Archives for February 2012

Theophany Sermon: Stags As Serpent Killers

Who doesn’t love the White Stag? Majestic, noble, and pure, it is the traditional, powerful symbol of Christ, the Peace and Power of the Father. We meet it (him?) not only in Western tapestry and iconographic tradition — alongside, notably, St. Godric — but in popular fantasy as well. Readers of this site are familiar enough with the appearance of the White Stag at the end of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as well as in the Harry Potter stories, especially in the climax of Prisoner of Azkaban and, his mate, the cervus fugitivus, in the pivotal Forest of Dean scene of Deathly Hallows, that I don’t need to explain his importance in great story telling.

What I learned recently, though, is that the stag is known in the Orthodox Church at least as the great enemy of serpents. The stag likes to lunch on the low-crawlers. This was revealed to me in that most unexpected of places, a sermon, at the Feast of Theophany. With the Deacon’s permission, I share that exploration of the meaning of Theophany (represented, I think, in the Ron the Baptist scene alluded to above) in which the stag symbolism is explained. Enjoy!

Saturday Vespers, January 7, 2012 – Isaiah 35:1-10 – St. George the Chozebite

Fr. Deacon Theophan Warren, All Saints Orthodox Church, Chicago, Illinois

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

As we continue our celebration of the glorious feast of Christ’s baptism in the Jordan, and the revelation of the worship of the Holy Trinity this evening, my brothers and sisters in Christ, I thought it fitting to preach on this passage from the thirty-fifth chapter of the Prophet Isaiah.  I would contend that in this one single chapter of Holy Scripture, the whole of salvation history is contained, along with the prophetic vision of the eschatological end of this world, and the beginning of the next.  Of course, I do not mean to say that every detail of the history of salvation is contained herein, but let us briefly examine this passage tonight under three headings:

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Dickens and Harry Potter: Influence To and Fro

Suzanne Keen, Harvard PhD and English Department Chair at Washington and Lee University, told me on my visit there last fall that her students who have grown up reading Harry Potter are able to grasp and love longer narrative better than her students in the past. She shared this with a reporter at W&L in  the form of a “thank you” to Ms. Rowling for fostering her students’ appreciation of Dickens.

The article, which I hope very much you will read, explains how reading Harry Potter makes you a better reader of Dickens, i.e., the Hogwarts Saga’s long narrative, comedy amidst tragedy, complex plots, cryptonyms, word play, etc. I’d go further and mention Dickens’ gift for allegory or creating characters who are story transparencies for vices and virtues, the transfiguration of characters (positive and demonic), the topoi of literary alchemy, even his indoctrination of readers into a politically correct Romanticism (which might also just be called Christian charity?).

Did I mention the gothic melodrama and interior satire? I’m reading Dickens every night to my children to celebrate the gift of The Complete Works we received at Nativity. I’m loving reading Dickens through Potter-phile eyes, which is new to me, I realize, but will be the rule for Dickens readers for many decades — all those in Prof. Keen’s classes, certainly, and those on campus today.

I pressed her for some data to back up her anecdotal experience of the Potter Generations being more accomplished and sensitive readers than their older siblings and parents who didn’t, couldn’t have read Harry were. She shared two studies, both from the NEA: check them out here and here.

I have a lot more to say about Dickens, especially the Christmas novellas A Christmas Carol and the much less well known The Haunted Man. The first is a dramatic ring composition, written in fact as a song but really a round, and the second has several signs of being an alchemical set piece, not to mention a Weasley family look-alike. But more on that in the near future, time allowing.

My apologies to those of you who saw this post when it was only notes cut-and-pasted from emails. I pushed ‘publish’ instead of ‘save’ yesterday and had no idea this was live until comments started coming in. Your comments and corrections, of course, are coveted as always — especially if you can share your experience of classics post-Potter and how your vision and experience as a reader has or hasn’t been changed.


New Hunger Games Film Trailer and Secrets of Movie —

The new trailer can only be seen on the Film’s site (see here) but they allow us to embed the following sneak peek episode of Katniss on the run in the forest. Apologies in advance for the advertisement that follows!

Read the full story behind the filming from The Hollywood Reporter or the ‘9 Secrets’ short course at Geek Tyrant. Hat tip to James for all the links!