Leaning on the Everlasting Arms

Something for the weekend.  Leaning on the Everlasting Arms sung by Iris DeMent.  Anthony Showalter wrote the hymn in 1887.  He had tragically received two letters from former pupils who told him that their wives died.  In his letters of consolation he referenced  Deuteronomy 33:27:   The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms, which became the theme of his hymn.  Showalter wrote the refrain and Elisha Hoffman , at the request of Showalter wrote the remaining lyrics.

Report to the Emperor-First Draft

(I post this each year on Good Friday at The American Catholic, and I thought that our Almost Chosen People readers might find it of interest.)

I thank you Marcus for taking on the onerous task of acting as my secretary, in addition to your regular duties as my aide, in regard to this portion of the report.  The Greek, Aristides, is competent, and like most Greek secretaries his Latin is quite graceful, but also like most Greek secretaries he does not know when to keep his mouth shut.  I want him kept away from this work, and I want you to observe the strictest security.  Caiaphas was playing a nefarious game, and I do not think we are out of the woods yet.  I do not want his spies finding out what I am telling the Imperator and Caiaphas altering the tales his agents are now, no doubt, spreading in Rome.  Let us take the Jew by surprise for once! (more…)

Published in: on April 18, 2014 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Ballad of the Goodly Fere

ezra-pound

Ezra Pound, fascist, anti-Semite, traitor and loon, was still a great poet.  I have always admired The Ballad of the Goodly Fere, not because of the way Christ is portrayed, but the imagination behind it.  Christ and the apostles transformed into quasi Viking heroes of a medieval chronicle!    Here is T.S. Eliot on Pound as a poet.  Here is the text of the poem: (more…)

Screen Pilates: Vincent Varconi

Continuing our series on screen portrayals of Pilate that I began in 2011 during Holy Week.    The posts on portrayals of Pilate by Rod Steiger, Richard Boone, Barry Dennen, Hristov Shopov, Telly Savalas, Frank Thring, Stephen Russell, Greg Hicks and Cyril Ritchard may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here, here and here.

One of the earliest screen portrayals of Pilate was by Hungarian actor Vincent Varconi in Cecil B. DeMille’s silent screen epic King of Kings (1927).  We first see Pilate enthroned as the embodiment of Roman power before a huge imperial eagle.  Initially bored by the attempt by Caiaphas to have him execute Jesus, he refuses to look at a document that Caiaphas has prepared laying out the charges against Jesus, after he talks to Jesus he feels the power of the words and presence of Christ, and seeks to satisfy Caiaphas and his mob by having Jesus beaten. (more…)

Published in: on April 16, 2014 at 4:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Screen Pilates: Cyril Ritchard

Cyril Richard as Pilate

 

Continuing our series on screen portrayals of Pilate that I began in 2011 during Holy Week.    The posts on portrayals of Pilate by Rod Steiger, Richard Boone, Barry Dennen, Hristov Shopov, Telly Savalas, Frank Thring, Stephen Russell and Greg Hicks may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here and here.

 

Cyril Ritchard had quite a career as an actor.  He was also a devout Catholic, his funeral mass in 1977 being said by Archbishop Fulton Sheen.  It is therefore interesting that his portrayal of Pilate in the Studio One television play  Pontius Pilate (1952) is one of the more cynical and overtly political.  He and Caiaphas discuss the fate of Jesus privately as two seasoned pols who might as well be arguing over the division of spoils.  After the execution of Christ he is shaken by the death of Jesus under the influence of his wife, but remains convinced that he has made the right decision.  Procula leaves him and years later he finds her among a group of Christians that he must judge.  He condemns her and the other Christians, but later orders them to be released, he being unable to have the wife he still loves condemned to crucifixion.  The play ends with Pilate unsheathing his sword and telling himself that the sword is the answer to Christ’s query of “What is Truth” with the implication that Pilate will use the sword to commit suicide, having betrayed his belief in Rome out of love for his wife.

Go here to Daily Motion to view the video.

Screen Pilates: Greg Hicks

Continuing our series on screen portrayals of Pilate that I began in 2011 during Holy Week.    The posts on portrayals of Pilate by Rod Steiger, Richard Boone, Barry Dennen, Hristov Shopov, Telly Savalas, Frank Thring and Stephen Russell may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here and here.

Greg Hicks portrays Pilate in the movie Son of God (2014) as concerned above all at protecting his position.  If he does not execute Jesus Caiaphas can tell Tiberius through his agents that Pilate is coddling a rebel against Rome and that would lead to the ending of Pilate’s procuratorship and perhaps his life.  That is more than enough reason for him to deny the request for mercy for Christ from his wife Procula, disturbed by her dream of Christ. (more…)

Published in: on April 14, 2014 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Triumph of the King

zechariah

(This is my regular post for Palm Sunday which I repost each year.  Have a happy and blessed Palm Sunday and Holy Week.)

“9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion, shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem: BEHOLD THY KING will come to thee, the just and saviour: he is poor, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. 10 And I will destroy the chariot out of Ephraim, and the horse out of Jerusalem, and the bow for war shall be broken: and he shall speak peace to the Gentiles, and his power shall be from sea to sea, and from the rivers even to the end of the earth.”

 

Thus did the prophet Zechariah, writing half a millennium before, predict the entry of Christ into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  How many such glorious entrances into cities have there been over the ages?  Every civilization I am aware of has such ceremonies, either parades in peace time or entrances of conquest or liberation in war time.  The Romans turned this into an art form with their triumphs, with the reminder of the slave to the imperator of  fleeting human mortality: “Respice post te, hominem memento te”.

Few such triumphs have turned into utter disaster as quickly as that of Jesus:  Jerusalem at His feet on Sunday, and Christ dead on a Roman Cross before the sun had set on Friday.  Small wonder that no contemporary historian or chronicler at the time took note.  However some sort of official report probably was filed after the crucifixion.  Writing circa 116 AD, and relying heavily on official records for his history, in regard to the great fire at Rome under Emperor Nero Tacitus states:

“15.44.2. But, despite kindly influence, despite the leader’s generous handouts, despite appeasing the gods, the scandal did not subside, rather the blaze came to be believed to be an official act. So, in order to quash the rumour, Nero blamed it on, and applied the cruelest punishments to, those sinners, whom ordinary people call Christians, hating them for their shameful behaviour. 15.44.3. The originator of this name, Christ, was sentenced to torture by Procurator Pontius Pilate, during the reign of Tiberius, but although checked for a moment, the deadly cult erupted again, not just in Judaea, the source of its evil, but even in Rome, where all the sins and scandals of the world gather and are glorified.”

Tacitus, clearly hostile to the Christians, points his finger at one of the great mysteries of history.  In human terms the Jesus movement was nipped in the bud at its inception.  Yet in less than three centuries the Roman emperor bowed before the cross.  The triumph of Palm Sunday led only to disaster, and the humiliation and death of the cross led to triumph in eternity and here on Earth.

For we Catholics, and for all other Christians, no explanation of this paradoxical outcome is needed.  However there is much here to ponder for non-believers and non-Christians.  In purely human terms the followers of Christ had no chance to accomplish anything:  no powerful supporters, no homeland embracing their faith, cultures, both Jewish and Gentile, which were hostile to the preaching of the Gospels, other religions which were well-established, the list of disadvantages could go on at considerable length.  We take the victory of Christianity for granted because it happened.  We forget how very improbable such a victory was. Even more improbable is that what began on Palm Sunday, the triumph of Jesus, has continued till today in spite of all challenges that two thousand years of human folly could cast up.  How very peculiar in mortal terms!

Let us give the last word to the patron saint of paradox G. K. Chesterton: (more…)

Published in: on April 13, 2014 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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April 12, 1864: Fort Pillow

 

 

Fort Pillow

 Northern casualties were more than 63 percent, and the number of black soldiers killed was disproportionately high. There is no doubt there was a massacre of some kind. But I think he (Forrest) did everything he could to stop it. Next day, when the Federals came in and shelled the place, he sent a captured Union captain and a Confederate soldier back with a white flag to tell ‘em to stop shootin’ their own wounded men because that’s all that was left at the fort.

Civil War historian Shelby Foote on Fort Pillow

Easily the most controversial engagement of the Civil War, the storming of Fort Pillow by forces under Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest and what happened in the aftermath have been hotly contested for the past one hundred and fifty years.  Fort Pillow was a Union fort on the Mississippi 40 miles north of Memphis, Tennessee.  It was garrisoned by around 600 Union troops, equally divided between blacks and whites.  The black units were the 6th United States Regiment Heavy Artillery and the 2nd United States Colored Light Artillery.  The whites were recent recruits of the 14th Tennessee Cavalry consisting of  Tennessee Unionists.  Both groups had every reason to fear falling into Confederate hands.

Forrest, commanding about 1500 men, summoned the garrison to surrender at 3:30 PM:

“The conduct of the officers and men garrisoning Fort Pillow has been such as to entitle them to being treated a prisoners of war. I demand the unconditional surrender of the entire garrison, promising that you shall be treated as prisoners of war. My men have just received a fresh supply of ammunition, and from their present position can easily assault and capture the fort. Should my demand be refused, I cannot be responsible for the fate of your command.”

This was a typical demand for surrender by Forrest, promising good treatment if the force surrendered and indicating that he could not guarantee good treatment if the fort was taken by storm.  This was common practice, with commanders understanding that if a fort was taken by storm it was not unusual for the storming force, maddened by sustaining what they usually perceived as unnecessary casualties, exacting vengeance upon the garrison.  The Union commander refused, and the fort was taken by storm about 5:00 PM. (more…)

Published in: on April 12, 2014 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Jesus The Water of Life

Something for the weekend.  One of the most powerful depictions of Christ on film from the movie Ben Hur (1959).  A wonderful melding of music and dialogue as Christ goes silently to the aid of Ben Hur and gives him water.  The wordless encounter between Christ and the Centurion was amazing, as the Centurion’s face registers bewilderment, shame and curiosity as he has a totally unexpected encounter with the Divine.  Whatever the actor who played the Centurion was earning that day, it wasn’t nearly enough.

Published in: on April 12, 2014 at 4:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Women’s Army Corps

A 1944 film on the Women’s Army Corps.  Originally created in 1942 as the Woman’s Army Auxiliary Corps, about 150,000 women would serve in it during World War II.  It was definitely an experiment during the War, with many men and women highly skeptical about women serving in the military, which hampered recruitment.  However the WACs who did serve , and they were restricted to non-combat roles, generally earned high marks for skill, efficiency and spirit.  Similar organizations were devised for the other services, the WAVES for the Navy, the SPARS for the Coast Guard, the WASPs for the Army Air Corps and the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, the Marines eschewing a cute acronym for their Molly Marines. (more…)

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