Saturday, February 23, 2008

Brother Ass

I got three really good Christmas presents from my husband this year. The first is an out-of-print book by Eugene Trubetskoi called Icons: Theology in Color. The second is a 4-CD collection of all the audio recordings of C. S. Lewis known to exist. The third is a super-awesome cell phone.

I used to own a phone the color of a construction worker's hat, and, indeed, I never saw one like it in the hands of anyone in a different profession. I do not dislike construction workers. They are simply not a group of people I would look to for fashion advice. And these days, I think, a woman's phone is as important a fashion accessory as perhaps, socks. Socks aren't a defining piece of the wardrobe, but on the occasions when they peek out from under the skirt or pants, a woman can be comfortable knowing they aren't construction-hat yellow.

I am able to download these CD recordings of Lewis’ onto my phone, and listen to them any time I choose. One of the selections is Lewis' audio presentation of The Four Loves. While something like the book, it is an independent presentation and not a verbatim-reading of the book. We have owned an audio-tape copy of this for almost 20 years, but it is an entirely new experience being able to listen to a digital version while waiting in the Little Caesar's drive-thru.

Anyway, Lent is near, and what Lewis says here about the body is entirely realistic and encouraging, if not specifically Orthodox.

There are three views of the body. To some it is a sack of dung, food for worms, a prison, filthy, shameful, never to be thought of except for the purpose of self-humiliation. That, oddly enough, is a common view among ancient Pagans. To others it is glorious. By it, rather than by his soul, man is godlike. Nudists, I suppose, think so. Thirdly, we have the view which Saint Frances expressed when he called his body, “Brother Ass.” All three, maybe, I’m not sure, are defensible, but Saint Frances for my money.

“Ass” is exquisitely right, because no one in his senses could either reverence or hate a donkey. It’s a useful, sturdy, lazy, obstinate, lovable, and infuriating animal; deserving now the stick and now a carrot [or barbeque]; at once pathetically and absurdly beautiful.

So the body. There’s no living with it unless one recognizes that part of its function in our lives is to play the role of buffoon…

And the body…would betray and frustrate us if this ceased to be so. It would be too clumsy an instrument for rendering love’s music…unless this very clumsiness could be felt as adding its own grotesque charm.

This is from part two, Eros.
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