Monday, November 30, 2015
A snake floats near in the green thorns,
slack ropes amassed and skirting each thorn
as though in lounge-grass and not in thorns;
like a drinking rock, sponges noon,
back of drooping blackberries
ample at the melting point, opaque,
their depths of jet ready to slip
the vines with no resistance.
Eyelash-perching beads of sweat:
no pluck from stem disturbs the snake
bundled in the woof of thorns.
As an ochre dust waltzes in sleep
on a deep pond, so does the heat
keep things slow, low, patted down;
yet this dream in noon reveals
the quickest flickering tongue from a snake.
And we break the past-prime berries, to see
within the regnant warmth of juice is germed
the high speed wriggling of a silver worm.
Sunday, November 22, 2015
"Jesus is here right now."
Nearly twenty years on, The Apostle is aging well. Recently viewing this film - not having seen it since 98 - I was impressed with not only how well it holds up, but how much better it was than the last viewing. The first time watching it, I knew that there was something very unique taking place; I was struck most of all by an unabashed, unaided truth coruscating through the frame. On my latest viewing there was deep impact. While the film's qualities were certainly recognized by critics upon its release, I think this film is still sort of one of those not yet sufficiently recognized classics. It has not yet taken that place among the quiet late bloomers, like Casablanca and It's a Wonderful Life (neither of which I'm a fan of), but I am pretty certain it will. Moreover, I'm convinced - and some may laugh - that the Holy Spirit breathes through this film in an effusive, unstoppable way.
Therein lies the great surprise of this film, not to mention its actual greatness. You may chuckle at the white suit preacher repeating "Holy Ghost power" or you may find Billy Bob Thornton's conversion quaint, and so on, but towards the end, something like a chill sweat threatens to break over you, and the recognition that this film is, as a narrow sluice channel, delivering. Holy Ghost power. Very much in the same way this flawed preacher man - do you trust him? Is he just nuts? - is an instrument of "an acceptable time", a channel for Evangelium, so it goes with the film itself.
It is not a psychological portrait. It is not southern gothic. It is not genre. It is not ironical or cynical commentary. It is most certainly not sentimental. Only a conception, a script, gestating in the mind of Robert Duvall for thirteen years could have ended up becoming this film. I find comparisons that put the film in the company of the stories of Flannery O'Connor and other authors to be superficial, brittle observations; putting the film on the safe shelf.
The late Roger Ebert wrote about the almost documentary-like way in which this film unfolds and flows. You never feel - not once - that this film is fulfilling the requirements of a story arch. Other critics have used the words "electrifying" and "unapologetic" to describe that very particular course this film takes. The general reception of this film was quite positive.
I think one of the most startling things is the revelation that Duvall's character, Sonny, is indeed doing the work of Jesus, of planting and spreading the Gospel. It's convincing because you see that even when he realizes that his big sin of wrath - of murder - is catching up to him and he knows he must pay for it - that the mettle of his gospel convictions are tested: you see that while he knew his crime and indeed, fled from turning himself in, knew he was sooner or later going to be arrested and taken to jail, he still moves forward to spread the gospel in the ways he can. And more, that the Holy Spirit is working through this man. We see this emphasized also at the very end while the credits roll: Sonny is part of a chain gang at the side of a road and he's the leader in their song. He poses the questions, while the other convicts answer "Jesus". He's clearly continuing to do the work of the Lord while in jail.
I liked the very last words we hear before the final fade out:
"Who is Mary's little darling?"
"Smugness is the Great Catholic Sin." --Flannery O'Connor
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
“I think in the whole world things are going very badly. People are becoming more materialist and cruel ... Cruel by laziness, by indifference, egotism, because they only think about themselves and not at all about what is happening around them, so they let everything grow ugly and stupid. They are all interested in money only. Money is becoming their God. God doesn't exist for many. Money is becoming something you must live for. You know, even your astronauts, the first one who put his foot on the moon, said that when he first saw our earth, he said it was something so miraculous, so marvelous, don't spoil it, don't touch it. More deeply I feel the rotten way they are spoiling the earth. All the countries. Silence doesn't exist anymore; you can't find it. That, for me, would make it impossible to live.” --Robert Bresson
Monday, November 2, 2015
"Dear children. Anew I desire to talk about love. I gathered you around me on behalf of my Son through His will. I want my children who understand the love of my Son and follow it to live in love and hope. They came to know God's love. Therefore, dear children, pray, pray that you can love more and do acts of love, because faith alone, without love and without acts of love, is not what I ask from you. My children, that is the illusion of faith. That is self-boasting. My Son asks for faith and acts, love and goodness. I pray, and I am asking you to pray and live love because I desire that my Son, when looking at the hearts of all my children, may see in them love and goodness, not hatred and ambivalence. My children, apostles of my love, do not lose hope, do not lose strength. You can do it. I am encouraging and blessing you, because all of these earthly things—which are unfortunately placed in the first place by many of my children—will vanish, and love alone and acts of love will stay and open the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven. At those gates I will be waiting for you. At those gates I want to greet and hug all of my children. Thank you!"