Robinson deals with hunger and violence and carnality, but she also wishes to dramatise religious questions.
I have had a most shameful and distressing interview with poor dear Tom Eliot, who may be called dead to us all from this day forward. He has become an Anglo-Catholic, believes in God and immortality, and goes to church. I was really shocked. A corpse would seem to me more credible than he is. I mean, there’s something obscene in a living person sitting by the fire and believing in God.
St Etheldreda sleeping, in the Etheldreda window by Margaret Rope in Ickleton church (see below).
Sermon in Ely Cathedral for St Etheldreda’s day, by Jessica Martin
[The brothers] went on board ship, for the district of Ely is on every side encompassed with water and marshes, and has no large stones, and came to a small deserted city, not far from thence, which, in the language of the English, is called Grantacaestir, and presently, near the city walls, they found a white marble coffin, most beautifully wrought, and fitly covered with a lid of the same sort of stone. Perceiving, therefore, that the Lord had prospered their journey, they returned thanks to Him and carried it to the monastery.
That is Bede, describing the search, by the monks under the rule of the abbess Saxburga, for a pure and imperishable material to house her sister Etheldreda’s bones. Etheldreda had been sixteen years dead and by her own request had been buried in wood, a medium of very different meaning: like flesh, or grass, wooden artefacts once lived and grew; like flesh, or grass, wood is mutable, becoming quickly indistinguishable with the earth to which all flesh comes and out of which all life springs; death and life in the same handful of dust. Our Lord Jesus died upon wood; much, and perhaps all, of the wood of the cross which bore him has rotted, given rise to plants, has fed children, been consumed and transformed to fertilising ash in the fire that warms old bones. The True Cross has been in the cycle of regeneration for many centuries now.
So, when the brothers made that strange river journey to the walled, desolate Roman camp of Grantchester, looking for the enduring wrought marble the marshes couldn’t provide, were they missing the point? What need had Etheldreda for some pagan girl’s abandoned sarcophagus?
Dutch Book Groups
Discussions of Dit is Geen Verdediging, the Dutch translation of Unapologetic, are starting imminently at:
The Houtrustkerk in Den Haag, first Wednesday of every month, led by Karl van Klaveren, minister of the Houtrustkerk and the book’s translator.
The Jacobikerk in Wommels, 21 October, led by Harrie Strubbe.
The Antonius Abt school in Den Haag, 22 October, led by Henk Bressers.
The ecumenical reading circle of Berlicum, 27 October 2014, led by Piet Vliegenthart.
The Ontmoetingskerk in Naadldwijk, 21 January 2015, led by Carel van der Meij.
Details of all these at the links.
Q&A about ‘Impenitente’ (English version)
Interview with Luis Rivas of the Spanish Catholic weekly Vida Nueva. The Spanish version is online here.
You seem to be annoyed by atheists thinking they must be cleverer than you.
Most of the time, I’m not nearly so angry with the world as I sound in the book, but it’s true, one of the main causes for writing it was irritation: irritation, especially, with the atheist assumption that intelligence must all be on their side of the question. And I thought it would do some good to let that irritation be heard for once, instead of the Christian always being the polite one, with our hands clasped nervously together, and an anxious smile pinned to our faces. The problem then was how to change gear out of annoyance, in the later chapters, and to enter properly into all the other emotions of the Christian life.
Does faith prevent Christians from being intellectuals?
That music you hear in the distance? It’s St Augustine, St Teresa, Teilhard de Chardin, Pascal, Kierkegaard and Simone Weil all singing together, and what they are singing is that, as Christ commanded, we are supposed to love God with our minds, as well as with our hearts and our souls and our strength. It is an illusion to think that there is any necessary conflict between a Christian commitment and free, adventurous thinking. No-one ever does their thinking on a blank sheet of paper. Every intellectual of every kind is in a conversation with some set of ideas, doctrines, ways of seeing the world, and that’s what makes their own thinking serious. The Christian conversation with Christian ideas, and with every other kind of idea, need not be defensive or imprisoning.