Chapter & Verse

Catholics don’t quote scripture.

I was watching Designated Survivor Series 2 Episode 10, Line of Fire.  Emily Rhodes (Italia Ricci) is in hospital with the mother of a baby who is undergoing an operation but her church does not permit blood transfusions.  The mother spits out the beginning of a bible quote and Rhodes completes it.  She then goes on to tell the mother that she went to Catholic school.

Carrie: Are you devout?
Emily: No. Nine years of Catholic School and I never saw God there.
Carrie: I’m sorry.
Emily: Don’t be. I see it other places, like in a Mother’s love.

Immediately all my alarm bells went off.  The writer got this scene so wrong.  Catholics don’t quote scripture.  Chapter and Verse is a mark of the protestant religion.  It is just not a Catholic thing.

The foundation stone of the Protestant religions is the vernacular bible.  When Martin Luther published his 95 theses in 1517 he was challenging the elements of church dogma that departed from the teachings of the bible.  The Catholic church was perfectly happy to continue with Latin mass and have the faithful rattle out their pater nosters and ave marias in ignorance of the meaning of their words.

It was not until the 1960’s following Vatican II that the Catholic church moved to mass in vernacular languages.  Even today Catholic children do not read the bible in lessons.  They learn prayers and catechism. Many Catholic families do not even own a bible.

At the core of the Protestant religions is the need for the faithful to read the word of God directly, without the clouding effect of interpretation through filters imposed by men such as the Pope, Bishops and Priests.

It is no accident that the timing of the Protestant reformation followed the invention of the moveable type printing press.  In order to become a Protestant you had to have access to a bible, and you had to be able to read it.  The vernacular bible was born.

It then became the mark of a good Protestant to reference the Bible on any point of faith.  If you could back up an action with a quote directly from the Bible that supported the validity of the action.  If you could place your quote precisely in the Bible, by quoting the relevant Chapter & Verse that made the point even more forcefully.

This focus on the word of God bleeds into all aspects of church design.  Catholic churches are gloriously decorated architectural wonders filled with images of saints, Holy Mary, angels, martyrs, votive candles, icons, side chapels, expensive ornamentation.  They are designed to be palaces fit to house the Lord.  You don’t speak directly to God though, you work through intermediaries.  You pray to saints to intercede on your behalf.  You then pay a priest to put in a good word for you too.  The economy of the Catholic church is founded upon the concept that you buy influence.

The most fundamental protestant churches are the plainest.  The focus is on the word.  The only object you need to commune with God is the Word of God and that is in the Bible.

In this regard the most fundamentalist Protestant religions share a great deal of common ground with the most fundamentalist Islamic sects.  Islam also focuses on the word, albeit in the Koran.  Islamic art avoids images of people in case they be interpreted as the image of God, a graven image and an object of idolatrous worship.

Below is the Sancaklar Mosque outside Istanbul.  It is a modernist Islamic space.  The design emulates the cave in which the Prophet Mohammed received the Koran from God.  The only decoration in this Mosque is a piece of calligraphy, the Word of God.  This is a space that would work well for any hard line Presbyterian.  It is a long distance away from the splendorous excess of the Vatican.

Sancaklar.jpg

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Setting Sail

Image

Harbour Mole: by Willem van de Velde (The Younger) 1693

Long and busy weeks these days with little time for selfish distractions.  The blog is suffering.  My little Mind Ship is careened in the mud on some foggy leeward shore waiting for a good scrape and a change in the wind.

I love those old engraved prints of the days of sail, which show harbors bursting at the seams with ships and boats.  But like a Ryanair plane on the tarmac, a ship locked in harbor is a useless asset.  The trick is to flow in on the tide, unload your cargo, load a new one and be gone on the ebb.  Those harbors packed with ships are monuments to stranded productivity.  They need the right wind and tide to make sail.

Sail ships were doomed as soon as steam was viable.  Why wait a week for a favorable wind when a steam boat can cast off into a headwind?  There is no romance in business, only cold hard brass.  At first they used steam tugs to haul the great sail ships in and out of harbour to find a wind.  Then the complimentary technology became the competition.  Tugs were redesigned to operate as barges on canals and rivers, bigger versions became river and lake boats.  Ultimately the noisy, smelly, dirty vessels even replaced the glorious tea clippers, the zenith of sail trader design, the greyhounds of the sea.

I need a cargo and I need it now.  I need a shift in the wind and a good tide.  I could use a bit of power instead of sail.  I need to get off this desolate shore.  I need a touch of magic.

So, how do I unite a steam ship, a touch of magic and a poem about riding at dawn – ah, a cauldron.  Ships boiler, witches pot and the eye of the sun.

‘Ariel’ by Sylvia Plath

Stasis in darkness.

Then the substanceless blue

Pour of tor and distances.

God’s lioness,

How one we grow,

Pivot of heels and knees!—The furrow

Splits and passes, sister to

The brown arc

Of the neck I cannot catch,

Nigger-eye

Berries cast dark

Hooks—Black sweet blood mouthfuls,

Something else

Hauls me through air—

Thighs, hair;

Flakes from my heels.

White

Godiva, I unpeel—

Dead hands, dead stringencies.

And now I

Foam to wheat, a glitter of seas.

The child’s cry

Melts in the wall.

And I

Am the arrow,

The dew that flies

Suicidal,

at one with the drive

Into the red

Eye, the cauldron of morning.