Sunday, July 7, 2013

Are you a beast of the field? No!

I am reading Bleak House by Charles Dickens. The book is worth reading for the literature itself apart from the story: "The clear cold sunshine glances into the brittle woods, and approvingly beholds the sharp wind scattering the leaves and drying the moss. It glides over the park after the moving shadows of the clouds, and chases them, and never catches them, all day. It looks in at the windows, and touches the ancestral portraits with bars and patches of brightness, never contemplated by the painters. Athwart the picture of my Lady, over the great chimney-piece, it throws a broad bend-sinister of light that strikes down crookedly into the hearth, and seems to rend it."

I am enjoying it at least. A little ways into the book a character is introduced by the last name of Chadband. He is quite entertaining. As a preacher, Chadband has a singular way of speaking replete with rhetorical questions. I will put as example a "conversation" (monologue) he has with a young man. "My young friend," says Chadband, "it is because you know nothing that you are to us a gem and a jewel. For what are you, my young friend? Are you a beast of the field? No. A bird of the air? No. A fish of the sea or river? No. You are a human boy, my young friend. A human boy. O glorious to be a human boy! And why glorious, my young friend? Because you are capable of receiving the lessons of wisdom, because you are capable of profiting by this discourse which I now deliver  for your good, because you are not a stick, or a staff, or a stock, or a stone, or a post, or a pillar..." On and on he goes...

His marveling at what it is to be human made me reflect on what it is to be a child of God by baptism. In St. Peter's basilica in Rome there is a big red circle of porphyry in the floor just inside the main door on which Charlemagne was crowned emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. It used to be more towards center of the basilica but is now in the back parallel to the baptismal font. Is there a message here? Maybe that it is of greater value to be a child of God than to have whatever earthly power.

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