Saturday, December 6, 2014

Lady Marchmain on Animals

Bears Stealing Honey

The Bear found this amusing from the reading he is sharing with his mate: Brideshead Revisted.
"But of course," she said, "it's very unexpected for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, but the gospel is simply a catalog of unexpected things. It's not to be expected that an ox and an ass should worship at the crib. Animals are always doing the oddest things in the lives of the saints. It's all part of the poetry, the Alice-in-Wonderland side of religion."
Oddest things indeed, the Bear mused. Do you suppose a bear was drawn to the lights and sounds of the Nativity, only to hold back, not so much fearful, as afraid of being fearsome? Yet perhaps he should have paid his respects, after all. The most terrible things can be the most comforting. The Bear becomes the Teddy Bear. God becomes a Baby. As long as they're on your side, the very best friends are the most ferocious.

Oddest things indeed. Heroic bears were the friends of Elisha, but ferocious to a dangerous mob of youths.
23 And he went up from thence to Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, little boys came out of the city and mocked him, saying: Go up, thou bald head, go up, thou bald head. 24 And looking back, he saw them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord: and there came forth two bears out of the forest, and tore of them, two and forty boys.
 (2 Ki 2:23–24. Douay-Rheims).

And, if the Bear may draw attention to his own place in the catalog of odd things, he permitted himself to be laden with St. Corbinian's baggage all the way to Rome.

C.S. Lewis wrote, "Aslan is not a tame lion," in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. He is ferocious, yet gentle. He lies down like a lamb, and might lie down with the lamb, but not because he is any less of the Lion.

If the Old Testament takes pains to illustrate God's ferocity, St. Luke's Gospel begins with a Babe and ends with a sacrificial Lamb. Yet the final book of the Bible reveals the truth: the Lamb of the Apocalypse with a two-edged sword issuing from His mouth, a terrible, wonderful Lamb.

If animals do the oddest thing in the lives of saints, it is because our God is the oddest God: the Warrior Lamb. What Lady Marchmain called the "Alice-in-Wonderland side of religion," appeals to our appreciation of the poetic and even the absurd. Credo quia absurdum.

A hand-fed Bear carrying baggage indeed!


  1. What a wonderful little meditation! Thank you.

    I only recently became aware that there is a legend that St. Joan of Arc was befriended by a sparrow who accompanied her through all the campaigns and trials that followed on her extraordinary emergence from obscurity. I wod love to know the origin of this legend; perhaps it comes from one witness at her execution who thought he saw a bird fly up and away from the pyre.

    Alice in Wonderland had her cat, Dinah. Dorothy had Toto. It's as if there is something in animals - some essential nobility - that brings a dimension of reality to fiction that can be provided in no other way. Maybe the beasts who drew near to the Saints were seeking a dimension of Reality that could be provided in no other way.

  2. BRILLIANT Bear!!

    "...all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field. The birds of the air, and the fishes of the admirable is Thy name in all the earth!" Psalm 8


    Purple, purple,
    Purple, pink,
    In evergreen
    The candles sink.

    Candle's age?
    One thousand yeared,
    With four four-thousand
    'Fore He appeared.

    Each Sunday four
    In front of Yule
    When she arrived
    Upon a mule.

    A revolution
    Round the stall,
    Till suddenly
    On knees were all!

    Like priest incensing
    Hallowed altar
    To bear her Son
    All kneel, none falter.

    Firm, determined,
    With veins of gold,
    Great stubborn priest!

  3. Made me think of St. Francis's "Lupo of Gubbio", St. John Bosco's big gray dog that mysteriously showed up in times of threat to save him, Elijah's ravens, Daniel's lions, and so many more. Gotta love animals as one of the best part of God's creation; 'specially dogs! .....(no offense).

  4. St. Benedict's ravens, as well, and, for the Orthodox St. Seraphim of Sarov made friends with a bear. St. Christopher was actually depicted with the head of a dog! And let's not forget Balaam's Ass, who spoke.

  5. THE

    "O come, O come"
    The waiting said
    Where pink turns green
    And purple red.

    Where fasting turns
    To festive feasts
    And midnight whispers
    Come from beasts.

    Where slate-gray skies,
    Tint-brown clouds glow
    Full and fraught
    To burst with snow

    And burdened mules
    Who trod the roads
    Can finally rest
    Take off their loads.

    Where families cut
    Down Balsam fir
    To scent their homes
    Like incensed myrrh.

    And men once dark
    Living in danger…
    Shed tears and kneel
    At the feat of the manger!


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