The Mark of the Barbarian

The Barbarian hopes — and that is the mark of him, that he can have his cake and eat it too. He will consume what civilization has slowly produced after generations of selection and effort, but he will not be at pains to replace such goods, nor indeed has he a comprehension of the virtue that has brought them into being. Discipline seems to him irrational, on which account he is ever marvelling that civilization, should have offended him with priests and soldiers…. In a word, the Barbarian is discoverable everywhere in this, that he cannot make: that he can befog and destroy but that he cannot sustain; and of every Barbarian in the decline or peril of every civilization exactly that has been true.

We sit by and watch the barbarian. We tolerate him in the long stretches of peace, we are not afraid. We are tickled by his irreverence; his comic inversion of our old certitudes and our fixed creed refreshes us; we laugh. But as we laugh we are watched by large and awful faces from beyond, and on these faces there are no smiles.

— Hillaire Belloc

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Beth-el

Too eager I must not be to understand.

How should the work the master goes about

Fit the vague sketch my compasses have planned?

I am his house—for him to go in and out.

He builds me now—and if I cannot see

At any time what he is doing with me,

‘Tis that he makes the house for me too grand.

—George MacDonald

Up or Down

There are two ways of growing. You may be growing up, or you may be growing down; and if you are doing both at once, then you are growing crooked. There are people who are growing up in understanding, but down in goodness. It is a beautiful fact, however, that you can’t grow up in goodness and down in understanding; while the great probability is, that if you are not growing better, you will by and by grow stupid. Those who are growing the right way, the more they understand, the more they wonder; and the more they learn to do, the more they want to do.

— George MacDonald

The History of Gutta-Percha Willie

Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature… — C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

The Spirit Strives With Our Spirit

A man will please God better by believing some things that are not told him, than by confining his faith to those things that are expressly said-said to arouse in us the truth-seeing faculty, the spiritual desire, the prayer for the good things which God will give to them who ask him.

"But is this not dangerous doctrine? Will not a man be taught thus to believe the things he likes best, even to pray for that which he likes best? And will he not grow arrogant in his confidence?"

If it be true that the Spirit strives with our spirit, if it be true that God teaches men, we may safely leave those dreaded results to him. If the man is of the Lord's company, he is safer with him than with those who would secure their safety by hanging on the outskirts and daring nothing. if he is not taught of God in that which he hopes for, God will let him know it. He will receive something else than he prays for. If he can pray to God for anything not good, the answer will come in the flames of that consuming fire. These will soon bring him to some of his spiritual sense. But it will be far better for him to be thus sharply tutored, than to go on a snail's pace in the journey of the spiritual life. And for arrogance, I have seen nothing breed it faster or in more offensive forms than the worship of the letter.

—George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons

Because Thou Knowest

I cannot tell why this day I am ill;

But I am well because it is thy will—

Which is to make me pure and right like thee.

Not yet I need escape—’tis bearable

Because thou knowest. And when harder things

Shall rise and gather, and overshadow me,

I shall have comfort in thy strengthenings.

A Wedding in War Time

 

https://followingastar.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/img_4146.jpg?w=1197&h=627

 

Our God who made two lovers in a garden,

And smote them separate and set them free,

Their four eyes wild for wonder and wrath and pardon

And their kiss thunder as lips of land and sea:

Each rapt unendingly beyond the other,

Two starry worlds of unknown gods at war,

Wife and not mate, a man and not a brother,

We thank thee thou hast made us what we are.

 

Make not the grey slime of infinity

To swamp these flowers thou madest one by one;

Let not the light that was thine enemy

Mix a mad twilight of the moon and sun;

Waken again to thunderclap and clamour

The wonder of our sundering and the song,

Or break our hearts with thine hell-shattering hammer

But leave a shade between us all day long.

 

Shade of high shame and honourable blindness

When youth, in storm of dizzy and distant things,

Finds the wild windfall of a little kindness

When the one head that turns the heavens in turning

Moves yet as lightly as a lingering bird,

And red and random, blown astray but burning,

Like a lost spark goes by the glorious word.

 

Make not this sex, this other side of things,

A thing less distant than the world’s desire;

What colour to the to the end of evening clings

And what far cry of frontiers and what fire

Fallen too far beyond the sun for seeking,

Let it divide us though our kingdom come;

With a far signal in our secret speaking

To hang the proud horizon in our home.

 

Once we were one, a shapeless cloud that lingers

Loading  the seas and shutting out the skies,

One with the woods, a monster of myriad fingers,

You laid on me no finger of surprise.

One with the stars, a god with myriad eyes,

I saw you nowhere and was blind for scorn:

One till the world was riven and the rise

Of the white days when you and I were born.

 

Darkens the world: the world-old fetters rattle;

And these that have no hope behind the sun

May feed like bondmen and may breed like cattle,

One in the darkness as the dead are one;

Us if the rended grave give up its glory

Trumpets shall summon asunder and face to face:

We will be strangers in so strange a story

And wonder, meeting in so wild a place.

 

Ah, not in vain or utterly for loss

Come even the black flag and the battle-hordes,

If these grey devils flee the sign of the cross

Even in the symbol of the crossing swords.

Nor shall death doubt Who made our souls alive

Swords meeting and not stakes set side by side,

Bade us in the sunburst and the thunder thrive

Earthquake and Dawn; the bridegroom and the bride.

 

Death and not dreams or doubt of things undying,

Of whose the holy hearth or whose the sword;

Though sacred spirits dissever in strong crying

Into Thy hands, but Thy two hands, O Lord,

Though not in Earth as once in Eden standing,

So plain again we see Thee what thou art,

As in this blaze, the blasting and the branding

of this wild wedding where we meet and part.

 

— GK Chesterton (1918-19)