Monthly Archives: September 2006

Speaking of God-haunted….

After John M. Ford’s death, Elise Matthesen (who lived with him) posted copies of “The Declaration”, a ceremony performed by them in front of a whole convention full of people. I’m pretty sure that, canonically, this constitutes a marriage covenant: promise of “till death do us part”, consent, witness of the community. If not, it’s pretty close. (It would seem simpler just to get married in such case, but fans never can do anything like anybody else….)

Anyway, if you scroll down, this posting also included her poem “Response”, which includes some very powerful Crucifixion and Rosary imagery related to Ford’s constant poor health. You might like to read it.

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Amy Welborn on Tap

I just got back from listening to Amy Welborn‘s talk on The Da Vinci Code at the local Theology on Tap. I know I should also go to their stuff when the speaker is not a St. Blog’s parishioner, but… those kids all look so young! :)

Anyway, it’s been a while since I’ve gone downtown after work. Nothing particularly interesting at the Neon Movies, or nothing to do but run books and audiobooks back to the main library for a new supply. But fortified with pulled pork from down at the barbecue place in the old White Tower, I ventured forth to Oregon Express. It is so named because a) it’s in the Oregon District and b) it’s right next to the railroad. Folks had the pleasure of feeling the building shake at regular intervals during the evening (though the soundproofing and piped-in music killed most of the racket of the trains going by). Anyway, not much had changed about the bar since I was last there. It’s got decent beer and makes good pizza. I got a Bass and settled in. I was hoping some of the other area bloggers would come, but if they did, I didn’t see ‘em.

An older lady, a retired teacher, came and sat with me. She was very interested in The Da Vinci Code, from what I gathered; and had been pulling for a Jesus/Mary Magdalene relationship for forty years, which I guess means ever since Jesus Christ Superstar came out.. I did my best to chat with her and encourage her to look into real Church history, primary sources, stuff like that. But I’m not really good at talking to people, much less apologetics. So I just hope I didn’t say anything irreparable….

Then the programming started. Amy gave a good talk. I’d pretty much heard most of her arguments and stories on the blog or in her articles, but it’s always interesting to hear this stuff live. Besides, the real attraction was getting to see a blogosphere acquaintance live and in person. Unfortunately, a lot of other people have described meeting Amy before, so I have to think up something new and interesting. My interesting unknown Amy facts are:

1. She pronounces French very convincingly. (Why, you’d almost think she was Acadian!) :)

2. She does this cute little bob/curtsy/bounce thing every once and a while during her talks.

So how good a speaker is Amy, you ask?

Towards the end of the talk, I managed to inadvertently put my Bass down on the ashtray rim or something similar. The bottle flew off the table onto the floor, and made a nice spill. (Fortunately, not really hitting anyone — but the floor now has a Bass section.) So I went to get a towel, while Amy kept on talking, unruffled, and everyone else kept listening to her. They were fascinated, including the lady at my table.

So, yeah, it was a good talk, and Amy is a pretty good speaker.

During the break after her talk and before the Q & A portion of the evening, I came over to the book table to get my book signed and say hi to Amy. She knew who I was when I introduced myself, which was gratifying. (I’m still not used to living in a community where I’m not the only Maureen anyone knows, and all the other Maureens make me paranoid.) We chatted for a bit, and then a guy interested in The Da Vinci Code came up, and so did the lady who sat at my table.

I am afraid I proved unhelpful to Amy on the apologetics front, however. (Note to self: Implying that ‘Jesus made only men priests because it’s not fair that only women can get pregnant’ is not a convincing argument.)

Then we sang “Happy Birthday” to one of the Theology on Tap regulars, and Amy went back up to do her Q&A’s. Possibly the most entertaining question was the first one, which asked Amy which book was more the product of satanic inspiration: The Da Vinci Code, The Koran, or [book I don't recall]. (I ‘helpfully’ suggested from the audience that the backs of cereal boxes are the real product of evil, though I probably should have said “the instructions on toothpick boxes” instead. And yes, I don’t like to talk, yet I have a big mouth.)

Anyway, Amy answered the question with aplomb and without signing onto anything weird, which is quite an accomplishment with that sort of “have you stopped beating your wife” question.

Alas, Amy and her daughter had to drive alllll the way back to Fort Wayne, so they couldn’t stay long afterward. I bought a book and got out of there myself.

All in all, a pretty nice way to spend an autumn evening.

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An Interesting Project

Btw, when I was visiting Will Shetterly’s blog, it turned out that he’s got a rather interesting project going. Apparently, he’s doing the “translate the Bible without footnotes” thing. He’s translating “Elohim” as gods, and treating Jacob and the angel as a tussle with a minor river god… that sort of thing.

On the one hand, I can understand the lure of translating. OTOH, it seems kinda pointless. There is a translation out there for every day of the year, and the “Distinguished Fantasy Writer Bible” is not something I ever felt a pressing need for. Also, kinda silly to dump tradition, when you need tradition to understand works like the The Tale of Genji, much less a collection of books that start a lot older.

On the gripping hand, though, who am I to discourage folks from weird projects? And if Shetterly is God-haunted enough to translate the flippin’ Bible from scratch, it seems ill-advised to discourage him. He does seem interested in the covenant, which isn’t bad.

It’s just… I worry about people who start out projects without a firm grounding, and of course most folks in fandom (who are likely to read it) don’t have a very firm grounding themselves. It’s like if my mom told me to go get a job, but I had no clue that this implied “Don’t get a job as a prostitute, a hit woman, or an inside trader.” Some people in fandom are like that. (And of course some people in fandom know perfectly well how they’re not supposed to interpret things, and that’s why they interpret things precisely that way.) And some people in fandom are looking so hard for meaning that they’d base their lives on a typo in an obscure short story or poem. So… I wish Shetterly luck, and hope things don’t blow up in his face in some weird way.

All in all, though, this project seems the sort of thing that people more interested in Biblical scholarship than I might be interested in seeing. So here’s a link to The Seeker’s Bible and The Seeker’s New Testament.

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John M. Ford, RIP

John Milo “Mikey” Ford, author of science fiction and fantasy novels, songs, poems, and gaming modules, and game designer, has passed away unexpectedly at his home. He had apparently had health problems for a long time, but still, he was only 49.

May that perpetual light which is brighter than the stars shine upon him.

Among his works:

Novels: Web of Angels, The Princes of the Air, The Dragon Waiting (World Fantasy Award – not my cup of tea, but might be yours), The Scholars of Night (interesting novel about the spy world and Shakespearean scholarship), Growing Up Weightless (a Heinlein-like YA sf novel), Casting Fortune (a Liavek collection), and The Last Hot Time (urban fantasy from an alternate Borderlands). At the time of his death, he was somewhere around chapter 7 of Aspects, which would have been the best fantasy train novel ever, according to Jo Walton. I believe it.

Gaming materials: The Yellow Clearance Black Box Blues (an awardwinning Paranoia roleplaying game module. Including songs), GURPS: Infinite Worlds (cowritten), and Discworld RPG: Adventures on the Back of the Turtle (cowritten).

Star Trek novels: The Final Reflection, the best novel about Klingons ever, and one of the best about games; and How Much for Just the Planet?, the funniest Star Trek novel/musical/film ever, with many fannish injokes and guest stars. (Btw, The Hand of Kahless is a reprint of The Final Reflection bundled with Michael Jan Friedman’s novel Kahless.)

Songs, stories, and poems: many. Perhaps his most enduring work will be “110 Stories”.

Remembrances:

Teresa Nielsen-Hayden gathers most of them.

Will Shetterly also remembers.

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Recognizing Truth

One of our Catholic bloggers is having a crisis of faith right now. (Pray for her, btw.)

There were a lot of sympathetic commenters, of course. But one of those comments seemed not quite true. Every thinking Catholic has a crisis of faith over church practices and doctrine?

Um, I thought crises of faith were when you have the sudden conviction that God doesn’t exist, or that God is evil and hates you. Or you have serious artistic differences with God over how Creation was designed. So I always thought that faith crises = personal problems and arguments with God. Having one over anything else, especially elements of church teaching and practice… why, it just seems so… civilized.

I suppose it’s not, though. Any time that emotion and thought and the soul get all tied up in knots, it’s not going to be pleasant to work through. So I guess intellectually I can understand it, and certainly it’s important to figure out what’s true and what’s not and why. But I just don’t think that way myself, so it’s hard to grasp. (And let me make it perfectly clear to God and everyone that I am not anxious to gain my own personal experiential information about the topic. Noooo, thank you.)

I collect information. As I collect it, I compare it against what I already know. If it doesn’t fit, I consider whether this piece of data or the previous piece was in error, and discard pieces accordingly. If it does fit, I slot it away and don’t worry about it. If I can’t figure out whether it fits or not, I let the piece sit and wait for other pieces of applicable data to come along. But most of the consideration takes place on an intuitive level; I only have to think consciously about things flagged as contradictory. It’s more of a pattern recognition process than inductive and deductive reasoning. (Though reasoning is useful for figuring out what’s wrong about a wrong thing.)

So it’s not that I don’t study theology. Heck, I study science, too. But either I think a theory is true, I think it’s mistaken, or I think I don’t know. I don’t spend a lot of emotional energy on the matter. I’m pretty sure that all the stuff the Church officially teaches is true, because that worked out early on and has continued to fit the data; and I’m pretty sure that the theory of why the sky is blue is right, and for the same reason. Working out the beautiful consequences of a theological concept or the refraction of light through the atmosphere — that’s much more fun to contemplate.(OTOH, the existence and propagation of wrong information tends to make me angry. I’m not saying that bad data is morally as well as factually wrong, but it sure feels that way!)

But I suppose that the lack of argumentation and angst in my head is why I’m really abysmal at explaining the faith to people. I can tell them the facts, but in the back of my head, I expect them just to recognize those facts as true and act accordingly. (Which just ain’t gonna happen, in the general run of things.) Meanwhile, folks who’ve angsted over every theological and doctrinal detail, instead of just sucking ‘em in, can recap their own arguments with themselves for other people.

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Things to Enjoy in Early Fall

That sunset I just saw out my window. An intense flaming red all over the sky. (I ought to get that digital camera running again, I guess.)

Malted milk powder in hot milk is a pretty good recommendation in itself. But if you go and get Horlick’s Elaichi (cardamom) flavor at your local Indian grocer… mmm. Perfect for fall weather as well as bedtime. And the Elaichi flavored kind is orange! (Btw, the main Horlick’s website definitely has that J.K. Rowling vibe.)

Hot cider. Especially if you add some mulling spices. Hot wine, also, of course. (Microwaves are such a blessing….)

Horseland, 11:30 (EST) on Saturday morning, CBS. Yup, it’s a gimme for those of us who like horses. There is show jumping. There are palatial pastures. There are sage pieces of advice about horses and morals of the story. There is a collie named Shep, who talks to the other animals in a Sean Connery accent, and an arrogant Persian cat named Angora. (Yes, I’m shallow and easily amused.) So despite the fact that the little girls all have hugely long big hair, like unto the Trollz and Bratz, and that said hair never seems to disappear up under their riding helmets as in real life, and despite the presence of purple and green highlights in the horses’ manes and tails (ew!), I think it’s a pretty positive show. The writers seem to be the usual DiC suspects, but that’s a good crop of writers. And today’s episode by Martha Moran was indeed touching.

The idea that young humans must take responsibility for their own actions (and their horses’) is a strong message which today’s kids need. (And hey, riding gear means those girls are fully clothed!)

P.C. Hodgell, To Ride a Rathorn. Very good, very spooky, and very foreboding about what will happen next to Jame and the Kencyr. A very worthy 3rd/4th book in the series.

Anon., Fatherless Fanny; or a Young Lady’s First Entrance into Life: Being the Memoirs of a Little Mendicant and Her Benefactors.

I can’t express how delighted I’ve been with this novel so far. Originally published in 1811, but continually reissued and altered by various publishers thereafter, I can see why this novel went through so many editions. You would think, from the title, that this would be primarily a depressing sort of problem novel. Not so far. Instead, it seems to be part of the same reaction against Gothic from Gothic fans that Jane Austen later joined — putting the more bizarre situations into modern English terms, and then having a little fun with it. I would not doubt that Georgette Heyer read this novel at some point (and Thackeray did mention it in Vanity Fair).
Take, for instance, Chapter 1: The Seminary. It begins:

“In one of those polite seminaries devoted to female instruction, with which the environs of London abound, lived Miss Bridewell, whose despotic sway within the limits of her own jurisdiction was certainly equal to that of the most potent monarch in the civilized world, not excepting the great Napoleon himself.”

Heyeresque, ne? But here’s a choice bit from Chapter 2:

Lord Ellincourt, like most men of fashion, had many favourites amongst the fair sex, but few upon whose fidelity he could place much reliance. One exception, however, he had long been in possession of, who although a female, had never for an instant broken her faith. Some of his favourites received his lordship according to the state of his finances, and smiled or frowned in proportion to the golden shower that fell into their laps from his bounty; but his little Fan was invariable in the display of her affection, and lavished her caresses upon her beloved lord without considering whether he had had a run of good or ill luck. His lordship was not ungrateful, and his regard for Fan was quite equal to the affection she felt for him, nor did he ever think himself happy when she was not by his side. Whithersoever he went, his faithful friend went with him, and even partook of his bed-room: but lest I should be supposed to be a retailer of scandalous anecdotes, I must beg leave in this place, to inform my readers that poor Fan was a four-footed lady, and therefore the intimacy that subsisted between her and Lord Ellincourt could reflect no disgrace on either party.

His dog, in fact. I know, I’m easily amused, but…. Hee!

So go treat yourself to a Regency romance novel written in the Regency! What are you waiting for? It’s free!

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The Woman Who Sold the Moon

Anousheh Ansari, one of the X-Prize Ansaris, is about to head out for space. (12:09 in the very early morning, Eastern Daylight Time.) She will become the first private industry female astronaut, the first businesswoman in space, the first Muslim woman in space, and the first Shi’ite Muslim in space at all. Not to mention a ton of other firsts. (I predict a lot of girls in the Old Country are going to be named Anousheh now. And I bet the mullahs are feeling pretty sorry that they drove her family out of Iran.)

Considering that the X-Prize might not exist if she hadn’t persuaded the other Ansaris to found their own business, and considering that she donated a huge chunk of her own money to found the X-Prize, I don’t see how anyone could say she hasn’t earned this trip.

So here’s to clear skies at Baikonur, an uneventful stay on the space station, and a safe landing!

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Who Will Prove Me Wrong?

Interesting readings at Mass today!

The first one’s from Isaiah 50. Right before the reading we use for Mass, it says, “The Lord has given me a learned tongue, that I should know how to uphold by word him who is weary.”

Anyway, the reading was Isaiah 50: 5-9. Yup, buffets and spitting. But beyond that:

My vindicator is here at hand.

Does anyone start proceedings against me?
Then let us go to court together.
Who thinks he has a case against me?
Let him approach me.
The Lord is my help,
who will dare to condemn me?

Or, amusingly, in the translation at Mass today, “Who will prove me wrong?”

The psalm was 114, and the second reading was the James bit about faith and works. But then the Gospel passage was Mark 8: 27-35 — “Who do you say that I Am?”

Well, that seems to be the whole question the Pope was trying to answer. And some people didn’t like his answer at all. :)

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Artemis Fowl and the Lost Colony

The latest Artemis Fowl book is a return to Eoin Colfer’s usual outrageous plotting. This book is a lot faster read than the previous book, The Opal Deception, but that’s a good thing. The last book suffered from having a really ingenious plot by the baddies, while the good guys tended to react rather than plan. This book doesn’t have that problem.

We have a really ingenious plan, a lot of fun plot and counterplot, nothing too wrenching, and yet, a definite avoidance of the reset button provided by memory wipe technology and some of the magic used. (Okay, so there is one reset button, but it’s part of the plot. You won’t be annoyed, especially since it doesn’t reset all the way.) Since children’s fantasy routinely reaches for the button marked “It never really happened”, this is a good thing.
Probably the most amusing part of this book is laid out in the first few pages. It seems that juvenile mastermind Artemis Fowl is finally being forced to take puberty’s calls. This leads to some unforcedly funny moments as Fowl deals with being attracted to pretty girls at moments which are not timely for him. His attitude towards this is resigned rather than rebellious, which makes it even funnier.

Also, it’s still fun to work out the cipher message at the bottom of the page. (I’ve been saddened to learn that most kids don’t bother to do this. Sigh.)

However, Eoin Colfer has obviously not got the bit of marketing sense (or brains God gave a goose) called ‘tact’. The Lost Colony, in this book,¬† of the lost Eighth Tribe of the Fairy Folk, is made up of people called Demons. Now, I ask you. If you’ve got people running around who are not intrinsically evil, and the only thing remotely demonic about ‘em is that they have horns and tails, and you write children’s fantasy that you want to sell to libraries, why would you insist on calling them Demons? And why in the world would your publishers let you?

*smack head into wall*

So if you’re wondering why the latest Artemis Fowl book isn’t getting marketed like the last one — I think you know now.

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Mary, the Root of Jesse

The Patristic images and typology of Mary are startling, sometimes. I’m still grappling with Mary as the Ark of the Covenant, bearing the Word within her. But the Fathers go on to point out that she’s also the stone tablets on which the Law was written, Aaron’s flowering staff, and the manna. (It also points up that if, in the Old Testament, you stake something out for God’s use, it stays sacred and for God’s exclusive use.)

And then there’s Mary as the Burning Bush, containing within her the Flame but not being burned.

So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to see the Fathers mess with my mind again, as they pointed out that Mary is the root of Jesse, and Jesus the flower that springs from it. I mean, yes, I knew Mary was of the House of David. But with the fun Biblical tendency to equate genealogical heritage of a person with the person — well, she is Jesus’ human¬† genealogy, in a way.

Somehow, this never came up as a type in CCD class. But it’d be cool to illustrate — you draw Mary with the Jesse tree on her clothes, right over her womb! Wouldn’t that be neat!?

(Also, if Jesus, the Lion of Judah, is “a lion’s whelp”, that not only brings in the Aslan and apocrypha desert story imagery, but allows you to get the image of Mary as a lioness! Maybe it’s a good thing I can’t draw, because I’d go wild on the symbolism…sorta like Holy Whapping’s Matthew, but without the good taste….) :)

Typology and Biblical imagery is fun stuff to play with. Man, those Fathers really knew how to play.

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2996: Brian E. Martineau

Brian E. Martineau

On September 11, 2001, Brian E. Martineau was 37 years old.

Mr. Martineau was born in Edison, New Jersey, the birthplace of recorded sound. He had at least one sibling, his sister Tara. He attended Benjamin Franklin Elementary School. (I still don’t know his middle school, but Telecaster7 says that he went to J.P. Stevens High School with him; they were both in the Class of 1982.) He got his degree from Rutgers in 1988, and married his wife Bettyann on October 20, 1991. His daughter came along a couple of years later; his son, four years after that.

He was Catholic (or at least he had a Catholic funeral). So he was a member of the Body of Christ.

In high school, he’d had a band named Grand Messenger. As an adult, he had a collection of 5000 CDs. He loved classic rock, especially underground English bands. But he would put Britney Spears on the stereo whenever his daughter asked him.

He was fun-loving and genial. He liked to host parties, and he liked to cook.

But he was not one to conceal his opinions. From a high school friend:

I think I’ll always remember Brian for his very open opinions, speaking his mind, and most of all for his wonderful friendship. He was an excellent listener, and whether you wanted to hear it or not, he would open your eyes to the raw truth.

His field was insurance. He worked at Horizon Blue Cross/Blue Shield for a while. Here’s a quote from a client:

Precious few people have ever made such a strong, lasting impression on me. Brian’s competence in his trade, combined with his warm, jovial demeanor, truly made him special. I often told the account managers at Horizon that, if I ever need to get something done, I’m calling Brian. Brian was a “yes, we can do that” kind of guy, and he could.

And from a colleague:

I worked with Brian for years at Blue Cross. It is so true — there was never a day he wasn’t laughing or joking about something. What positive energy he had! I remember when I was promoted to Director — Brian was one of the first to congratulate me. He was just that kind of guy. He was sweet and he was gentle. And he loved life and his family.

From another old colleague:

I miss our calls and e-mails and the “only being cynical” attitude we had…
Can’t help remember all of the times the old “National” gang took road trips for lunch and you give your precise instructions.

You were one of the nicest “bosses” and friends I had.

Brian Martineau then came to work for Aon as a benefits consultant. This job was one in which people depended on him for prompt answers and help, and he did his best to do that. From a long distance colleague:

I worked with Brian for just a short time on our employee account. He gave this Nebraska farm girl a tough time and thought it would be great fun to get me to “the city”. During an illness that took me away from my office, Brian kept in touch with me by phone and his first questions were always about how “Miss Jill” was. I… am forever grateful to God that I had the pleasure of knowing him. It didn’t take long for Brian to make you a friend.

From another long distance colleague:

I miss our daily conversations (several times a day) on the large account we both shared. Although I never met you, I felt like I knew you forever. You always put a smile on my face and the laughter we shared was wonderful.

And from a colleague who also worked at Aon:

….his jokes, bluntness, and “get what he wants” attitude. Brian was literally “a meat and potatoes” kind of guy – we would go out to lunch and if anything looked “strange” to him – he would not touch it. I remember the last time we all went to lunch; it was right before his vacation in August with his family to the shore in NJ. He gave the waitress an extra hard time (humorously though) so we left her an extra tip… Thank you, Brian, for teaching me all that you did about employee benefits in the short time you were at Aon. You are a great person: funny, serious, bold, admirable, great underwriter, great daddy and husband.

Working at the World Trade Center on the 101st floor of the South Tower entailed working in and commuting to New York, which was a first for him. But he still got home before his wife, and so he cooked dinner for her.

Before he went to bed at night, he would always kiss his two children, even though they were asleep and didn’t know.

After a plane hit the North Tower, he called his wife to tell her he was leaving.

Sources used for this memorial article were many, but all are widely available on the Internet. The best source are his memorials in Newsday and the New York Times (published October 13, 2001) which was written from interviews with his family. There were also many condolence registers on the Web which provided me with information, but Legacy.com provided me with the most information. For more information, you may wish to visit a tribute by one of his wife’s friends. It includes several pictures and a song.

I hope that Mr. Martineau’s family and friends do not regard this writeup as intrusive; it was not intended to be. At college, I worked in an archive, and it was part of my job to create a portrait of a person from their papers. Here, all I had were other people’s reminiscences. I regarded this task as part of our duty to honor and remember our fallen, which is what the 2996 Project is about.

From what I’ve learned, I wish I could have met him.

I will finish with this:

Brian Martineau,
I will never know
The man behind your name.

But I know this:
You had a wife to kiss
And children, and you came

Home every night
Far from the light
Of that city of towers,

And made the meal.
No death can steal
Those ordinary hours.

All our days are numbered.
But you spent yours well,
Music, wisecracks, laughter –
So your friends all tell.
I am sure you faltered,
Sinned a time or two.
But pray for me, Brian Martineau,
And I will pray for you.

Brian Martineau,
I will never know
The man behind your name.

But I know this:
That you are missed –
And that’s worth more than fame.

(This post is part of The 2,996 Project, honoring individually every victim of September 11th. I will not post anything more until September 12th.)

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Holy Sonnet VI by John Donne

This is my play’s last scene ; here heavens appoint
My pilgrimage’s last mile ; and my race
Idly, yet quickly run, hath this last pace ;
My span’s last inch, my minute’s latest point ;
And gluttonous Death will instantly unjoint
My body and soul, and I shall sleep a space ;
But my ever-waking part shall see that face,
Whose fear already shakes my every joint.
Then, as my soul to heaven her first seat takes flight,
And earth-born body in the earth shall dwell,
So fall my sins, that all may have their right,
To where they’re bred and would press me to hell.
Impute me righteous, thus purged of evil,
For thus I leave the world, the flesh, the devil.

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“God’s Building, Nobly Wrought”

And thus employed, they fell below
The sway of man’s perfidious foe:
Plunged in the smoky sheer abyss
They sank bereft of their true bliss.

But that sore plight of ruined man
Christ’s pity could not lightly scan:
Nor let God’s building nobly wrought
Ingloriously be brought to nought.

He wrapped Him in our fleshly guise,
That from the tomb He might arise,
And man released from death’s grim snare
Home to His Father’s bosom bear.

This is from Prudentius’ “Hymn for Christmas Day”, and is not taken at all in context. But the smoke and the buildings made this seem like a good quote for the victims. The image of people as buildings is not uncommon in early Christian literature. (Once you call ordinary Christians ‘temples’, the metaphor is open for use.)

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From St. Gregory the Great’s Moralia

Blessed Job, though aimed at for death in his temptation, gained growth unto life by the stroke. And our old enemy grieved to find that he had only multiplied his excellences by the very means, by which he had thought to do away with them… for one that is evil can never believe goodness to exist, though proved by his experience.

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