Monday, April 01, 2013

Easter Sunday, The Falls Church

I surprised my better half by announcing a few days ago that I'd like to go to a church service on Easter Sunday. She is a Christian but shares some of my distaste for institutional religion.

She asked which church. All I could say was one where the service includes music plus some pomp and ceremony. After a little discussion we agreed to attend the The Falls Church in Falls Church, Virginia -- maybe the only town in the U.S. named after a church. 

The setting was appropriate for Easter, a mixture of the somber and an exuberant return to life. Lawrence Auster's passing was on my mind. The morning was cool, granite-gray clouds submitting rain droplets. But cadmium daffodils cut through the gloom, cherry trees wore their pink auras, forsythia flowers were tentatively emerging, the irises prepared for unfurling feathery purple petals.

The Falls Church (Episcopalian) is historic, although the interior is restored (I think it was used for a field hospital or army stable during the War Between the States). The style is a tasteful colonial, mostly painted white, but with a golden cross on the altar. Clusters of Easter lilies on either side further sanctified the atmosphere.

For me it was a little like visiting another culture, if not a foreign country. Although I felt a slight unease at first, I got into the spirit of the thing once the service began, even reading along with the congregation as they spoke traditional prayers (is that the right word?) such as the Nicene Creed. I am a skeptic about the "narrative," but sometimes that is less important than sharing words of reverence with believers.

The Ministers and the People greet one another in the name of the Lord, the program booklet said. The greeting was done with warmth but also dignity -- no hugging strangers, just a handshake and "Peace be with you." "Peace be with you," I was happy to reply. I did not take communion; that would have been a false acknowledgement of a theology I don't believe in. (The Falls Church is nothing if not up to date: "Gluten-free wafers are available for those requiring them.")

Going to the Easter service was not inspiring, but I left uplifted after spending time with a large group seeking in their way, or ways, to connect with God. The cynical will remark, as they have for hundreds of years (and similar complaints were probably heard about Christian meetings in the 1st century), that for many it was simply a prescribed routine and a chance to dress to impress. Most of the women were stylishly and expensively kitted out. But love of ornament and love of God are not contradictory if priestly vestments and church architecture count. I leave that kind of spiritual bookkeeping to God; I'd rather take the congregants at their Word.

Around this time, I knew, preparations were being made for Lawrence Auster's funeral. I did not mourn unduly. He is alive with a greater consciousness than he knew on this side, and I hope he will attend his funeral and listen to what I'm sure will be fine tributes. (Many spirits communicating through mediums have described perceiving their own funerals.)

I respectfully disagree with St. Paul when he writes in his beautiful First Letter to the Corinthians that the last enemy to be destroyed is death. No. It will be the first to be destroyed, by passing through the gate and finding ourselves more alive than ever on the other side. You and I and everyone who lives will defeat death when we cross over.

The poet who wrote under the pseudonym Shakespeare was closer to the mark in one of his sonnets, which can be read as a message from the eternal soul to our limited personality on earth:

Within be fed, without be rich no more:
   So shalt thou feed on Death, that feeds on men,
   And Death once dead, there's no more dying then.


Stogie said...

Jesus was a great spiritual leader and I like him a lot. However, I too do not buy into the ideology: God was so disappointed in man that he gave us one last chance: believe that Jesus is the sole savior of mankind and you will escape the torments of Hell. I do not believe that any spiritual leader represents the sole path to God, and I do not believe in the fiery hell of the Bible. Like the Jews, I don't believe we need to be "saved," as we are already eternal beings.

I also enjoy ancient churches. A few miles from my home is an old adobe built Catholic church, the one featured in Alfred Hitchcock's move "Vertigo." It's the church in which James Stewart chases Kim Novak, up the stairs of the tower (which hasn't existed for decades, but was added for the movie).

They began building the church in the late 18th century, and was founded on June 24, 1797. It has seen continual service ever since, though only a few feet from the epicenter of the San Andreas Fault.

YIH said...

I was thinking what becomes of ''the American empire'' (which in reality is what it is) when it breaks up. Don't tell me ''that can't happen!'', didn't we already witness that? The ''Soviet Union'' collapsed in '91. The Olympics were already set up for there too late to change.
They managed to muddle through, Quite clumsy, they managed to get it to work anyway.
Luckily the last Olympics in the USA was the '96 games in Atlanta...

YIH said...

I was looking for that pic of Matisse sprawled out like a furry throw rug. Instead I found this.
Reading it again I'll try to answer some of those.
''Could it be the complex and contradictory nature of cats that is compelling? They are extremely loyal to the people they live with, but can seem distant, self-contained. They're soft, seemingly gentle, but ruthless killers. You think they're sound asleep, well lost to the world, then in a second they're as alert as a Secret Service agent. ''
I've seen that myself, Rascal can go from snuggled up on my lap to 'high alert' at a moment's notice.
Why do cats purr? It seems like the answer should be obvious, but it isn't. This strangely comforting sound and vibration has no obvious survival value.
It actually does! Think of it. You've just been born and you're hungry, your eyes aren't open and you can't see, A mother cat purrs to tell her kittens where to nurse.
And the nursing kittens purr in reply.
Why do they raise and lower their front paws alternately when they first climb in your lap?
Have you ever seen kittens nurse? They 'knead' their paws to stimulate the mother cat's breasts to produce milk,
That's instinctive, and is a survival tactic.
The rest is as speculative as your post;
To your cat you are ''mother''. If your cats catch and kill a bird they are damn proud of it!
Think of it yourself, ''Look Mom, look what I did!''
Considering that cats can only live (by what Humans define) short lives they have to get busy fast.
BTW, while I was typing this there is a black cat curled up on my lap and purring, he (mistakenly) thinks I'm ''mother''.
And you know what? I like that.

Anonymous said...

FWIW I do believe in the Jesus narrative. I appreciate you and your written words Mr. Darby.


Rick Darby said...


Yes, you've pointed out some of the same problems I have with the Christian "ideology." I'm especially turned off by fundamentalists. But like you, I often find churches (from different ages and in different styles) very moving. Have you been to Rome? Nowhere I know of has such a profusion of extraordinary churches, from early Christian basilicas to the overwhelming Baroque decor of the Gesu. And everyone, Christian or not, should see the four ancient churches in Ravenna with their heavenly mosaics.


Your fondness for cats speaks well of you. Something about cats attracts kind and sensitive people (the same may well be true of people who live with pets in general). In all my life I have met only one cat fancier who behaved badly -- and even in her case, I suspect she was schizophrenic.

Don't tell me ''that can't happen!'' I would not dream of saying it can't happen. Sometimes it seems almost inevitable. With regular futility, I used to write posts about how urgent it is to pass a constitutional amendment setting forth the rules for states or other political divisions to peacefully and legally withdraw from the "United" States. But Americans can be counted on not to learn anything from history. We'd rather go through the 1861-65 remake.

MDR, I appreciate your understanding that my posting was an appreciation of Christian ritual, even if I don't buy most of the "story." Probably many people who attended felt the same.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Darby,

If I may ask, what is your definition of "fundamentalist" in the Christian sense as you referenced above. The term in today's usage seems to me much like the term "racist".

Thank you.


Rick Darby said...


By "fundamentalist" I mean believers who imagine that the Bible is literally true in every respect, that it (or the Christian religion as they understand it) offers a complete, final, and unchallengeable answer to all moral, philosophical, and spiritual questions.

From what I understand, fundamentalists reject the theory of evolution per se, not just natural selection as its mechanism. Evolution seems to me obvious from fossil evidence, comparative anatomy, and embryological development. Maintaining that all evolution is down to random genetic variation that has survival value is questionable, however.

Evolution could well be guided "behind the scenes" by some spiritual teleology we don't understand.

Anonymous said...


Laurence Auster would not have agreed with you on Darwinian evolution by random mutation.

There is no problem with minor changes within a species by random mutation. the problem arises when it comes the species itself.

LA has lots more on the subject.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Darby,

I hope what I am about to write does not cause upset as I really like you, your blog and your comments on other sites. But, here goes some rambling on my part.

Under your definition anyone that believes anything is a fundamentalist. For example, you are fundamentalist in your belief that "Christian fundamentalists" are incorrect. Personally, I wish more Christians were fundamentalists perhaps then the church would grow some and be a bulwark to the fundamentalist liberals. It also seems to me Jesus is either what he said he was or he was crazy. He repeatedly called himself the Son of God. There is nothing worse than a lukewarm "Christian". One of my favorite books was written around the end of the 19th century about the Templars, now those were some fundamentalist dudes and were they ever real men.

Seems to me Western Civ has very much been on the downslope since that there Darwin fella.

I am currently reading the Federalist papers, now those men believed in "fallen man".

There is no disrepect meant nor intended in the above and I know it is not real coherent either. Maybe I'm crazy???