Mary maligned?

A woman is said to have cried out to Christ ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts which nursed you!’ It’s the kind of sentimental piety we can all do without, and in his reply Christ points beyond it: ‘More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!’ (Luke 11:27f) Not surprisingly, […]

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Some sopranos

Some years ago a friend gave me a CD in which two English sopranos, Emma Kirkby and Evelyn Tubb, sing duets and solos by Monteverdi; the first seven items on it, all in Italian, are secular, and the following seven, in Latin, are sacred. The singing of the former bowled me over at first hearing. Her voice is by no means big, lacking the force which allowed Joan Sutherland […]

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‘Eternal life’

In the Divine Liturgy, shortly before the priest commemorates Christ’s actions at the Last Supper, he quotes some words of his occurring in St John’s Gospel, according to which God gave his only-begotten Son so that anyone who believes in him might not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16). How are we to take the words ‘eternal life’ (Greek zoen aionion)? You […]

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William Gibson

A taste for an edgy kind of cyberpunk fiction may not be an elevated one, but the novels of William Gibson have excited me since I began reading them. This is partly because of the fast pace of the action, appropriately laid out in very short chapters, partly because he writes of damaged and vulnerable characters in the power of intimidating […]

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Our faces

Despite his belief that the things people spoke, thought or dreamed about could betray deeper and often unpleasant realities, Freud is said to have observed that sometimes a cigar was just a cigar. So too, despite the use of the Greek word for face (prosopon) to signify person (see posting of 12 Jan), sometimes it simply means face. The word frequently occurs in the Bible, […]

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Problems with polyphony

It would be easy to make a case that the quality of the music composed in England in the early modern period was as high as that of its literature. Thomas Tallis, William Byrd, Thomas Morley, John Dowland and Orlando Gibbons were very nearly contemporaries, and wrote music as good as that being produced anywhere. I love what they can achieve with […]

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What is a person?

When Orthodox sign themselves they do so with their fingers arranged in a way that commemorates the three persons in one substance of the Trinity and the two natures in one person of Christ. The notion of ‘person’ is obviously basic to the thought of the Church. But what does it mean? A standard definition was given by Boethius, according to whom […]

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Classic Countdown

Last year ABC Classic FM invited its listeners to nominate their ten favourite pieces of music, and a Top Hundred was complied on the basis of the nominations. It was a wonderful experience listening to as much of it as one could, being exposed to things one wouldn’t normally listen to and hearing the extraordinarily disparate voices of people who phoned […]

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Knowing The Truth

‘You shall know the truth’, Jesus is reported to have said, adding that the truth would make his hearers free (John 8:32). One’s first instinct may be to take the truth referred to here as being some teaching that is true, say Christianity. But in the world of the Bible and the Church, ‘knowing’ often has the sense not of intellectual […]

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