Why the Unicorn?

Several people have asked me why I named my blog The Unicorn Triumphant. I wrote the following explanation a couple months ago and put it up on the blog as its own page, but if you subscribe to the blog via e-mail or an RSS feed reader and don’t actually visit the blog (which is how I read almost all the blogs I follow), then you might not have seen it. So, I thought I would give it its own blog post, in case any of my regular readers were wondering what ‘The Unicorn Triumphant’ meant.

(Also, at the time this blog is set to publish, I will be sitting in a movie theatre in Oxford with my friends, hopefully in costume, about to watch the opening credits roll on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt 2. Talk about a hidden encounter with Christ!)

***

The Unicorn Triumphant is a reference to the final tapestry of the seven Unicorn Tapestries at the Cloisters, the medieval branch of the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, a set of tapestries also known as The Hunt of the Unicorn.

The Unicorn in Captivity

The Wikipedia entry on the Tapestries is here.
The museum’s online tour through the Tapestries is here.

The seven tapestries depict the hunting of a unicorn, who is killed by a spear in the side. In the final tapestry, the unicorn is alive again. This tapestry, called The Unicorn in Captivity, is the tapestry I think of as The Unicorn Triumphant. One symbolic interpretation of the tapestries, and the one I mean to reference, is that they portray the Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection of Christ, whom the unicorn symbolizes. The final tapestry thus portrays Christ’s Resurrection.

The Unicorn Triumphant, to me, means that Christ, the pure and sinless Son of the Father, is alive again. We are an Easter people, because Christ is triumphant over death and all evil.

In addition, the Unicorn Tapestries are my favourite visual artwork, and when I studied at NYU my favourite place to rest and recollect was sitting in the Unicorn Room at the Cloisters, gazing at the images of the unicorn in the Tapestries. Referencing them reminds me of that time, and also expresses my love of the Middle Ages and of fantasy stories.

Finally, The Hunt of the Unicorn shows how art can lead us to a hidden encounter with Christ.

Benedictine Theatre Company: Seeking Peace (+ C.S. Lewis Matters)

I just realized I haven’t had a Benedictine theatre company post in four months, so here’s another. Before we get started, though, I’d like to point out my new friend Ryan’s blog, which I’ve added to the blogroll on the right. Ryan Pemberton is a new theology student at my college, from Seattle, and is also a great C.S. Lewis fan, and an apologist in his own right (with a book and everything!). He is blogging about his and his wife’s new life in Oxford at Ryan & Jen Go to England. (He also has an apologetics/devotional blog at hands&feet, which provided source material for the book. If you like it, leave him a comment saying you want a copy!) He’s an engaging writer, and you’ll read about his many Oxford- and Lewis-related adventures. The guy’s been here a little over a month, and he’s already had tea with Walter Hooper, briefly Lewis’s secretary and now literary adviser to his estate, multiple times, as well as visited the Kilns and taken in meetings of the Oxford C.S. Lewis Society. All that while diving into essays and New Testament Greek (which I returned to myself as of today, since I recently decided to take the optional Greek translation paper during my final exams – don’t ask me why). If you like his blog, leave him a comment

Also, if you’ve ever wanted to take a tour of the Kilns, but can’t afford the airfare – now you can! I just put up a photo tour of 68 pictures on Flickr. ETA: Had to temporarily place the Kilns photos behind a privacy barrier, to make changes. Sorry! I’ll edit this if/when I open them back up again. Re-ETA: Kilns photos available again! Seeing the real thing is still best, though, so if you’re going to be in England and want to come visit, you can either contact me (as I am a docent) or the Warden to book a tour. More information about touring the Kilns can be found here.

Oh, and final piece of news – I finished the first draft of my thesis last Monday! 63 pages and 21,046 words, a full 40% OVER my maximum word limit. Now to begin the cutting and revision process, so I can hand in a revised draft to my supervisor in 2.5 weeks. (Thankfully, I know at least a portion of the cuttings will go to serve as seed for another paper.)

Now back to Benedict:

Prologue – Day 3

And the Lord, seeking his laborer
in the multitude to whom He thus cries out,
says again,
“Who is the one who will have life,
and desires to see good days” (Ps. 33[34]:13)?
And if, hearing Him, you answer,
“I am the one,”
God says to you,
“If you will have true and everlasting life,
keep your tongue from evil
and your lips that they speak no guile.
Turn away from evil and do good;
seek after peace and pursue it” (Ps. 33[34]:14-15).
And when you have done these things,
My eyes shall be upon you
and My ears open to your prayers;
and before you call upon Me,
I will say to you,
‘Behold, here I am'” (Ps. 33[34]:16; Is. 65:24; 58:9).

What can be sweeter to us, dear ones,
than this voice of the Lord inviting us?
Behold, in His loving kindness
the Lord shows us the way of life.

***

What strikes me is the line: “keep your tongue from evil.” I think a Benedictine theatre company should be known for its integrity, love, and respect for others. One of the ways it should show this respect is in the avoidance of gossip. It is the responsibility of the leaders to set an example. We all know how gossip thrives backstage, often leading to hurt feelings and petty rivalries. One of the ways leaders of a Benedictine theatre company can help avoid the creation of such a negative atmosphere is by listening to the artists with whom they work.

An example from my own life: My first time as a young producer, my superior at the theatre company I was working with called me to pass on a complaint from some actors about an action taken by a member of the production staff. Since I knew and trusted these actors, I assumed things had happened the way they had said, though from my experience with the staff member, I figured the problematic action must have been unintentional.

So, I sent out an e-mail to the production team reminding them of the staff policy in question. I didn’t name names, but I did mention that I had been told there was a violation. Unfortunately, even with the somewhat vague wording of the e-mail, I had still left in enough detail to enable other staff members to identify the alleged violator. Another staff member, who had brought the first staff member on as part of his team, e-mailed me upset that I had basically made a public, though indirect, accusation against his team member, without consulting her to get her side of the story, which was very different.

Right there, I realised my big mistake. I hadn’t even thought to ask her, and I also (albeit unknowingly) made it very easy for other production team members to know who I was talking about, leading to deeply hurt feelings.

What I should have done was handle it privately, and get both sides of the story before I made any decision. (After talking to both sides, I’m still not sure what actually happened, but I suspect that we could have worked it out if I had led with better communication.) I also learned that taking care of one’s team is the most important part of being a producer. Not even advertising, budget, or ticket sales trump showing your people respect and love.

That’s what a Benedictine theatre company is all about. We’ll see later that St Benedict says that guests should be welcomed as if they were Christ himself. I think this courtesy and care extends not only to guests (e.g. patrons), but also to all the company members, visiting artists, support staff, and anyone else with whom the company interacts. And it begins by refusing to get caught up in backstage gossip, and by giving each other the benefit of the doubt.

“Keep your tongue from evil.” “Seek after peace and pursue it.” These are two of the mantras of a Benedictine theatre company.

Previous posts:

1) Benedictine Theatre Company: Prologue

2) Benedictine Theatre Company: Arising & Running

Catholic Blog Round-Up

Since so many of the Google searches that lead readers to my blog appear to be from new Catholics or people discerning Catholicism, I thought I would post a few of the Catholic blogs that are in my RSS reader. I hope they can be a valuable resource to others in my position.

Catholicism LiveJournal community – OK, so it’s not in my RSS reader, and it’s not technically a blog (though you could argue it’s a group blog), but this LJ comm taught me a lot about Catholicism when I was seeking to learn more about it (though it’s no substitute for speaking with a priest and getting a copy of the Catechism). And the discussion is much more civil and charitable than your average LJ comm. (Maybe it’s the people?) You’ll have to become a free member of LiveJournal to join.

A Minor Friar – Brother Charles is a Roman Catholic religious of the Order of Friars Minor (i.e. Franciscans). Good for an always insightful look into the life of a mendicant religious with grace and humor.

Be Thou My Vision – Matt is a postulant with the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin of the Province of Saint Mary (northeast U.S.). Good for learning about one young man’s entrance into religious life (also with a good dose of humor).

Becoming Catholic: The (re)formation of a Protestant mind – Deanna is a recent Catholic convert (as of Easter 2009) from the Presbyterian Church (USA), the same denomination from which I’m converting. The blog’s not updated terribly often, but what I’ve read I’ve liked. If you enjoy conversion stories, and especially if you’re converting from Protestantism, I think you’ll enjoy it.

De cura animarum – Father Jeffrey Steel is another new convert to Catholicism, along with his family, this time from the Anglican Church, in which he served as a priest. Always thoughtful posts from a follower in Newman‘s footsteps.

Godzdogz – The blog of the English Dominican Studentate (mainly housed at Blackfriars here in Oxford, I believe). There are four main topics of posts: Preaching, Prayer/Liturgy, Study, and Community Life. They’re currently doing a series on the life of virtue that I’m enjoying. (Why are young Dominicans calling themselves “Godzdogz”? Go here for the answer.)

Oblate Blog – John is a Benedictine oblate, and his website Oblate Spring is the best resource site about Benedictine oblates I’ve found. John posts about life as an oblate and resources for oblates and those seeking to learn more about the Benedictine way of life.

Psalm 46:11 – A Journey to Truth – Michael Hallman is a Catholic seminarian in the pre-novitiate with the Order of St Augustine. He returned to the Church four years ago after being away for 10 years. I started reading about his journey online when he was applying to the Order and posting about the process in the Catholicism LJ community. I’ve since followed him onto his blog as he has started on the path to becoming an Augustinian priest. Michael’s posts are always full of heart and love for his Order and the Church.

Roman Catholic Vocations – News about vocations and resources for those discerning a vocation to the priesthood, diaconate, consecrated life, or marriage (and I would add the single life). Often, during a journey across the Tiber, a person is met by challenges to the vocations they thought were open to them, and comes across new ones they hadn’t thought about. It’s worth exploring the different vocations to know what is open to you, and to think about where you might be called. If you do feel a call toward the priesthood, diaconate, or religious life, be prepared to spend a couple of years as a practicing Catholic first, to allow the initial “honeymoon” period of conversion to cool off, and ensure that you will be discerning that vocation with a cool mind.

Standing on My Head – Father Dwight Longenecker, like Father Jeffrey Steel, is a married former Anglican clergyman (raised Evangelical) turned Catholic convert. Fr Longenecker has been ordained to serve as a priest in the Roman Catholic Church (through a special Vatican dispensation for married former Anglican clergymen), and currently serves as a chaplain to a Catholic school in South Carolina. He is also a prolific author and fan of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, G.K. Chesterton, and Hilaire Belloc. He also studied theology at Oxford, so you can see why he’s on my blogroll. A highlight of Fr Longenecker’s blog is his fictional “guest bloggers,” including MSM correspondent Todd Unctuous, 8-year-old Caitlin O’Rourke, and Salamanca University alum (in Ecclesiastical Haberdashery) Mantilla the Hon, among others. Father’s blog provides a nice soupçon of dry wit.

The Deacon’s Bench – Permanent deacon Greg Kandra serves in the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, and “ponders the world” from his new digs at Beliefnet.com. Deacon Greg is liable to write about most any topic related to Catholicism, and his posts are always good for a smile and a laugh. (Can you tell I like my bloggers to make me laugh?)

So there’s my Catholic blog round-up, in no particular order but the one in which my RSS reader lists ’em (except for the LJ comm). Go forth and read!

ETA: Dane Falkner asked me to mention his creation DivineOffice.org. It features a podcast (available on the website or on iTunes) of the day’s Invitatory Psalm and Morning, Evening, and Night Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. There are also tabs for the Office of Readings and Daytime Prayer, but don’t count on finding material there most days. It’s not a blog, but it is a valuable resource if you would like help praying the Divine Office, especially on-the-go. They also offer a Liturgy of the Hours app for the iPhone. I personally prefer using Universalis when home and my bound breviary when traveling, because they include all the Hours and because I prefer to read the psalms and prayers aloud myself and not join in with a recording. However, I do enjoy being able to listen to a choir sing the hymn (this evening’s is “God So Loved the World” sung by the Glasgow Phoenix Choir), and if I were a more auditory/communal-type person I would probably use this instead, at least for the major Hours. They’re doing a good work, and I offer it here in case it’s of benefit to you.

New C.S. Lewis Manuscript Found at Oxford

There’s been some very big CSL news shooting around the blogosphere this week. Apparently awhile back, Texas State University professor Steven Beebe was doing some research in Oxford’s Bodleian Library, and found a CSL notebook marked “Scraps,” which contained early bits of Narnia stories, among other materials. He recently discovered that one of the “scraps” is part of a planned collaboration between Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien on “Language and Human Nature,” which even had a publication date set, but was never published. (No Tolkien contribution to the planned project has been found.) Read about it here!

“New C.S. Lewis Manuscript?” – Bruce L. Edwards’ C.S. Lewis & Inklings Resource Blog

“Tolkien Studies 6 has arrived – and an exciting discovery!” & “The Lewis/Tolkien Collaboration that might have been (but never was)” – Jason Fisher’s Lingwë: Musings of a Fish. The second post has comments by renowned Tolkien scholars David Bratman, Wayne Hammond, and Christina Scull.

“Steven Beebe Discovers Fragment of C.S. Lewis Manuscript”The C.S. Lewis Foundation Blog

And the press release from Texas State University.

Dr. Beebe’s article on the fragment will be published next year in the Wade Center’s journal Seven.

C.S. Lewis Blog Post Round-Up

Last time I posted a round-up of C.S. Lewis blogs; this time it’s a round-up of particular posts of interest. I’m still working on the series about my journey to the Catholic Church; Part 2 will be up soon.

The Inklings posts an article from the Church Times on the history of Perelandra the Opera, which had its first performances in 40 years this weekend at the Keble College Chapel in Oxford. (If anyone attended, please let me know, and I’ll post your account of the event in full.) More information is available at the Perelandra Project website.

-The C.S. Lewis Foundation Blog announces that Michael Ward, author of Planet Narnia, will be speaking on theories of astronomy in Lewis’ books at Oxford Science Live on July 2.

-Not completely Lewis-related (though there is a Lewis quote at the end), Victor Reppert has a must-read post on “Some confusions about truth and religion”:

[I]f we define God as an omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good being, then either God exists or God does not exist, and if God does exist, then the people that believe that God exists are correct, and the people that do not believe that God exists are mistaken. On the other hand, if God does not exist, then the people who believe that God does not exist are correct, and the people who believe that God does not [sic] exist are mistaken. The idea that if you truly believe in God, then God exists for you, but if you don’t believe in God, God does not exist for you, is nonsense.

This “subjective truth” argument is one I have run into several times, and it’s infuriating. Dr. Reppert (the author of C.S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason) does a good job of showing why God either must or must not exist, however “intolerant” it may be to insist on that fact.

-The C.S. Lewis Society of Frederick, MD has a brief post on Joy Davidman’s Smoke on the Mountain: An Interpretation of the Ten Commandments.

Enjoy!

C.S. Lewis Blog Round-Up

This week I thought I’d do a round-up of a few C.S. Lewis-related blogs I’m aware of:

C.S. Lewis Foundation Blog – Keep up-to-date on happenings at the Kilns and the C.S. Lewis Foundation. Learn about Foundation events, and read posts by visiting Scholars-in-Residence (soon including yours truly) at the Kilns. Subscribe

Further Up & Further In: A C.S. Lewis & Inklings Resource Blog – This blog is maintained by Dr. Bruce L. Edwards, a well-known Lewis scholar and author and editor of several books, including a major new four-volume reference set called C.S. Lewis: Life, Works & Legacy. This blog is one of the major resource sites I’ve found on upcoming Lewis-related events and publications, Lewis resource links, and information on Narnia and the other Inklings. Subscribe

HarperOne’s C.S. Lewis Blog – The official blog of publisher HarperOne’s C.S. Lewis website invites leading Lewis scholars to contribute posts every few weeks. Contributing scholars include such names as Michael Ward, Diana Pavlac Glyer, the afore-mentioned Bruce L. Edwards, Jerry Root, and many other promiment scholars. Subscribe

Dangerous Idea – Blog by Christian philosopher Victor Reppert, author of C.S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason. I admit, I just found this blog while doing research for this post, but I immediately subscribed. The blog discusses not only Lewis, but also important arguments in philosophy and religion. Subscribe

Internet Monk – All right, this isn’t really a Lewis blog, but it is a Christian blog by a “New Covenant, Reformation-loving Christian in search of a Jesus shaped spirituality.” I really enjoyed his post on the sexual C.S. Lewis. Some choice quotes include: “Yes, Jack Lewis had sex. In marriage. And before. Maybe more than once. He wrote Christian books, and (gasp) he wrote Christian CHILDREN’S books.” And, “The media must assume that serious Christians are seriously unhealthy people, and what better cause can one find for rolling out those freshman psych classes and all that Fruedian repression in the name of religion?” And finally, “Stand by for future posts, as we learn that the author of the popular Christian children’s books also drank, smoked, liked a bawdy joke and had theology that would drive the Truly Reformed into a hissy fit.” Subscribe

And finally, as a bonus, Into the Wardrobe, perhaps the most thorough C.S. Lewis resource site on the Web.

What Lewis-related (or Christian-related) blogs do you like to read? I’ll update this post to include any Lewis blogs mentioned in the comments.

Some brief news about my life:

Three more weeks of doing touring children’s theatre, and then the season is done. I’m doing the Virginia Renaissance Faire on the weekends, squiring for the Joust, and that’s done at the same time. My awesome sister and her friend are going to come visit me for a couple of days, and then I’m going on vacation for about a week to New York City, to say farewell to my friends from college before I cross the pond.

I found a Greek tutor! He’s an adjunct professor at Loyola College and St. Mary’s Seminary, both of which are within a few minutes’ drive of my apartment. He’s planning to meet with me twice a week and really work me hard, for which I’m grateful.

Last but not least, I found a really cool church to attend in Oxford. More on that later.

Ascension has passed, and now we await the coming of the Spirit!

Why I Blog

My friend Lynn has tagged me in a “Why I Blog” meme (and a pax upon her). So to make her happy, here are some reasons:

1) To keep friends apprised of my goings-on. I have had many people ask me to keep them up-to-date on life in England when I go over. This way, I can provide all that information in one place, and just give them a URL.

2) To earn a living. I hope to blog professionally, as a source of direct and indirect income. I am a freelancer by nature, so my income comes from a variety of creative activities. Therefore, don’t be surprised if you see ads popping up soon (once I get this blog transferred from a free wordpress.com account to a professional set-up on my own domain). I’ll try to make them as unobtrusive as possible, though, because that’s not why you’re here. In addition, a blog provides a professional “home base” on the web, where people can come to find me if they want me. I’m going to continue to add Inklings resources to this blog as I go along (such as the new link in my blogroll to the Charles Williams Society – see more about C.W. below), to provide value to you, my awesome readers.

3) Related to #2, I want to write, and blogging has so far been the only form of writing I’ve kept up consistently. (Before this, I’ve been writing in a personal blog on LiveJournal for about 5 1/2 years.) The theme of this blog – C.S. Lewis, Christianity, and the Arts at Oxford – was specifically chosen to help me focus my writing on the themes I’ve been interested in during my acting career so far, and the topic I want to write a book about – the moral responsibility of the Christian artist. I’ve been doing research on what C.S. Lewis has to say on this topic for over a year now, in what spare time I have left from my two jobs plus freelancing. This research has involved re-reading (or reading for the first time) all of Lewis’ books. I just finished Arthurian Torso, Lewis’ commentary on Charles Williams‘ Arthurian poetry.

(If you’re at all interested in the Matter of Britain, I can’t recommend more highly reading the two parts of Williams’ Cycle – Taliessin through Logres and The Region of the Summer Stars. Though be warned: they’re difficult. Even Lewis says he is “baffled” by several poems. You may want to read Lewis’ commentary first. He suggests a chronological order for reading the poems. I read the poems first, because I wanted to read them fresh, without any explanation, but I plan to re-read them now that Lewis has helped me understand much of the symbolism and imagery. I’ll be writing more about them later.)

The numbering should probably be reversed, because as listed, my reasons are in order of increasing priority. I should mention I also blog for my current employer, the Baltimore Theatre Alliance, at the BTA Blog.

No tags, because that’s just how I roll.