Archive for February 8th, 2006

The Catechetical Lectures continue, with what I think is the first lecture of the third week of RCIA class. Remember, these classes were being held in Jerusalem, most likely at the Holy Sepulchre; Cyril keeps reminding the class that they are actually on Golgotha. St. Helen, Emperor Constantine’s mom, had rediscovered the True Cross only about 25 years before. These were matters of his living memory.

But more than that, even learning the simple Creed is a matter of great moment.

“….we comprise the whole doctrine of the Faith in a few lines. This summary I wish you both to commit to memory when I recite it, and to rehearse it with all diligence among yourselves, not writing it out on paper, but engraving it by the memory upon your heart, taking care while you rehearse it that no Catechumen chance to overhear the things which have been delivered to you.”

Lecture V: On Faith.


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The Catechetical Lectures continue some more. I have to admit I’m amused that in this part, Cyril admits the class is going on a little bit long!

(Btw, if anything here sounds strange or against what you’ve been taught, go to the book and check the footnotes.)

Lecture IV (Part 2)


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The Catechetical Lectures continue. I have to say that I found them extra-touching this week, because at the 9:30 on Sunday I saw a candidate and a catechumen officially begin the process leading up to receiving Baptism and Confirmation on Easter. (There are more of them than that in our parish, but they were mostly at other Masses or had already been received.) The “sealing of the senses” was as nifty as ever. (In case you’re wondering: the Sign of the Cross is made by the priest or the sponsor on the person’s forehead, eyes, ears, lips, shoulders, hands, and feet. Which was ripped off and shortened for Wiccan priestess/priesthood rituals, which cracks me up! We Christians are such a priestly people….) I missed the “bridal” torches Cyril mentions, though!
I figure that the first week was probably just the Procatechesis and Lecture 1. (Lent starting on Wednesday, and then class meeting again on Friday.) Then the second week would have been more intros: Monday (or Wednesday) on Sins, Wednesday (or Friday) on Baptism, and then this one: a loooooong lecture on the basics of Christian belief. (Which could have been on Friday, but it might have been on Sunday, since the catechumens had to be at Mass on Sunday anyway.) Maybe I’m wrong about this, but hey, the ol’ Patriarch does say in this lecture that they just had the last lecture the day before yesterday!

Lecture IV: On the Ten Points of Doctrine (Part 1)


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I got an email last week from the NPR lady who did the story on public domain audiobooks, like the ones on Librivox and here. Unfortunately, by the time I read my email, the story was already up! (C’est la vie. De boheme. En le Internet. Sur le… *slap self*).

Anyway, one of the questions she was asking was, Why do you read audiobooks if nobody else much is downloading them? I immediately thought guiltily of poor Surtees, who doesn’t get much business from the downloaders — even though you can pretty much jump in at any time.

So why do I keep reading Surtees? Certain people kept bugging me to read him for years.

Like that fanboy Rudyard Kipling.

JANUARY (Hunting)
Certes, it is a noble sport,
And men have quitted selle and swum for’t.
But I am of the meeker sort
And I prefer Surtees in comfort.

Reach me my Handley Cross again,
My run, where never danger lurks, is
With Jorrocks and his deathless train—
Pigg, Binjimin, and Artexerxes.

And his friends Stalky and Co.:

Stalky would fain have forgotten Prout and his works in a volume of Surtees and a new briar-wood pipe.

George Orwell also insists:

The great age of English humorous writing — not witty and not satirical, but simply humorous — was the first three-quarters of the nineteenth century.

Within that period lie Dickens’s enormous output of comic writings, Thackeray’s brilliant burlesques and short stories, such as “The Fatal Boots” and “A Little Dinner at Timmins’s”, Surtees’ Handley Cross, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Douglas Jerrold’s Mrs Caudle’s Curtain Lectures, and a considerable body of humorous verse by R. H. Barham, Thomas Hood, Edward Lear, Arthur Hugh Clough, Charles Stuart Calverley and others. Two other comic masterpieces, F. Anstey’s Vice Versa and the two Grossmiths’ Diary of a Nobody, lie only just outside the period I have named. And, at any rate until 1860 or thereabouts, there was still such a thing as comic draughtsmanship, witness Cruikshank’s illustrations to Dickens, Leech’s illustrations to Surtees, and even Thackeray’s illustrations of his own work.

While we’re mentioning Thackeray — the man envied Surtees’ powers of observation, constantly championed his work, and was actually asked to illustrate for Surtees. He had to refuse, since he didn’t feel he could draw hunting well enough, but recommended his friend Leech. The rest was history.

William Morris thought Surtees was the “master of life” and ranked him with Dickens.
Yeah, we should mention that Surtees fanboy, Charles Dickens:

The form that Pickwick Papers took was not original. R. S. Surtees had already established himself as a humorous celebrant of sporting life and the sketches which he wrote for The New Sporting Magazine, and which were later re-published as Jorrocks’ Jaunts and Jollities (1838), were the direct source of Dickens’s material, most notably of the trial of Bardell vs Pickwick. There was indeed a vogue for this kind of comic realism on familiar topics, which had probably attracted the publishers in the first place.

If you read much Victorian or early twentieth century lit, you will run into Surtees. (And it was very frustrating to have a writer recommended whom you can’t even find, so thank you, Project Gutenberg.) People liked Surtees. He was funny and had a lot to say about life. (Kipling even refers to his novels as “natural history books” to be used for the identification of types of people one met.) I should probably also note that Mr Sponge’s Sporting Tour was voted one of the 100 Best Novels of the 19th century back in 1899. (Under the alternate title of Soapey Sponge’s Sporting Tour for some inexplicable reason.)

But I was also reminded of Surtees a few years back, by a more recent fangirl by the name of Elizabeth Moon, in a book called Hunting Party:

“Here.” Cecelia handed her yet another cube. “This is the text of an old book on the subject, and since it’s one of the few left, you might want to look at it. Bunny’s designed his entire hunt around it, even though we know that it predates the twentieth century, Old Earth, and things must have changed afterwards.”

Heris looked at the cube file labelled “Surtees” with suspicion. Apparently she would be expected to watch it on her own time. Historical nonsense about horses struck her as even more useless than current nonsense about horses.

(You can read the first half or so of Hunting Party online at Baen, for free. The rest you gotta pay for.)
So yeah, it’s kinda quixotic to read someone as far out of literary fashion as Surtees. But he’s funny. You still meet people like the ones in his books (albeit in disguise). And it’s better than having all these raving fans on your tail for the rest of your life.

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