the light,
so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God
(New American Bible, John 3:19-21).

Each encounter with an inhospitable wickedness is often precluded by darkness and, commonly, the descent into a cave or woods.  The first encounter with this theme is when the companions find themselves in want of food at night just after fording a river and losing some stores.  The dwarves find themselves camping in the dark and urging their burglar to go through a “dark mass of trees” that once in the trees the surrounding area is found to be “pitch dark” (33, 34).  Following the literary tradition, by going into the dark the protagonists are sure to encounter trouble.  Trouble is what Bilbo and the dwarves find first in the Trolls.  In the end, the trouble with the Trolls is easily conquered, and does not come across as too menacing and difficult to overcome.  For all that is needed to chases away the dark (evil) is light.  However, with each trip into the darkness, the danger increases and the threat of not emerging from the descent into darkness is intensified.

In the next descent into darkness the Travelers encounter the fearsome goblins.  Before the descent into the goblin caves, the event is preceded by night and a double darkness by the travelers entering a dark cave.  When the goblins find the dwarves, wizard, and hobbit camping on their stoop, the dwarves are immediately taken by the dark creatures into a darker kind of dark, to a place “Deep, deep, dark, such as only goblins . . . can see through” and still adding to the sense of darkness the dwarves are taken farther “down and down” in the mountain (60).  Moreover, the Great Goblin, upon discovering the dwarves’ elven blades, commands in his rage to “take [the dwarves] away to dark holes full of snakes, and never let them see the light again” (64).  Like with the trolls, the party only gains salvation from the goblins’ caves by means of light in various forms: Gandalf’s magic, the glowing elven weaponry, and the sun outside the caves.

While in the Misty Mountains, Bilbo takes his first of several lone descents into darkness.  Already deep, deep, and dark in the misty mountains, Bilbo awakes after being rendered unconscious by a knock on the head and finds that “He could hear nothing, see nothing, and he could feel nothing except the stone of the floor” (68).  Continuing, Bilbo makes his way and “On and on he went, and down and down” until he encounters “a deep dark subterranean lake” which he “did not dare to wade out into the darkness” (70-71).  There “Deep down there by the dark water” Bilbo encounters Gollum.  The text tells the reader that Gollum was called “Gollum” because he was “as dark as darkness” (71).   Layer upon layer of darkness is added to Bilbo's encounter with Gollum to the extent that one must question if the little hobbit will emerge from the very deep dark or if he will be devoured if not by Gollum then by the darkness and lost forever.

After escaping the Goblins, sometime after the party’s entrance into Mirkwood, and before being taken by the spiders in Mirkwood, darkness, as well as its variants, are mentioned no less than ten times, which more than doubles the preceding dark references before encountering evil in the form of trolls, goblins, wargs, and Gollum.  In addition to the numerous references of darkness, the hobbit and dwarves find themselves in a place of darkness similar to the “tunnels of the goblins” (141), which places both the reader and the travelers in a certain mindset in which one half expects the dwarves to be taken again by goblins or creatures of equal malice.

What is quickly evident is that Mirkwood is a place void of light and unfriendly to light of any sort.  Any attempt to produce light by means of fire is quickly thwarted by thousands of “dark-grey and black moths” swarming the travelers (142).  Furthermore, “mirk” is an archaic spelling of the modern “murk” which means “dark” (“murk”).  Combining “mirk” with “wood” one realizes that the travelers are entering into a dark forest.  Mirkwood if filled with dark plants, black bats, black butterflies and even a black river.  With each mention of darkness or blackness, another layer of the impending encounter with evil is heightened so much so that one might assume that the dwarves will soon encounter the most wicked of beasts while traveling in Mirkwood.  Though they do not encounter goblins or Smaug, it is perhaps the most danger the dwarves find themselves in as it is the closet they come to being lost to the lack of hospitable spiders.  The murkiness is further emphasized when Bilbo comes to “a place of dense black shadow ahead of him, black even for that forest, like a patch of midnight that had never been cleared away” (157). 

The apex of darkness happens while encountering Smaug, the travelers find a new kind of darkness in the dragon’s den.  It is a darkness in which Bilbo, for the first time, cannot function without light.  As if Smaug himself has absorbed all sparks and illuminations in the room, and though the worm himself glows, his domain is darkness ever present and all consuming. The dwarves find themselves in an ever-present darkness for many days upon having to enter the tunnel with the secret door leading to the dragon’s lair.  Moreover, the burglar’s feeling that the darkness is growing deeper and deeper while in the tunnel is the foreshadowing of the darkness that is soon to come to Lake-town.  It is also telling that the most evil act in the book, the destruction of an entire town, coincides with the dwarves and Bilbo entering the darkest dark of Smaug’s lair. 

The lesson, too plain and clear to be seen by those who are boring and plain, is that it is only by going through the dark that Bilbo and his companions are exalted.  That is, the darkness and the troubles found in those dark places where wickedness and darkness are intimately joined that to separate darkness from evil in “The Hobbit” would be like trying to separate the moon from the night is the vehicle for growth of virtue: courage, prudence, temperance, and justice.  If at any time Bilbo or the dwarves failed to continue their journey their progress to exaltation and growth of virtue would come to an end, and Bilbo would be great in neither his world or ours.  Though there are set backs and losses in the face of evil, it serves no purpose to simply give up.  For where would Judaism and Christianity be if Abraham had not preserved through his own dark moments and tests.  

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Effects of Original Sin . . . Justin Bieber?

Looking through the review guides I gave to my class for their most recent test, I came across this answer.  I wish I could give this student +10 for this answer.  For all the theologians out there, my student only listed the Spiritual effects.  He listed the bodily effects the next page.

The Evil Apple: Did Adam and Eve Really Eat an Apple?

A student recently asked after reading the temptation and fall of Adam and Eve, “The Bible didn’t say the fruit was an apple.  Why do we say Adam and Eve ate an apple?”

I am always happy to see when a student not only does a careful reading but also thinks about the reading they are given.   In order to answer the student’s question it helps to understand

1.  We do not really know with certainty the kind of fruit Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  I’ve heard it suggested the fruit was a fig or a pomegranate.  Whatever the fruit was, it would have to be tempting on a number of levels: pleasing to the eyes, good for food, and good for gaining knowledge.  Obviously most fruits, at least those found in supermarkets today, can be seen as pleasing to the eyes and good for food, but I’m not sure what earthly fruit is good for gaining knowledge.

2.  The Bible has gone through many translations.  This tradition of Adam and Eve eating an apple did not surface till sometime after St. Jerome translated the Bible into Latin.  This brings us to the tradition of the Apple.  The Latin word for “evil” is “malum.”  The “a” in “malum” is pronounced with a short “a” as the “a” in “multa”  The Latin word for “apple” is “malum” – spelled the same as the Latin word for “evil.”  The differences being in parts of speech one as an adjective and the other a noun and how “malum” (apple) is pronounced.  “Malum” (apple) has a long “a” which is pronounced more like the "a" in "father"

So in short, the reason Adam and Eve are said to have eaten an apple is that it is a play on words in the Latin language that has remained in popular use even to today.  

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