For Advent – Lo He Comes With Clouds Descending

 

Just stop and pay attention to this most splendid of hymns. If you do not know what makes a good hymn, stop and analyze this. Firstly , the poetry is deeply theological, beautiful and moving. Second, the hymn tune matches the words perfectly. It is solemn, majestic and stirring. Third, the hymn and the words are accessible to anyone and singable by all. Fourth, it is full of Christian truth. It catechizes. Fifth, it fits with the liturgy of the day for Advent.

I have come across some traditionalist Catholics who are “purists” and reject hymns because they are “Protestant”. What ignorance! How sad to block out these great contributions to the worship of the Lord. Oh yes, I understand the liturgical purity of the Roman rite and that hymns “intrude” and so forth and so on, but this hymn for Advent, written by one of the sweetest and most talented of Christians–Charles Wesley.

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Falling for Lotso

In Toy Story 3 the boy Andy is ready to go off to college. His room is being tidied and his toys are about to be boxed up and stored in the attic. Then, Mom makes a mistake and Woody, Buzz and the rest of the gang are packed off to a kiddie daycare center called ‘Sunnyside’. Remember– the toys live to be played with and loved by a child, so when they tumble out of the box at Sunnyside everything seems too good to be true. The day care center is a brightly painted wonderland of fun for children. It is crammed full of other happy toys, and best of all– every day this happy home for toys will be full of children to play with them.

A toy dump truck pulls up and Andy’s toys are welcomed by a big, pink teddy bear with a Colonel Sanders voice named Lots o’ Huggin’ or Lotso for short. He bellows out in his jovial voice, “Welcome to Sunnyside!” Lotso explains that they will be happy there all the rest of their days. No more rejection. No more children growing up and packing them into the attic or out for a garage sale. No, indeed. Their dreams have come true. At Sunnyside they will have never ending stream of children to play with them every day.

Before long the dream turns into a nightmare. The children turn out to be violent brats. They don’t play with the toys. They torture them. It gets worse. Lotso is a manipulative tyrant. He’s Lots o’ Huggin’ on the outside, but Lots o’ Thuggery behind the scenes. He and his mediocre cronies rule the place for their own benefit. The toys are locked up at night ‘for their own security.’ So Sunnyside turns out to have a dark side. It’s a prison of the worst kind–a prison where everyone has to be happy all the time.

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The Lakskhi Option

After a week in the priest’s cabin at the Norbertine Monastery of Canonesses in California I can be excused for wishing to hunker down even more than usual. I’m one of those introverts who, when faced with pandemic lockdown, muttered, “So things are going to change?”

The priest’s cabin at the nun’s Bethlehem Priory was one thing, but the way things are going I’m considering the Lakskhi Option. This article from the Daily Mail in London is written at about a first grade level (and that’s an insult to our first graders) but the pictures are good. It features Maxime–the hermit of Lakskhi in Georgia (that would be the country not the state where Flannery O’Connor lived).

Maxime has resurrected the ancient tradition of the stylites by living on a 130 ft high limestone monolith. The site had been abandoned after the Ottoman invasion and during the reign of communism it was impossible for anyone to restore religious life in Russia. But in 1944 a climber got to the top and found the ruins of the 10th century monastery and the skeleton of the last stylite. Archeologists did some work, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that Maxime decided to climb up and re-start the eremitical life there.

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