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Archive for November, 2008

The subtext that winds its way through much of biblical instruction and leavens it so that it rises not as something ludicrous but rather nourishing is that our Maker has a larger purpose in mind than we are normally capable of perceiving for ourselves. This is no easy truth, nor one whose veracity can be assessed by a minute or two of reflection. (more…)

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It might almost seem that the first chapter of Ezekiel answers to the pained cry of the last chapter of Lamentations. That poem, which in our modern bound Bibles immediately precedes the work that bears the prophet Ezekiel’s name, ends with a picture of a royal deity whose apparent disinterest in his people exceeds all appropriate bounds:

But you, O LORD, reign forever;
your throne endures to all generations.
Why have you forgotten us completely?
Why have you forsaken us these many days?
Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored;
renew our days as of old—
unless you have utterly rejected us,
and are angry with us beyond measure.

It is not too much to say that the exilic prophets, Ezekiel among them, saved the life of the Jewish people. At a time when all historical currents and the circumstances of exile that pressed down upon them should have obliterated this tiny nation and erased the memory of it, the prophets pleaded that YHWH had not yet finished with his people. Lamentations leaves an awful possibility hanging in the air: unless you have utterly rejected us, and are angry with us beyond measure. (more…)

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Ely Cathedral rises out of the flatlands of East Anglia like a glorious surprise. Its towers and parapets dwarf the surrounding buildings and landscape. As the Cathedral’s website explains the mindset of its intellectual authors, ‘The Benedictine monks only concern was to glorify God, and nothing less than a building on a majestic scale would do.’

God, it is reported elsewhere, is capable of being glorified by many means. Having visited the cathedral on numerous occasions, I have no doubt that its Benedictines hit on one of them. (more…)

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Compilations of tunes that are assembled to support beginning dancers in their instruction vary wildly with regard to the quality of the artists and the adequacy of the recording technology. This selection from the Ballroom Latin Dance series excels on both counts.

Nine tunes average about four-and-a-half minutes each, long enough for the dance student to get into the rhythm and movement of a piece. It’s beautiful music for pure listening too, and that comes from a reviewer who is not easily moved by merengue.

The photo that graces the CD liner of each entry in this series is wonderfully evocative of the dance in question, a bonus that may move you to choose from the Ballroom Latin Dance lineup rather than a competitor.

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From the mid-90s Sunday Times Music Collection comes this splendid introduction to the period when European art music was beginning to let its hair down as the well-coiffed standards of the Classical era were undermined by the kinds of experimentation that is audible in these ten selections from six composers (Mendelssohn, Chopin, Berlioz, Field, Schubert, Schumann). (more…)

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Because of its tenacious insistence that Jesus was fully human—as we are—the New Testament permits itself some daring assessments of how this man completed his God-given assignment. The priestly metaphor that becomes quite common in the book of Hebrews flows easily into this stream, for the priests Israel knew were, quintessentially, specially placed human beings assisting other human beings who lacked the same vocation. (more…)

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The biblical tradition is rightly jealous of the incomparability of YHWH. Nothing gets up the dander of, say, a prophet like Isaiah as the notion that other gods are made of the same stuff as YHWH. ‘Made’, in fact, is the operative term. YHWH is the unmade Maker. The Hebrew Bible does not deny that other powers, even majestic ones, inhabit what one might call heavenly places beside YHWH. In fact, the matter is fairly taken for granted. (more…)

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