Saturday, March 29, 2014

Harry Potter's Lenten Retreat Part Two

Our love thoughts have been delayed a bit..I am thoroughly distracted by friendships. I can't help it. I blame the winter, it hasn't moved on, so why should I? But today is spring-like and fresh; the sun is shining on the snow: it's time to wake up.

As we talked about the trio and the tone of their friendship in the books, we could only agree that time will tell..the later books will show Harry and his friends at their best and worst, and if you find them inspiring when it's all done, well..I'd recommend a healthy dose of Rilke and another of Joss, but Jenna might just have a hug and a cup of tea for you.

Happy, magical tea!

* * * *   * * * * 
Jenna writes:

 Hermione is the constant in the Trio, the one who—despite bossiness and a taste for following the rules that goes mostly unshared by her best friends—is never, as far as I can recall offhand, disloyal. She bickers with Ron and is occasionally rude to him, usually after he does something particularly unkind to her, but she never gives either of them up for lost causes. Both boys need that loyalty.
In Prisoner of Azkaban, Ron and Hermione don't speak to each other for weeks on account of Hermione's cat supposedly killing Ron's rat. Harry and Ron are both more heartless without Hermione, and it's her approach, trembling, with the important knowledge of a mutual friend's grief, that begins reconciliation. That act cracks Ron's pride. When Ron's pride cracks, Hermione's caves in, and Harry's might never have existed. All is forgiven.

She's right. I really liked her point, it put the group in perspective for me a bit. Hermione is never disloyal. She bickers, she bosses, she's prissy and obnoxious, and completely loyal. She definitely holds the three together. She is, in that sense, the heart of the trio. It's an unfortunate weakness that she's also the brain of the group, leaving it a bit lopsided, as she both nurtures and understands, Harry acts and directs, and Ron...? 

Jenna also reminds me that the love Rowling seems least comfortable with is actually romance. Right again! I'd sort of neglected romance because at this point because there's really no way to discuss romance in the series at this point, is there??? I mean, book three is too far away from anything really discuss-able..right Jenna??

And the know, I was sort of careless last week. I neglected them completely. Go read Jenna's thoughts on them, if you haven't already! 

* * * *  * * * * 

Familial love..

We see quite a bit of a few different families in Harry Potter. In the first three books we have the Dursleys and the Weasleys primarily, but there are glimpses of others: snatches of Neville's grandmother and tiny peeks at Hermione's parents. What's missing for me is a healthy family dynamic. Not ideal..I'm not expecting ideal, - really, honestly, I'm serious! - just reasonably attractive. I know everyone thinks I'm mean for rejecting the Weasleys..and I'll admit I've no real-world experience with life inside such a marriage. I hate-with-a-passion the 'hen-pecked husband' thing. Can't stand it. I am way too sick of the over-abundance of Father-as-object-of-Ridicule gigs to embrace yet another. I'd love to see a family where spouses share a mutual respect and nurture each others dignity, but the whole "mother as over-bearing, controlling, nag/husband as hen-pecked loser" thing repels me. Yes, I'm biased - forgive me? If you are a real-life husband who's wife regularly channels Mrs. Weasley, and that treatment leaves you feeling loved, respected, and uplifted, feel free to correct me. Or, if you're not, but you're sympathetic to their whole family dynamic, tell me about it. I'll argue with you, but not too much, because today's my anniversary(!!), and I have cute new bangs, and a husband I adore; besides, whatever the day, I pity the Weasleys more than dislike them.. It's hard to break out of unhealthy patterns; I know, it's lent and I'm craving gelato.

That face says "Bored now" me.

 The Weasely siblings are not a bad bunch though. They've got the whole mean-but-loyal brotherly bond going on..(for the most part..coughpercycough..) and they're kind of an adorable group. Bill-the-hottie was obviously the best of the lot, but his kid brothers are everything I can think of to like about siblings: obnoxious, loyal, grumble-y, companionable..and his sister is very much the 'youngest child of a large family'. I'm not a fan of Ginny..but she fits her family well, and there's a nice bundle of affection tying them all together. 
The Dursleys - even amongst themselves, ignoring their treatment of Harry - we can leave for a discussion on un-loves. Rowling does wonderfully with them. They're so distanced from proper familial love that I don't even compare them to run of the mill unhealthy families, a class of their a bad way. And I pretty much love every scene they're in in these first few books.

The tiny family pictures: Neville and Gran, Hermione's Mum and Dad..what do they show us about the theme of familial love in the series so far? Not much, really. It'd be easy to judge the relationships we see on what little is shown of them so far - another overbearing woman, belittling her grandson; distant, uninvolved parents. But that isn't the whole picture, and so we'll wait and watch. I wish Neville's gran was kinder to him now, I wish Hermione's parent's weren't so conveniently out of sight and mind; but unless any of you have thoughts on them to share, I'll leave the picking apart of their loves 'til later. 

hahaha..sorry, I couldn't help it

What do you think about all the family love we're looking at here? Link in or comment!


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Meditations on the Tarot: The Lover

My Lenten focus has been Love and yet I couldn't write about the Lover - who chooses between two very different loves. The card shows him between to women, the first "seizes him and kisses him, and with impudent face she says to him:

I had to offer sacrifices
and today I have paid my vows. 
So now I have come out to meet,
to seek you eagerly, and I have found you."

(proverbs 7:13-15)

The other holds back, she is the opposite of her rival. 

"I possess knowledge and discretion..
I love those who love me,
and those who seek me find me."

(proverbs 8:12 and 17)

It is the card of temptation. The choice between vice and virtue - and one made easier through the discipline of fasting, because we fast to seek God, to learn love more deeply from Love Himself, with minds and hearts undistracted by the seductions of the one we do not love. The one who wants us, but not as a true love does. 

It is an ideal season to keep the lover in mind, to meditate on his choice as we try to build "a spiritual monastery in relation to this world and it's god."


Friday, March 21, 2014

Lenten Icons: Blessed Silence

"Deep I go down into myself. 
My God is dark and like a webbing made of a hundred roots
that drink in silence."*

Generally considered a Christmas Icon, I can't help but run to the Blessed Silence in Lent as well - when all is quiet and waiting. At Adoration the other day, Yarrow whispered to Seth "Jesus is very, very, very, very good. And he is very fun." He is Silent, beautiful, and like my daughter, I want to surround Him with adjectives. Enthusiastic, repetitive adjectives, but He prefers the quiet of an eager soul that rises up, past the adjectives and participles, beyond all language limitations; two between whom even He cannot find a difference.

"Let your beauty manifest itself
without talking and calculation.
You are silent. It says for you: I am.
And come in meaning thousandfold, 
comes at long last over everyone."*

*Rainer Maria Rilke

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

St. Joseph

"You are the woods of paradox. 
Though I may rock you like a child, 
Your curses ever come to pass
as dread on people's backs."*

Dear, beloved St. Joseph. I wonder at his fatherhood. What must it be to hold fresh scented eternity in arms? I pray hard to Joseph - in whose hands the dead staff blooms. He belongs to Springtime, the spring that comes after a long winter.

I think of the the tale from the desert fathers: The master gives to his novice a stick of dry wood. "Plant it." he tells the youth, "Water it daily until it bears fruit." All the branches outside my window are dead and dry, but above the altar Saint Joseph holds his lily-staff and waits, contented; the King of paradox in his arms.

"I am the father but the son is more, 
is everything the father was; and what 
he couldn't be, the son becomes as well;
the son is both the future and the past
source of rivulets and sea to which they turn."*

Blessed Feast!
*Rainer Maria Rilke's Book of Hours   

Friday, March 14, 2014

Lenten Icons: St. Moses the Prophet

"None of the angels, but the dark and fallen one
was willing; took up arms and with deadly intent
approached the one to whom he had been sent.
 But again he rattled away, backwards, and up 
to the heavens he scream: I can't."** 

Moses. The man who talks intimately with God. In a season of intensified prayer, he is our guide. Radiant-faced, argumentative Moses. The friend of God. God has a interesting way of picking friends. He does it as I can only wish to - see and know and love. They are so tender together, these jealous ones - the Lord and His beloved.

In the icon, Moses has such soulful eyes. Holding onto the law he gazes into the bush, as though they are once again caught up in that eternal conversation:

"I walk forever toward you
with a single mind and strong;
for who would I be and who would you
if we didn't get along?"*

I am always almost sad for Moses, who wandered for 40 years in the desert and never touched the promised land, but what would he have done there, settled in the land of milk and honey? His role was to guide the people home; to draw from the wilderness holy wisdom. And I can never quite morn him, whom Death feared to touch. Taken up like Enoch and Elijah to watch and wait for Easter.

"And from this well-ordered house,
he called the soul forth to rise, up! to recount
the many common things of a friendship deeply laid."**

* Rainer Maria Rilke: The Book of Hours
** Rainer Maria Rilke: Moses' Death 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Harry Potter's Lenten Retreat

I'm in charge of the Book Club this Lent. Jenna is starting a new job (congratulations!) and Christie has made the Big Move to the Wales-that-is-not-in-Maine (double congratulations!!), and I am sitting through another snow-storm (12-18 inches predicted. No congratulations in order). That means I have the time and the inclination to head things up this season, they don't. But hopefully they will have the time to jump in! Because we're talking about love. This Lent is sort of all wrapped up in love for me this year, as I work on being more loving to those around me, to myself, and especially to God (who is all good, and worthy of all my love..that's right, I just went to confession ;) ). 

There's an abundance of love (and love-seeming-emotions) in Harry Potter. There are good and beautiful loves, there are less than ideal loves, and then there are manipulations-disguised as love..we're going to try to talk about all of them. But not all at once.. Today we're just going to start at the beginning. 

The Rules

     We're not going to be absolutely careful in this discussion, but we are going to try very hard to keep the discussion to the first 3 books. But a few spoilers here and there are just fine. Just avoid focusing on all the love-y stuff from beyond book 3.

    Anyone can feel free to join in by linking a blog and/or commenting on any of the posts linked-in to the discussion. We'd love a big, happy argument about how much love Dumbledore actually shows Harry (cough, not much, cough)..or whether or not it is actually possible to create a human-being who has never and could never love another..and we'll probably get all teary-eyed together over Lily's sacrifice (yes, even me). 

     To make it easier on myself, we'll divide the discussion into four semi-overlapping sections: Friendship, Familial, and Sacrificial love, as well as Un-love - a time to explore Voldemort, the Dursley's relationship to Harry, and any un-charities we've noticed.

Harry potter hipster


    Friendship is, I think, the love Rowling is least comfortable is the weakest portrayed in the series, the most often portrayed, the least inspiring of all the loves shown in the series. The primary friendship: Harry, Ron, and Hermione is a frustrating one for me. Harry and Ron are pretty consistently abandoning Hermione for all manner of petty reasons, Ron is - it seems, never really stops hating Harry for life in the limelight, and Harry has the sort of trust issues that can only come from an abusive childhood..but why do they never, ever go away - at least with his two closest friends?

   I know we don't like to assume too much about the author from her writing, but throughout the series, I couldn't help but feel sorry for Rowling. "She must not have any friends.." kept flashing through my mind. Because the trio aren't the only friends represented in the series, but they're probably the best shot at healthy, true friendships, and it's disappointing. So much simmering resentment. I look back at my own school-day friendships and I remember having friends like that: friends I liked (even loved), but didn't really trust, friends I knew would isolate me at the first mis-step..those weren't my closest friends. My dearest friends from school were the ones I trusted with my whole heart, the ones I know are still there for me, despite the miles, despite the spiritual distance, despite the paths we've taken that lead away from each other. There's still that core closeness..and maybe that closeness is there, somewhere deeply hidden in the trio. Buried behind back-biting, petty betrayals, and thoughtless cruelties, maybe there's the core of friendship. But if it's there, it seems like a sad, struggling thing - beset on all sides. 

   Still, if it is there - and I never see it reading the books, really, only in discussing them afterwards with enthusiastic people who can see it - it does raise the friendships in the series above where I saw them. I like to hope that maybe Rowling is trying to draw that aspect of friendship out. Reminding her readers again and again that love is something constant..something that 'bears all things..endures all things..[and] never fails.' 

What do you think, are her friendships true and beautiful. Are they Loving?

Friday, March 7, 2014

Lenten Icons

The Lamenting Virgin is an ideal companion for the season of Lent. She mourns as we do - but deeper, fuller. Her empty arms wrapped around the Son she longs so much to hold. The Mother mourns what cannot be - it is a loss of something she never really had - for who can hold all of God? Strange to think that once she did. Once she had a child, a tiny son who nestled in that lonely space, but the dreams and hopes that mothers share, of the sweet potentiality in each child, that she never really had. He was something else entirely: "I had only streams of milk or tears to offer, and you were ever so much more than me." Something un-holdable, something set apart. And I think she knew, even then, that her arms would always be both empty and full.

My pain has been perfected and fills me up...
You became great,
and then you burst the rims of my heart
as a smarting too stark. .
no longer can I give to you

(Rainer Maria Rilke. From The Life of the Virgin Mary) 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Meditations on the Tarot V: The Pope

"The ancient rites have lost their effectiveness since Christianity appeared in the world. The .. Catholic religion, in fact, is the legitimate daughter of Jesus, King of the Mages. A simple scapular worn by a truly Christian person is a more invincible talisman than the ring and pentacle of Solomon...Necromancers evoke the dead, the sorcerer evokes the devil and he shakes, but the Catholic priest does not tremble in evoking the living God."

The Pope is the card of Benediction. The magic of the God-Man made visible throughout time. And when I look at it I think of the Icons above my altar - their tiny blue light glowing in the darkness; little doors opening to the warmth of the Divine Will.

We are entering into a season of fasting now..and I tuck my written prayers behind the Saint best suited to tend to it: Paraskeva and the Theotokos sharing my beloved friends, St. Joseph nurturing the lonely and the dead, Anna keeps me from laying out the lovely cards beneath my books, and Nikolas works wonders for us and keeps the car from breaking down. Yarrow has given the coyotes to St. George, she worries about them - will they find their friends in the night?  And there is a creepy guy on the snow as well - haunting, wrapped in his own death, we've given him to Sts. Anthony, Patrick, and Elizabeth Ann Seton, he needs quite a few holy friends to keep from worrying us. The world is full of mysteries. Full of the unsettling dead and the dark, uncertain night. 

It is overwhelming to think that we walk on an earth that has drunk the fresh blood of Christ. That we drink it as well - is there anything, really, for us to fear? I worry less while fasting, there is the Icon of Christ in the Cup, reminding me with delight.."I bear on my body the marks of Jesus" and cannot be troubled by any man.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Harry Potter Book Club: Lent, Lies, and Penitence

Ash Wednesday is this Wednesday! This very's sort of overwhelming. But my fellow bookclubbing girls and I want to do something special this season: Christie is moving to Wales (no, not Wales, ME - unfortunately; the real Wales) and Jenna is readjusting her life in pursuit of more knowledge - so we may not have as much time as ideally we would for consistent sections of analysis and discussion. What we do have though, is a passionate interest in the ideas behind those sections and the holy season itself. So we're going to (and correct me if I get this wrong girls) slow down (maybe pause, maybe not, depending on schedules and real life commitments) the consistent analysis during Lent and focus instead on the way Love itself is presented and defined in these first three books. Just these first three books, no skipping ahead! I want to talk about family love and friendship and charity and hope..I know Jenna and Christie have a book's worth of thoughts to share on the topic, and I'm looking forward to your reflections as well! Excited? I am!

So I'm not going to go too much deeper into Lupin's Fatherly role toward Harry right now, but I love the scene Jenna references in her post:

      Lupin manages what Snape never could have done: he makes Harry feel guilty for 
      breaking the rules. I'm not sure there's a more successful punishment in any of the 
      books than Lupin's few, well-chosen words here. It's quite a powerful little 
      scene—it manages to make me feel like I took a deserved kick to the stomach, 
     and I didn't go sneaking off to Hogsmeade.

Lupin does manage that, doesn't he? And you know, I think part of the reason is that, as much as he does have obvious affection for Harry, and as much as he does sort of step into that father-role with Harry, he doesn't really treat Harry as special. We actually see him in this book relating with other students in a similar, affectionate, personal way. Snape treats Harry as special (especially awful, true, but singled out), Dumbledore, Hagrid, McGonagall, even Trelawney single him out. The Dursley's singled him out for mistreatment, and even Molly Weasley singles him out for the lion's share of her nurturing. But Lupin - even while giving him the extra lessons he needs - doesn't really treat Harry as special. He treats him very much like he treats Neville: as a boy in need of some extra help, a student that he as a teacher is trying to guide and help. It's refreshing to me, and it must be refreshing to Harry as well. To see an adult that is neither hostile nor indulgent reprimand him..Thank you professor Lupin!


And I wonder with Jenna "whether Snape knew who the mapmakers were. Obviously he didn't know what the map was, but did he recognize the names?" She guesses that even if he didn't recognize the names, the personalities that came through were easily discernible..and I have to agree..even if he wasn't certain, he must have suspected - and having someone easily available who did know must have made him even more frustrated.. Poor Snape, everyone has a breaking point! It must have been a stress-filled year for him all things together.

I'm also left feeling just a little badly for Malfoy. Not only does Harry win the match, not only does the fake dementor attack fail, not only does he lose 50 points in one afternoon, but he has to be the too-short guy, perched on his friend's shoulders and then knocked over by a huge, scary spell in front of the whole school! When you're in Slytherin, and you know everyone hates you anyway, it stings even more.

You know, a friend once jokingly suggested to me that Edward Cullen's real name was Cedric Diggory, and he became a vampire when he was killed by Voldemort. In which case, we all have another reason to hate Voldemort. :/
this one's for you, Jenna ;)