All posts by The Koser

What is Law?

In our post-Edenic epoch, two things seem certain regarding Law: we have a hard time defining it, and a harder time following it. Auden does a great job of capturing this seemingly futile business of Law in one of his poems, which I’ve copied below. The final, italicized stanza, inspired by Bonhoeffer’s Ethics and Augustine’s Confessions, is my own.

Law Like Love
By W. C. H. Auden

Law, say the gardeners, is the sun,
Law is the one
All gardeners obey
Tomorrow, yesterday, today.

Law is the wisdom of the old,
The impotent grandfathers shrilly scold;
The grandchildren put out a treble tongue,
Law is the senses of the young.

Law, says the priest with a priestly look,
Expounding to an unpriestly people,
Law is the words in my priestly book,
Law is my pulpit and my steeple.

Law, says the judge as he looks down his nose,
Speaking clearly and most severely,
Law is as I’ve told you before,
Law is as you know I suppose,
Law is but let me explain it once more,
Law is The Law.

Yet law-abiding scholars write:
Law is neither wrong nor right,
Law is only crimes
Punished by places and by times,
Law is the clothes men wear
Anytime, anywhere,
Law is Good morning and Good night.

Others say, Law is our Fate;
Others say, Law is our State;
Others say, others say
Law is no more,
Law has gone away.

And always the loud angry crowd,
Very angry and very loud,
Law is We,
And always the soft idiot softly Me.

If we, dear, know we know no more
Than they about the Law,
If I no more than you
Know what we should and should not do
Except that all agree
Gladly or miserably
That the Law is
And that all know this
If therefore thinking it absurd
To identify Law with some other word,
Unlike so many men
I cannot say Law is again,

No more than they can we suppress
The universal wish to guess
Or slip out of our own position
Into an unconcerned condition.
Although I can at least confine
Your vanity and mine
To stating timidly
A timid similarity,
We shall boast anyway:
Like love I say.

Like love we don’t know where or why,
Like love we can’t compel or fly,
Like love we often weep,
Like love we seldom keep.

******************************

Law, said the Master from the hill,
Was given to break your broken will,
To beckon towards a unity
That now is only found in Me.
So that your darkness yet may shine,
I here unite your will to Mine.
He there assumed my handicap,
And spread his arms to bridge the gap.

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What’s the Use?

In matters of liturgical revision, there’s something to be said for the ordinary thing. If you’re Anglo-Catholic, that something might just be a funny poem.

What’s The Use?
by S.J. Forrest

(transcribed by Father James Siemens, AF. Originally accessed here.)

‘Oh just the usual thing you know; the BCP all through,
Just pure and unadulterated 1662;
A minimum of wise interpolations from the Missal,
The Kyrie in Greek, the proper Collects and Epistles,
The Secret and the Canon and the Dominus Vobiscum,
(Three aves and a salve at the end would amiss come);
To the “militant” and “trudle” there is little need to cling,
But apart from these exceptions, just the ordinary thing.’

high

‘Oh, just the usual thing you know; we’re C of E of course,
But beautify the service from a mediaeval source,
With various processions, and in case you shouldn’t know,
There are tunicled assistants who will tell you where to go;
And should you in bewilderment liturgically falter,
Just make a little circumambulation of the altar.
The blessing, like a bishop, you majestically sing;
But apart from these exceptions, just the ordinary thing.’

‘Oh, just the usual thing you know; but very up to date,
Our basis is the liturgy of 1928,
With lots of local colouring and topical appeal,
And much high-hearted happiness, to make the service real;
Our thoughts on high to sun and sky, to trees and birds and brooks,
Our altar nearly hidden in a library of books;
The Nunc Dimittis, finally “God Save The Queen” we sing;
But, apart from these exceptions, just the ordinary thing.’

new

‘Oh, just the usual thing you know, we trust that you’ll be able
To mingle with the reredos and stand behind the Table;
(For clergymen who celebrate and face the congregation,
Must pass a stringent glamour-test before their ordination!)
Patristic ceremonial; economy of gesture,
Though balanced by a certain superfluity of vesture;
With lots of flanking presbyters all gathered in a ring,
But, apart from these exceptions, just the ordinary thing.’