Measure for Measure: Shakespeare’s Parable

Ken Lasnoski

With what measure you mete out, it shall be measured unto you (Mark 4: 24).

The tangled plot of Shakespeare’s comedy Measure for Measure might initially convince any audience that Shakespeare finds little of serious value in the Christian tradition. The Duke of Vienna leaves his troubled town in corrupt hands of his highest deputy, Angelo, and masquerades in a friar’s guise. Posing under this religious pretense, he encourages and orchestrates an act of fornication. Further, he deceives Isabella, making her think that her brother Claudio is dead. Finally, he brings the play to a comic conclusion using marriage and unilateral forgiveness in a manner that seems to signal a failure to bring justice to a town reeling with lax law enforcement and moral depravity. Why does the Duke knowingly submit Vienna to Angelo’s cold corruption? How can the Duke’s representation of religious authority be anything other than mockery if he sanctions and even causes immoral acts? How can an audience accept a comic ending brought about by such “dark deeds”—an ending that seems to unilaterally solve social ills by means of imposed marriage?1 [Read more…]

Parousia

Neil Silva

“The peace of God be with you,” I intoned. “And also with you,” they replied. I continued in a singsong voice, raising my hands where I should, bowing at the right moments: the believing shepherd of a believing faithful. It helped that I had done this for a decade—the tedium of habit has its uses—though I planned to finish fast, and to skip the homily. I still had platitudes in reserve, but even actors have limits. [Read more…]

Waiting

Brandon Zimmerman

All that is left is the waiting
Not a waiting in the dark,
But a waiting in the light
    that things might be seen clearly
    that hopes might be considered wisely
    that feelings might be felt truly
          without deception
It is a waiting that seems a lot like living
Not living incomplete or unconsoled
But living well, to have an abundance
    to invite her into, to give unto her
    if the dramatis personae should alter
    and chance, and faith, and goodness conceive
          a happy denouement

A Visit to the Tate

Bo Helmich

This spring, on the final afternoon of a sojourn in England, I wandered the banks of the Thames, coming at last to the Tate Britain, home to one of the largest collections of William Blake’s art. Was it irony or grace to find his work there, in the heart of the city whose sins and afflictions were so grievous in Blake’s time? Gone now are the infamous “dark satanic mills” of England’s early industrialization; gone (or at least hidden from sight) are the “marks of weakness, marks of woe.” Prosperity has largely replaced poverty, and the streets no longer feel “charter’d”—controlled repressively by the English crown.

After two weeks of rain I had happened upon that rare English joy: a sun-washed afternoon—a magic time for strolling and browsing, for hopping on and off red buses more or less at random, for happily spending all eight kinds of coins that the Brits carry about in their pockets. On such a day it would have been a shame to go indoors were it not for the promise of great art, and the inspiring assurance one receives as a gift from the old masters. [Read more…]

Vox Dei

J.B. Toner

Creation is a soaring symphony,
 A euphony, polyphony, a hymn—
 The joyous thunders of the seraphim
Commingle with the murmurs of the trees,
The rising madrigals of morning birds,
 The choric song of rain upon the earth,
 The rushing tide crescendoing with mirth,
The howling wind that God's wild glee avers.
 Some days I stare into the sun at noon,
 And almost swear I see a merry grin;
   If only I could hear His voice, I think,
 Uplifted in some strange immortal tune,
 I might learn hope amidst my doubt and sin—
   But sometimes it's enough to see Him wink.

What Thomas Saw

J.B. Toner

for J.R.R. Tolkien

Dark seas by night, a howling, weeping sky,
A morning’s mists upon the far dim strand;
Then faces, smiling faces, welcome hands,
Great saints and heroes of the world gone by,
Old friends, lost loves, all people dear and fair,
Then Mary—Mary, mother of us all—
Then nail-marked hands and lips once stained with gall,
Now smiling, smiling, up the crystal stair,
The Dove, the Dove, alight with joy and flame—
Then Him, Whose tears will wash away all wrong,
Whose word cries out to each of us by name,
Whose laughter makes us pure and wise and strong
To enter halls where sorrow never came,
And life itself—and life itself—is song.

Sampagita

Cristina A. Montes

Delicate blossoms
fallen
dead,
littered
at the foot of the trellis.
Still in full bloom,
fresh,
unwithered.
The weight of raindrops
was too much for them.

Storytelling, Kill Bill, and the Kingdom of God

Matthew Lickona

Can I tell you something? I get tired of talking about Flannery O’Connor. I get tired of talking about Walker Percy, J.F. Powers and even Evelyn Waugh. I get tired of talking about that remarkable mid-century stretch when books with explicitly religious (sometimes explicitly Catholic) characters and themes were garnering national attention. Take an easy barometer: The National Book Award. Powers—nominated in ’57, won in ’63 for Morte D’Urban. (Edwin O’Connor won the Pulitzer the year before for another book about priestly life, The Edge of Sadness.) Percy—won in ’62 for The Moviegoer, nominated again in ‘73. O’Connor—nominated in ’56, won in ’72 for The Complete Stories. After that? Not so much. [Read more…]