for the pipe and the lyre and all the varieties of music which used to delight me at dinner

Wonderful story from The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks by Benedicta Ward:

There once came from the city of Rome a monk who had held a high place in the palace. He lived near the church in Scetis, and had with him a servant to take care of him. The priest of the church saw that he was weak and knew that he was used to comfort: and so he passed on to him whatever the Lord gave to him or to the church. After he had lived in Scetis for twenty-five years, he became well known as a man of prayer who had the spirit of prophecy. One of the great Egyptian monks heard of his reputation and came to see him in the hope that he would find there a more austere way of life. He came into his cell and greeted him; after they had prayed they sat down. But the Egyptian saw he had soft clothing, and a bed of reeds, and a blanket under him, and a little pillow under his head, and clean feet with sandals, and he was inwardly contemptuous. In Scetis they never used to live like this, but practised sterner austerity. But the old Roman, with his gift of prayer and insight, saw that the Egyptian monk was shocked to the core. So he said to his servant: ‘Make us a good meal today, for this abba who has come.’ He cooked the few vegetables that he had, and they ate at the proper hour: he had a little wine because of his weakness, and they drank that. In the evening they said twelve psalms, and went to sleep afterwards; they did the same in the night. In the morning the Egyptian got up and left, and saying, ‘Pray for me,’ he went away, not at all impressed. When he had gone a little way the old Roman wanted to heal his mind, and sent after him and called him back. He said: ‘What is your province?’ He answered, ‘I am an Egyptian.’ He said, ‘Of what city?’ He answered, ‘Of no city, I never lived in a city.’ He said, ‘Before you were a monk, how did you earn your living?’ He answered, ‘I was a herdsman.’ He said to him, ‘Where did you sleep?’ He answered, ‘In the fields.’ He said, ‘Had you a mattress?’ He answered, ‘Why should I have a mattress for sleeping in a field?’ He said, ‘So how did you sleep?’ He replied, ‘On the ground.’ He said, ‘What did you eat when you were in the fields? What wine did you drink?’ He answered, ‘What kind of food and drink do you find in a field?’ He said, ‘How then did you live?’ He answered, ‘I ate dry bread, and salt fish if there was any, and I drank water.’ Then the Roman said, ‘A hard life,’ and he added, ‘Was there a bath on the farm where you worked?’ The Egyptian said, ‘No: I washed in the river, when I wanted to.’ When the hermit had extracted these answers, and knew how the Egyptian lived and worked before he became a monk, he wanted to help him: and so he described his own past life in the world. ‘This wretch in front of you came from the great city of Rome, where I had an important post at the palace in the Emperor’s service.’ When the Egyptian heard this first sentence, he was moved, and began to listen attentively. He went on, ‘So I left Rome, and came into this desert. I, whom you see, had great houses and wealth and I scorned them, and came to this little cell. I, whom you see, had beds decked with gold, with costly coverings: and instead of them God gave me this bed of reeds and this blanket. My clothes were rich and expensive: and instead of them I wear these tatters.’ He went on, ‘I used to spend much money on my dinner table and instead of it He has given me these few vegetables and this little cup of wine. Many servants used to wait upon me, and instead the Lord has given one man alone to look after me. Instead of a bath I dip my feet in a little bowl of water, and I use sandals because of my infirmity. For the pipe and the lyre and all the varieties of music which used to delight me at dinner I say twelve psalms in the day, and twelve psalms in the night. For the sins which once I committed, I now offer this poor and useless service to God in quietness. See then, abba, do not be scornful of my weakness.’ When the Egyptian had listened to him, he came to his senses and said, ‘I am a fool. I came from a hard life of labour to be at rest in the monk’s way of life and now I have what I didn’t have before. But you have come of your own accord to this hard life, and have left the comforts of the world; you came from honour and wealth to loneliness and poverty.’ So he went away with much profit; and he became his friend, and used to go to the old man for his soul’s good, for Arsenius (this was his name) was a man of discernment, and full of the fragrance of the Holy Spirit.

How can the end of the world start in a place like this?

From Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

The authors would like to join the demon Crowley in dedicating this book to the memory of G.K. CHESTERTON. A man who knew what was going on.

Also regarding GKC, in the story, we have this at one point within Crowley’s stream of consciousness thinking:

Who had written that? Chesterton, wasn’t it? The only poet in the twentieth century to even come close to the Truth.

One of the book’s most developed themes is the joy of life found in children and the loss of particular places where children can enjoy the world.

She gave him a helpless look. “It’s hard to describe it,” she said. “Something or someone loves this place. Loves every inch of it so powerfully that it shields and protects it. A deep-down, huge, fierce love. How can anything bad start here? How can the end of the world start in a place like this? This is the kind of town you’d want to raise your kids in. It’s a kids’ paradise.” She smiled weakly. “You should see the local kids. They’re unreal! Right out of the ‘Boy’s Own Paper!’ All scabby knees and ‘brilliant!’ and bulls-eyes—”

…The sun continued to shine. The thrush continued to sing. Dog gave up on his master, and began to stalk a butterfly in the grass by the garden hedge. This was a serious, solid, impassible hedge, of thick and well-trimmed privet, and Adam knew it of old. Beyond it stretched open fields, and wonderful muddy ditches, and unripe fruit, and irate but slow-of-foot owners of fruit trees, and circuses, and streams to dam, and walls and trees just made for climbing.

There’s also a wide variety of wit and humor that ranges all over the map of human experience. For example, this bit about “movements” (to use a Wendell Berry term) versus community:

And he’d given up on ecology when the ecology magazine he’d been subscribing to had shown its readers a plan of a self-sufficient garden, and had drawn the ecological goat tethered within three feet of the ecological beehive. Newt had spent a lot of time at his grandmother’s house in the country and thought he knew something about the habits of both goats and bees, and concluded therefore that the magazine was run by a bunch of bib-overalled maniacs. Besides, it used the word “community” too often; Newt had always suspected that people who regularly used the word “community” were using it in a very specific sense that excluded him and everyone he knew.

entire regions of human interest

E. F. Schumacher, in A Guide for the Perplexed:

In this book, we shall look at the world and try and see it whole. …Mapmaking is an empirical art that employs a high degree of abstraction but nonetheless clings to reality with something akin to self-abandonment. It’s motto, in a sense, is “Accept everything; reject nothing.” If something is there, if it has any kind of existence, if people notice it and are interested in it, it must be indicated on the map, in its proper place.

…Descartes limits his interests to knowledge and ideas that are precise and certain beyond possibility of doubt, because his primary interest is that we become “masters and possessors of nature.” …Descartes broke with tradition, made a clean sweep, and undertook to start afresh, to find out everything for himself.

…From the point of view of philosophical map making, this meant a very great impoverishment: entire regions of human interest, which had engaged the most intense efforts of earlier generations, simply ceased to appear on the maps.

pleasures to which a man had to be acutely and intricately attentive

Wendell Berry in The Hidden Wound. First, about his childhood caretaker and companion, Nick:

Within the confines of those acknowledged facts, he was a man rich in pleasures. They were not large pleasures, they cost little or nothing, often they could not be anticipated, and yet they surrounded him; they were possible at almost any time, or at odd times, or at off times. They were pleasures to which a man had to be acutely and intricately attentive, or he could not have them at all.

…He is yet another master of the customs of necessity, the minute strategies of endurance and of joy.

Next about another such childhood caretaker, Aunt Georgie:

I wanted desperately to share the smug assumptions of my race and class and time that all questions have answers, all problems solutions, all sad stories happy endings. It was good that I should have been tried, that I should have had to contend with Aunt Georgie’s unshakable—and accurate—view that life is perilous, surrounded by mystery, acted upon by powerful forces unknown to us. Much as she troubled me and disturbed my sleep, I cannot regret that she told me, bluntly as it needs to be told, that men and events come to strange and painful ends, not foreseen. …And no doubt because of this very darkness of cosmic horror in her mind, everything in the world that she touched became luminous with its own life. She was always showing you something: a plant, a bloom, a tomato, an egg, an herb, a sprig of spring greens. Suddenly you saw it as she saw it—vivid, useful, free of all the chances against it, a blessing—and it entered shadowless into your mind. I still keep the deepest sense of delight in the memory of the world’s good things held out to me in her black crooked floriferous hands.

alienated from religion and susceptible to mass suggestion

The more highly industrialised the country, the more easily a materialistic philosophy will flourish in it, and the more deadly that philosophy will be. Britain has been highly industrialised longer than any country. And the tendency of unlimited industrialism is to create bodies of men and women—of all classes—detached from tradition, alienated from religion and susceptible to mass suggestion: in other words, a mob. And a mob will be no less a mob if it is well fed, well clothed, well housed, and well disciplined.

T.S. Eliot in Christianity and Culture.

they quite lose this quality

Severals did see the Second Sight when in the Highlands or Isles, yet when transported to live in other Countries, especially in America, they quite lose this Quality, as was told me by a Gentleman who knew some of them in Barbadoes, who did see no Vision there, altho he knew them to be Seers when they lived in the Isles of Scotland.

—Scottish Presbyterian minister and Bible translator Robert Kirk (1644 to 1692) in his short treatise on “The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies” (1691). This passage came from an an extended citation of a letter by Lord Tarbett (Tarbott?) to the Honorable Robert Boyle, Esquire. Reverend Kirk, in addition to being a scholar trained at St. Andrew’s and Edinburgh, a master of Celtic tongues, and the author of the Gaelic Psalter (1684), also possessed the second sight and became the subject of a wild fairy story after his own alleged disappearance at the end of his life.

the strength of the hills is not ours

C.S. Lewis in a letter to Arthur Greeves, 22 June 1930:

Tolkien once remarked to me that the feeling about home must have been quite different in the days when a family had fed on the produce of the same few miles of country for six generations, and that perhaps this was why they saw nymphs in the fountains and dryads in the woods – they were not mistaken for there was in a sense a real (not metaphorical) connection between them and the countryside. What had been earth and air & later corn, and later still bread, really was in them.

We of course who live on a standardised international diet (you may have had Canadian flour, English meat, Scotch oatmeal, African oranges, & Australian wine to day) are really artificial beings and have no connection (save in sentiment) with any place on earth. We are synthetic men, uprooted. The strength of the hills is not ours.

Let us not mock God with metaphor

“Seven Stanzas at Easter” by John Updike (from Telephone Poles and Other Poems):

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

Thou hast broken open the all-devouring belly of Hell and snatched me out

Here are a few of the many hymns from last night with the start of Lazarus Saturday. Toward the end, several of them break into the voice of Lazarus himself or of Hell itself.

Calling Lazarus from the tomb, immediately Thou hast raised him; but Hell below lamented bitterly, and groaning, trembled at Thy power, O Savior.

Calling Lazarus by name, Thou hast broken in pieces the bars of Hell and shaken the power of the enemy; and before Thy Crucifixion, Thou hast made the enemy tremble because of Thee, O only Savior.

O Master, Thou hast come as God to Lazarus, bound captive by Hell, and Thou hast loosed him from his fetters, for all things submit to Thy command, O Mighty Lord.

The palaces of Hell were shaken, when in its depths Lazarus began once more to breathe, straightway restored to life by the sound of Thy voice.

As man, Thou hast shed tears for Lazarus; as God, Thou hast raised him up. Thou hast asked, O Loving Lord: Where is he buried, dead these four days; thus confirming our faith in Thine Incarnation. [Because, Jesus would have to ask “where” only as a human.]

Wishing in Thy love to reveal the meaning of Thy Passion and Thy Cross, Thou hast broken open the belly of Hell that never can be satisfied, and as God Thou hast raised up a man four days dead.

Joining dust to spirit, O Word, by Thy word in the beginning, Thou hast breathed into the clay a living soul. And now, by Thy word, Thou hast raised up Thy friend from corruption and from the depths of the earth.

“Thou hast called me from the lowest depths of Hell, O Savior,” cried Lazarus to Thee when Thou hast set him free from Hell; “and Thou hast raised me from the dead by Thy command.”

“Thou knowest all things, yet hast asked where I was buried. As man by nature, Thou hast wept for me, O Savior, and Thou hast raised me from the dead by Thy command.”

“Thou hast clothed me in a body of clay, O Savior, and breathed life into me, and I beheld Thy light; and Tho hast raised me from the dead by thy command.”

“Thou hast broken open the all-devouring belly of Hell and snatched me out, O Savior, by Thy power; and Thou hast raised me from the dead by Thy command.”

“I implore thee, Lazarus,” said Hell, “Rise up, depart quickly from my bonds and be gone. It is better for me to lament bitterly for the loss of one, rather than of all those whom I swallowed in my hunger.”

Let Bethany sing with us in praise of the miracle, for there the Creator wept for Lazarus in accordance with the law of nature and the flesh. Then, making Martha’s tears to cease and changing Mary’s grief to joy, Christ raised him from the dead.

Shaking the gates and iron bars, Thou hast made Hell tremble at Thy voice. Hell and Death were filled with fear, O Savior, seeing Lazarus their prisoner brought to life by Thy word and rising from the tomb.