On the Sunday after the Feast of the Ascension I preached a sermon at the Cathedral that focused, ironically, on Christ’s Harrowing of Hell following his death on the Cross. My point was that Jesus shows us the depth of his servant ministry to each one of us by his willingness to descend into the depths of the most profound alienation from the Father both because of his obedience as a loving Son, and because of his love for each one of us.

One of the people who heard the sermon was our Cathedral videographer Bryan who had a vision of Christ’s action of rescue.

He began to talk about a video that would attempt to capture some of the power of the visual imagery he saw in his mind’s eye as he was meditating on the event of Christ’s entry into Hell.

This video is the resulting product… I think it’s the best one yet in the series. And, as far as I know, it’s the first attempt to try to create a video expression

You can see the rest of the video here:

Trinity Cathedral Media Channel

What an amazing thing…

Saw this quote in the review of the new movie, “The Golden Compass” – it’s in a discussion of the economics of making movies with overtly religious messages:

“New Line made a bid [for financial success] with The Nativity Story in 2006, a prequel to The Passion. It bombed.”

So much information about the interaction between faith and culture is present in that one sentence.

At least, perhaps unknowingly, the author got something fundamentally right – the Nativity is a prequel to the Passion.

I think I’ll need to pray on it for a while.

Read the rest here.

Harmitology as found in The Order of the Phoenix

Harmitology, the theological inquiry into the nature of sin and evil, can be found quite readily in the Harry Potter universe. Much of what Rowling is writing explores the relationships between the people who try to do good and those who turn themselves over completely to evil.

Marc Newman has a wonderful essay up in which he examines this in terms of the way the questions are presented in The Order of the Phoenix:

“In most stories, the threat of great evil immediately clarifies the participants in a conflict: those fighting for evil, those fighting for good, and those who turn a blind eye to the threat. Evil is represented by Lord Voldemort, along with his assorted Deatheaters and other minions. Good is represented by Professor Dumbledore, Harry, Hermione, Ron and certain members of the faculty and students at Hogwarts.  One of the theologically astute elements of Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix is its refusal to assign absolute goodness or evil to its characters. People thought to be good can be lured into betrayals, or make immoral choices that put them in spiritual peril. Others, once allied with the evil Deatheaters, apparently repent and go over to the other side. You cannot choose to ‘become’ a wizard in Rowling’s world – you have to be born one – but we are not defined solely by what we are. As Sirius Black tells Harry, his godson, ‘We all have dark and light within us. What matters is the part we choose to act on.’ Or to put it another way, ‘You will know them by their fruits’ (Matt. 7:20).

But while Harry and company recognize the danger posed by the revitalized Lord Voldemort, other powerful figures prefer to live in denial. If Professor Dumbledore, willing to fight evil to the death, is an embodiment of Winston Churchill, then Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge and his sycophantic companion, Dolores Umbridge, represent the Neville Chamberlains of the Hogwarts world. They actually take Chamberlain one step further: Rather than treat with, or attempt to appease, the enemy, they deny his existence. They will not utter his name. Umbridge, in particular, is so vested in her delusion that she is willing to stoop to torture to try to get Harry to recant his first-hand, eye-witness, battle-tested knowledge of Voldemort’s return. If true, the reemergence of Voldemort would tarnish Fudge’s legacy of peace, and thereby permanently interrupt Umbridge’s upward mobility. They remain silent, ultimately imperiling themselves and everyone else.

Lewis recognized the existence of transcendent evil, and the way in which it infects the human spirit. The character of Lord Voldemort is the ultimate representative of the kind of fallenness Lewis describes in The Problem of Pain:  ‘It had turned from God and become its own idol, so that though it could still turn back to God, it could do so only by painful effort, and its inclination was self-ward. Hence pride and ambition, the desire to be lovely in its own eyes and to depress and humiliate all rivals, envy, and restless search for more, and still more, security were now the attitudes that come easiest to it.’ But Voldemort is not alone.

Harry, too, understands his own propensity toward evil – wondering aloud if he is becoming bad. That is an excellent question for any of us to ask ourselves. Lewis would argue that such an admission is proof that Harry is not. In Mere Christianity, Lewis describes how good and evil work in the hearts of those heading in either direction: ‘When a man is getting better, he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse, he understands his own badness less and less…Good people know about both good and evil: bad people do not know about either.’”

I think the single most arresting point that I have seen made about the character of Delores Umbridge is that, in her bright pink, cat plate covered life, she represents the instinct we all have to deny the reality of evil. And that we will go to horrid lengths sometimes in an attempt to make sure that our worldview (and theolgical denial) is not threatened. The greater the threat, the stronger our over-reaction…

Read the rest here: ExileStreet | Harry Potter, C.S. Lewis, and Spiritual Warfare by Marc T. Newman

Harry Potter: T-3.5 hours…

Okay. Our tickets are purchased. The pre-movie pizza is ready to be consumed. In an hour and a half our family departs for the local theater with our pre-purchased tickets in hand for the latest Harry Potter flick.

The good news is the weather has cooperated. I never imagined how refreshing 105 F can feel after 2 weeks at 115+ weather. So I’m actually looking forward to standing out in the “cool” night air…

My 4th so far…

We started the 4th of July by keeping to an old tradition that I inherited from Fr. Karney, the priest who really taught me how to be a priest, that of keeping the 4th as a holy day of obligation. Having read +Paul Marshall’s book on the history of the early Episcopal Church in the U.S., I’m much more keen on the tradition now that I understand the context. It has always seemed particularly right to me to observe the 4th with prayer and the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

Then my family and I went to see “Ratatouille”, the new Pixar movie, in a packed house afternoon showing.

Definitely recommended. If you haven’t seen it yet, go see it. The message is amazing for anyone involved in creative enterprise, and the graphics are, to me, the best in any Pixar movie yet.

We’re “just chillin'” now and getting ready for the big finish to this day, a firework show at sunset here in our new home. All in all a great day. Even if the outside temperature is supposed to get up to 116 F in the next hour or so. (It was 115 on the drive home.)

How are you celebrating the 4th?

Raspberry Rabbit: The Lives of Others

Raspberry Rabbit has posted a movie review of a film I’ve not seen yet, but which I will now having read up on it:

Link: Raspberry Rabbit.

If you’ve not yet seen The Lives of Others (Das Leben Der Anderen) then this is the week to see it. Not because the film will be withdrawn any time soon – it’s playing in a large number of movie houses and I doubt there’s any risk of it being suddenly withdrawn. No, it was the juxtaposition of Sunday’s first reading – the story of the conversion of St Paul in the 9th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles – with the theme of the film which prompted me to suggest that you see it this week.

I’m a little late in getting around to posting this; I was out of the country for much of the past week. But if you can find it playing in your area it looks like it’s worth taking in.

Quick Narnia Movie impressions

My daughter and I went to see the new movie “The Lion, The Witch and Wardrobe” last night. I have to admit that I was dreading seeing the movie. I read the books for the first time when I was in 4th grade, and more than any other book I read as a child, these were treasures. They have had a HUGE influence on me – something that my role as an Anglican clergyman should make sort of obvious.

The good news is that the movie got the important stuff right. Sure I had some niggles with what I saw, but most of what was on the screen had exactly the atmosphere and sense of wonder that I find in the stories every time I read them. The actors were spot on – and most importantly – the CGI characters were perfect.

I loved the atmospherics of Narnia that the movie presented. Loved the landscapes that were shown. Like Tolkein, so much of Lewis’ Narnia is seen in the landscapes that he describes and the physical features he includes in the narratives.

The movie picked up on the symbolism of the books as well – but not in an overt or obvious way. I even made some connections to Christianity that I hadn’t made before by watching this movie. Yet none of it seemed preachy. And most important it kept the sense of mystery and surprise that Lewis wanted to give to his readers.

All in all, it’s a fine movie. I’ll be seeing it again. I hope they make more.