Poetry by Herbert  

Posted by Joe Rawls

We honor George Herbert (1593-1633) on his feastday with the collect from Lesser Feasts and Fasts and with "The Altar", one of the poems from his posthumous work The Temple.


Our God and King, who didst call thy servant George Herbert from the pursuit of worldly honors to be a pastor of souls, a poet, and a priest in thy temple: Give unto us the grace, we beseech thee, joyfully to perform the tasks thou givest us to do, knowing that nothing is menial or common that is done for thy sake; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

A broken altar, Lord, thy servant rears,
Made of a heart, and cemented with tears,
Whose parts are as thy hand did frame;
No workman's tool hath touch'd the same.
A heart alone
Is such a stone,
As nothing but
Thy power doth cut.
Wherefore each part
Of my hard heart
Meets in this frame,
To praise Thy name:
That, if I chance to hold my peace,
These stones to praise Thee may not cease.
O let Thy blessed SACRIFICE be mine,
And sanctify this ALTAR to be Thine.

Shell Games  

Posted by Joe Rawls

Over at Glory to God for All Things, Fr Stephen has a terrific post on our society's schizoid attitude to the body and to physical existence in general. Read the whole thing and see if it fits into your Lenten observances.


An entertainment personality, fresh from various surgeries (augmentations, alterations, etc) recently opined in an interview, "But in the end, this is just a shell". It was a very revealing cultural moment. The body is "just a shell" but worthy of tens of thousands of dollars to alter its appearance. It has been observed that modern man lives his life as a hedonist and dies like a Platonist.

The hedonist believes that life is defined by pleasure (particularly physical pleasure). The Platonist believes that the body and the material world are but passing moments--only the non-physical is real and of value. Among modern Christians this same cultural attitude is too frequently common...

There has long been a bifurcation within some forms of Christianity between "spiritual" and "physical". The use of physical actions, incense, etc (any form of ritual) is immediately dubbed "empty ritual" by some. It's as though the word "ritual" only comes with the modifier "empty". Faith is considered something that has no physical content...

The body is not "just the shell". Properly understood, the human person is both body and soul--neither are the fullness of the person alone. It is in this sense that the Church teaches the necessity of the resurrection of the body. That at death the soul departs from the body is the understanding of the Church. But it also understands that though the soul "is in the hands of God" it enjoys an anticipation of the life to come--rather than the fullness of the life to come. The fullness awaits our fullness--the resurrection of the body.

Seven Lenten Theses  

Posted by Joe Rawls

Here are some stray thoughts about Lent that have occurred to me over the last month or so. I wish all of you a holy and (yes, why not) happy Lent.

1. Saying "my bad" will not get your sins forgiven.

2. Our culture conspires to make us want to slash our wrists rather than admit to wrongdoing.

3. If you're embarrassed to be seen in public with ashes on your forehead, imagine that everyone can see what you're really thinking for five minutes.

4. The world would be a much better place if all the Christians who give up candy for Lent gave up anger instead.

5. When Eastern Christians fast, they don't give up food altogether but eat certain kinds of food in moderation. If it's 2 PM on Good Friday and you're obsessing about the gourmet vegetarian meal you'll have after the liturgy, there's probably something wrong.

6. We ridicule third-world Christians who whip themselves on Good Friday, but we do a good job of whipping ourselves emotionally because we're "just not good enough". So did Jesus make a mistake when he died for us?

7. I don't deny the Atonement. Still and all, the high point of the Christian year is not Good Friday, but Easter Sunday.