Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Flower in the Hay Season

Listen, Meg, God made the angels to show Him splendor, as He made animals for innocence and plants for their simplicity. But Man He made to serve Him wittily, in the tangle of his mind. If He suffers us to come to such a case that there is no escaping, then we may stand to our tackle as best we can, and, yes, Meg, then we can clamor like champions, if we have the spittle for it. But it's God's part, not our own, to bring ourselves to such a pass. Our natural business lies in escaping. If I can take the oath, I will.

Today is the feast of St. Thomas More, so I watched A Man for All Seasons (from which the above quote is taken). It really is, as is often thought, one of the great movies of all time. The More of the movie, as of the play on which it is based, is less driven by the idea of authority than the real More, and is less brutally acidic in his wit, but it is still perhaps the best summation of the man.

It is also the feast of St. John Fisher, who died, of course, for the same reasons, although in a different way. From one of his sermons on the penitential psalms:

The life of man is here but for a while, shortly it shall perish and be at an end; no space, no void time, no leisure can be had but always it draweth to an end; it cannot be at a point, it is never at rest, truly, one minute of an hour. Whether we eat or drink, wake or sleep, laugh or weep, ever our life here draweth to an end. Where be now the kings and princes that some time reigned over all the world, whose glory and triumph was lifted up above the earth? Where is now the innumerable company and puissance of Xerxes and Caesar, where are the great victories of Alexander and Pompey, where is now the great riches of Croesus and Crassus? But what shall we say of them which some time were kings and governors of this realm? Where be they now which we have known and seen in our days in so great wealth and glory that it was thought of many they should never have died, never to have been out of mind? They had all their pleasures at the full, both of delicious and good welfare, of hawking, hunting, also goodly horses, goodly coursers, greyhounds and hounds for their disports, their palaces well and richly beseen, strongholds and towns without number; they had great plenty of gold and silver, many servants, goodly apparel for themself and for their lodgings; they had the power of the law to proscribe, to punish, to exalt and set forward their friends and lovers, to put down and make low their enemies, and also to punish by temporal death rebels and traitors. Every man held with them, all were at their commandment, every man was unto them obedient, feared them, lauded also and praised them, and over all shewed their great renown and fame. But where be they now? Be they not gone and wasted like unto smoke? Of whom it is written in another place Mox ut honorificati fuerint et exaltati, deficientes quemadmodum fumus deficient: "When they were in their most prosperity and fame, anon they failed and came to 'by nought even as smoke doth." St. James compareth the vanity of this life to the vapours, and saith it shall perish and wither away as a flower in the hay season. Therefore since that the time of our life draweth fast unto an end, if we be not heard shortly and soon of Almighty God when we call for help, death shall come upon us or ever we can be succoured. For this cause, Blessed Lord, have in mind the shortness of our life here, and as soon as we call to Thee give audience unto us all.

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