Tag Archives: love
I love old movies – particularly, the great comedies, with Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd.
One comic – probably the most famous and iconic of all – sadly, however, leaves me cold…..
I find Charlie Chaplin totally unfunny, maudlin, and over-rated.
Having said that, one of the greatest movie speeches ever was delivered by him in the talkie “The Great Dictator”. Here are a few lines from it:
“And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed.
“Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little.
“More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.“
These words are filled with a passion for humanity, with a compassion for people, with a love for folk, especially the downtrodden, the abused, the trampled upon.
Chaplin is better known for his portrayal of the “little tramp” and, I’m sorry, I find him in that persona as amusing as heartburn coupled with raging toothache!
In his film, “City Lights”, he plays someone – the “tramp” character – who brings grace, love, salvation and hope into two people’s lives….to both a poor blind girl and a rich man.
Chaplin befriends the prosperous gentleman who had tried to do away with himself when drunk, In gratitude for saving his life, the rich man takes the little tramp home with him for dinner, and gives him money….. something he forgets about, when he sobers up…. accusing Chaplin of having stolen the money.
Chaplin escapes, and manages to get the money into the hands of a poor blind girl for an operation she desperately needs to restore her sight. Then, he is arrested and imprisoned.
The blind girl had imagined that the person who had given her the cash must have been a handsome, wealthy young man.
But on his release from prison, she – now able to see – doesn’t recognise him, and in fact makes fun of him, shabby and unkempt as he is.
Only in the final scene of the film does she discover that the shabby little tramp was her benefactor.
Love comes in all kinds of different packages. Love comes in all kinds of different shapes, colour, people and situations.
And how, so often, we fail to recognise it.
St Paul, of course, describes it (in 1 Corinthians 13) as the most powerful force in the universe. The most potent weapon for good and for God in the world.
And yet, how often are we blind to it?
As Chaplin says, in “The Great Dictator”, “Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little”
Without love, we are nothing, we are empty, we are intoxicated by our self-centred greed and quest for personal gratification.
Without love, without love, without love….. welcome to this dark world in which we are lost.
During the terrible days of the Blitz, a father, holding his small son by the hand, ran from a building that had been struck by a bomb. In the front yard was a shell hole. Seeking shelter as quickly as possible, the father jumped into the hole and held up his arms for his son to follow. Terrified, yet hearing his father’s voice telling him to jump, the boy replied, “I can’t see you!”
The father, looking up against the sky tinted red by the burning buildings, called to the silhouette of his son, “But I can see you. Jump!”
And he did.
Dare we take the leap of faith, when we love others? Dare we make ourselves vulnerable, naked, open to ridicule… when we give and go on giving the gift that conquers all?
Dare we follow Christ’s command to love our neighbour as ourselves?
Dare we?…. and so help usher in the Kingdom about which we fervently pray, but do so very little to bring about in the hearts and souls of those still walking in darkness.
St Valentine’s remains and Glasgow: City of Love
by RAY PHILP
Published on the
2014. The Scotsman newspaper
BLESSED John Duns Scotus is a low-lying building on an arterial route through the Gorbals in Glasgow.
Transit vans, HGVs and hurried commuters drive by it every day without giving it much thought. It makes little impression on pedestrians who walk past its dark, spittle-beaten brown brick walls. On a clear day, and with your head up, some modestly decorated figures in prayer – some are painted white, others wear a coat of pale peach or sapphire blue – can be seen in the corner of the church courtyard. Above a white delivery van parked nearby, a familiar figure is pinned to a crucifix. His claret-stained feet are at head-height.
The Ballater Street friary is neither grand nor imposing, but within its walls is something no other place of worship in Scotland has, and is responsible for Glasgow’s informal title as the City of Love. Beyond the church entrance on the left hand side of the light, wood-panelled interior is an ornate 3ft-wide chest – known as a reliquary – gilded with the words ‘Corpus Valentini Martyris’. Inside the reliquary, shielded from the public by a thick glass pane, are some of the remains of one St Valentine. In the week leading up to the 14th, a statuette of the saint is placed beside the relic and decorated with red roses. Men have been known to propose to their girlfriends on St Valentine’s Day next to the reliquary. Special services are held to acknowledge those in love; prayers are also said for those still seeking it. Blessed John Duns Scotus becomes “hectic” on the 14th.
“They have done so, yes,” says Rev Edmund Highton of the impromptu marriage proposals at the church, “I’ve seen it happen while I’ve been here. They just come in, and you see one of them get down on the knee, and so on.”
The values that St Valentine ostensibly stands for – romance, companionship, true love – are held in high esteem by the church; the saint himself is another matter. Ask most people on the street what they know about St Valentine, and they’ll likely reel off a list of gifts they’ve given or received in mid-February; they’ll maybe shrug when pressed further. Father Edmund’s shrug is quite audible when I ask him about St Valentine.
“It’s not an important one for me. That’s just a matter of history. We’ve got these relics, people come in, and they have a devotion. They see it as a focus for themselves, that’s all. St Valentine was a martyr saint who gave witness to his faith, that’s all I’m interested in. That’s good.”
Blessed St Johns Scotus, according to Rev Antony Collins, has the forearm of St Valentine. The rest of him is housed across Europe: in Rome, the skull of St Valentine is on display in the Basilica of Santa Maria. Other remains can be found at Whitefriars Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland and at the Birmingham Oratory. France, Malta and the Czech Republic reportedly own reliquaries of St Valentine as well.
Remains spread throughout the world
This diffusion of reliquaries – a ‘spreading of the love’, if you will – is the combined result of historic gift-giving between church officials and periodic exhumation of St Valentine. The business of identifying the saint is a tricky one, made all the more complicated by the fact that he may be at least two different people. On the one hand, records say he was a third century Bishop of Terni imprisoned, tortured and beheaded at Via Flaminia near Rome on the orders of a Roman prefect, Placid Furius; a later, more popular hagiography has it that Valentine of Rome, a priest or bishop in the city, was also martyred by Emperor Claudius the Goth at Via Flaminia (some scholars argue that these two accounts are overlapping fragments of the same story). According to the Nuremberg Chronicle (a late 15th century tome which took the bible and the oral tradition as inspiration rather than historical fact) the latter Valentine restored the sight of his jailer’s daughter while imprisoned for giving aid to Christians. Other, later versions of the story attempt to link Valentine with acts of passion or romance, but the truth of these accounts is questionable at best.
A pagan festival pre-dating Christianity called Lupercalia, celebrated over three days in mid-February (and during what is now Valentine’s Day), has a far more explicit connection with the early romantic tropes of Valentine’s Day. The ritual required two young men to skin a goat and a dog, and make whips out of the hide to strike the bottoms of girls in order to make them fertile. Lupercalia was later appropriated by Pope Gelasius in AD 494 when he declared February 14 to be a Christian feast day. David Jasper, a literature and theology professor at Glasgow University, says this may go some way to explaining how Valentine’s Day came about.
He says the celebration of Valentine’s Day was “purely pagan. The connection with the Christian Valentine was completely false.”
“In the Dictionary of Christianity, it doesn’t even mention St Valentine at all. The commemorations of the two Valentines was always February 14, and what tends to happen is you get the confusion where if you get a pagan festival at around the same time as a Christian festival then the two become conflated with one another – they don’t have to have anything to do with one another. The two Valentines, who were martyrs, and that wasn’t unusual in the third century, I think it just happened. It was happenstance that their festival was February 14.”
The ultimate responsibility for the Valentine’s Day now celebrated with a deluge of flowers, cards and chocolates between the sexes falls on English author Geoffrey Chaucer. Sometime around 1382, Chaucer wrote Parliament of Foules. The poem was the first piece of literature to connect St Valentine with romantic love, and from there the idea took hold, however slowly, to the extent that William Shakespeare referenced St Valentine’s Day in Ophelia a little over 200 years later. By the 18th century, love notes written on paper and lace became popular in England, and once a cheap means of mass production was thought up – Esther Howland of Worcester, Massachusetts began producing cards in 1847. The rest, as some might say, is a very commercialised history.
The reliquary containing the forearm of St Valentine arrived in Glasgow via a donation from a wealthy French Catholic family in 1868. It was kept in St Francis for over a century before being transferred to its current home in 1993. Though the remains are given a prominent position at the front of the church, it’s also easy to walk right straight past them. St Valentine’s Day, after all, only happens once a year.
“For most of us, he’s one of the saints like any other,” says Father Antony. “It’s based on the faith of the people. Some people come around this time of year [but] we don’t advertise it, really.”
The church’s reluctance to promote St Valentine, perhaps, stems from the fact that no-one really knows anything about him with great certainty. The Roman Catholic Church removed St Valentine from the General Calendar, a liturgical calendar indicating the dates of saints to be celebrated, in 1969. St Valentine is destined to remain a mystery.
“I feel sometimes that, even with Jesus Christ, you get descriptions and what have you, but you don’t get the photographic evidence required today”, laments Father Antony, “and what happens? Not so long ago the Shroud of Turin somehow appears. You might say that all the information that people would want today was there the whole time.
“It’s one of those puzzles – but life is a puzzle, isn’t it?”
by Sheldon C. Good | December 2013
A movement is underway to free people of faith from the yoke of Christmas consumerism.
CHRISTMAS, ON THE surface, looks like the most wonderful time of year—the season of love, lights, carols, candles, and family reunions, the time when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Look a bit deeper, though, and one might notice a more idolatrous narrative shining just as brightly: consumerism.
Circle of Protection for a Moral Budget
A pledge by church leaders from diverse theological and political beliefs who have come together to form a Circle of Protection around programs that serve the most vulnerable in our nation and around the world.
From Black Friday to New Year’s Day, we are inundated with the commercial demands of Christmas. For many, the list of things to do and gifts to purchase can seem endless. We buy into the mantra that the more money we spend, the more love we convey. We become lost in crowded stores, endless websites, and credit card debt. Christians often struggle to faithfully observe Advent, a time of waiting and preparation for the miraculous birth of Jesus.
While many of us purchase this spurious version of Christmas, a new movement has been born. It’s called Advent Conspiracy (AC), and its participants are seeking to turn Christmas upside down by exchanging consumption for compassion.
“Advent Conspiracy is not a four-point checklist on how to do Christmas. If anything, it’s a chance for us to rediscover the wonder and the mystery of the incarnation and what that means to us personally and what that might mean for the world,” said Greg Holder, lead pastor of The Crossing church in the St. Louis area.
In 2006 Holder and two clergy friends—Rick McKinley, lead pastor of Imago Dei Community in Portland, Ore., and Chris Seay, pastor and lead elder of Ecclesia Church in Houston—realized that they and their parishioners “were getting through the season with no sense of joy or celebration, with almost a sense of survival.” In response, the three pastors formed Advent Conspiracy to help people turn away from the hyper-consumerism of Christmas.
AC’S CORE tenets are quite basic: Worship fully, spend less, give more, and love all. When lived out, however, these principles have subversive power to not only turn Christmas upside down but to transform lives.
WORSHIP FULLY. This principle distinguishes AC from other people speaking out against consumerism.
“How we worship and whom we worship begins to shape us as people,” Holder said. “We worship Jesus as King; we make no apologies for that. Christmas is the story of a king entering into our world and our story, calling us to a different way. We’re spending billions of dollars worshiping this king? I don’t think so.”
SPEND LESS. U.S. Americans spent $579 billion from November to December 2012, according to the National Retail Federation. AC pushes back by inviting people to spend less.
In Advent Conspiracy: Can Christmas Still Change the World?—a book and DVD produced by the founders of AC—“radical consumerism” is cited as the fastest growing religion in the world, promising “transcendence, power, pleasure, and fulfillment even as it demands complete devotion.”
“Part of saying ‘yes’ to Jesus is that we say ‘no’ to overspending and to overconsumption,” Holder said. “We don’t say ‘spend nothing,’ but ‘spend less.’”
GIVE MORE. In response to spending less, AC encourages people to give more—not just monetarily, but relationally. The most meaningful gifts, AC organizers suggest, often involve spending time with those you love, making a gift yourself, or purchasing a present from another sustainable source. To give more is to prioritize quality over quantity.
AC encourages people to give some of the money they saved from spending less to those whom Jesus calls “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40). For example, Kate Townley—the global outreach director at Journey Church in Bozeman, Mont.—encourages children and congregants to give back to the international community.
“If we can help children and upcoming generations see the benefit in giving, then we have a shot at changing the culture of Christmas—at least within Christianity,” she says. “We are quite convinced that Christmas as-is is not the celebration Christ would want.”
LOVE ALL. By spending less and giving more, people can worship Christ more fully and experience the fourth principle of AC: Love all.
“Picture entire churches,” say the authors of Advent Conspiracy, “deciding that some of the money they are saving by giving relationally and resisting cultural norms should be given to the ‘least of these’ in our communities and world—that’s when Christmas still makes a difference. … The presents around the tree aren’t stacked quite so high, but the stories of worship and love grow richer and deeper.”
ADVENT CONSPIRACY grew slowly the first few years but has accelerated ever since. The first year, five churches participated, collecting nearly half a million dollars for charity. Since then, reportedly thousands of people from myriad denominations and traditions around the world have taken on the AC challenge. Because AC is not an institution—it’s a movement, a catalytic idea—there is no way of knowing exactly how many individuals, families, churches, and groups have participated over the years. But the vision of AC is taking root around the world.
Since 2006 AC has partnered with Living Water International, resulting in donations for nearly 1,000 clean water projects in more than 20 developing countries. Many churches are now involved directly with Living Water as a result of their connection with AC. (Holder noted that a fraction of the money people in the U.S. spend at retailers during December could supply the entire world with clean water each year.)
Advent Conspiracy recently started sponsoring International Justice Mission (IJM), a human rights organization that combats human trafficking. While people cannot donate directly to AC—it has no staff and no budget—AC encourages participants to give to life-changing organizations, such as IJM and Living Water International.
The Magnificat describes a God who “has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly,” and “has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty” (Luke 1:52-53). This radical vision can be found in AC and its capacity to help people of faith rethink Christmas, allowing participants to redefine priorities in service to God and others.
With so many people participating in this conspiracy of compassion, AC’s impact can be felt around the world.
Parishioners at First Evangelical Free Church in Manchester, Mo., where Dawn Manske is a part-time outreach coordinator, raised money through AC to help construct a center for survivors of human trafficking. Manske went with a team to West Bengal, India, to get a first-hand look at the center and to explore the possibility of establishing a partnership with an apparel manufacturer and its employees.
During the trip, Manske met dozens of girls, all between 13 and 16 years old, who had been sold, beaten, tortured, raped, and starved. Manske spoke with several people who encouraged her idea of launching a business to help survivors of trafficking. Her participation in Advent Conspiracy at her home church acted as the catalyst in moving her business—Made for Freedom—from dream to reality.
“AC connected my desire with a mission,” she says. “It helped me think about how we spend our money. I love the idea of buying less and giving more, but if you’re going to buy something, why not buy something that’s significant in multiple ways?”
Several testimonies are also documented in Advent Conspiracy. One story describes how the owner of a private truck line established an optional payroll deduction program for his 15 employees; he matches their deductions, with all proceeds going to Living Water International. Another testimony describes how a South African church threw a Christmas party at a local school for underprivileged persons and gave 750 children gifts they had specifically asked for; the church members’ children came along and celebrated alongside them.
Ecclesia Church, self-described as Houston’s holistic, missional, Christian community, also has multiple events throughout the Advent season to help parishioners engage the tenets of AC. The church hosts an annual Art Market featuring live music and more than 150 tables of products made by Ecclesia members and local artisans, including abstract art, baby clothes, pottery, and other items. A portion of the proceeds go toward AC-sponsored organizations such as Living Water International and IJM. In 2012, the Art Market raised $14,000.
In Portland, Ore., multiple congregations have used parishioners’ AC donations to partner with the city on local social justice initiatives, including poverty, sex trafficking, education, mentoring, and foster care. McKinley, a local pastor, said the churches always choose initiatives that parishioners are passionate about and can work with long term.
“We don’t just cut a check,” McKinley states. “We partner with the city around these projects.” Right now, more than 100 churches are rallying around foster care.
Holder hopes Advent Conspiracy sparks change not only for individuals, churches, and communities, but for generations. He wonders what it would be like for Christmas to look like something different, something deeper, than what many of us grew up with.
“What if Christmas weren’t just for me?” he asks. “What if it were something where we could reach across lines and do this together? If the story of Christmas changed the world once, which I think it did, what if it would continue to do that?”
Sheldon C. Good, a former Sojourners media assistant, is associate director of Eastern Mennonite University’s Washington (D.C.) Community Scholars’ Center.