Monday, September 08, 2008

Happy Birthday Mary!

Today I ponder the wonder of calendars... One of the grand puzzles we computer scientists face is the strangely odd eccentric gearwork called "time" we humans have invented over the last few millennia. You are surprised? Don't be.

For computers, deep down, are like drummers, merely keeping a beat as the master clock (usually a chip of quartz set into vibration by that wierd AMBER, I mean electric stuff) ticks away. That tick, or clock pulse, makes all the various gates open and close and do their work. If we want to count the pulses, we can, and nobody cares very much, as these counts are just another integer, usually we could millions in every second.

Second? Ah! As soon as we come back to reality, out of the maze of gates and chips, we find things like "seconds", "minutes", and "hours" which are not all that bad, if a bit strangely shaped (where's this sixty come from?) Or the even more strangely varied weeks and months and years, all trying to give some order to the strangely shaped (yet quite regular) motions of the moon and the sun - well, OK .... perhaps I ought to say motions of the earth. For even the most astute astronomer commits Copernican Heresy when he looks out at the Evening Terminator and says to his wife, "What a beautiful sunset!" (hee hee)

These motions, as God ordained (Genesis 1:14) give us signs and seasons, and not only days and years... they mean that there ought to be a shape to time, and not just shapes in space. So we have holidays, and seasons, and jubilees, and we remember anniversaries - foremost of these are birthdays.

And now that nine months have completed since the Immaculate Conception, we celebrate Mary's birthday, when Anna her mother gave birth to the baby girl, the Woman foretold in Eden who would be the Enemy of the Serpent.

Now, as you may also recall, this seventh month (which the Romans call September) is dedicated to the Holy Angels. (Computer programmers know September is the longest month, though you May have to think about that a little.) As part of my own celebrations, I like to re-read a certain book this month, one of the great Chestertonian books which GKC did not write. It's called The Miracle of the Bells and was written by Russell Janney. I have a very beat-up paperback edition which I keep because of its unbelieveable back cover blurb:

The Miracle Makers
A poor young girl from a coal mining town who went to Hollywood as a stand-in and became a leading lady overnight.
A sincere young parish priest in Coaltown, Pennsylvania whose church was always nearly empty.
A dapper Broadway press agent who risked everything to pull off the greatest publicity stunt of all time.
A Jewish movie producer who was one of the first in Hollywood to make million-dollar movies.
Saint Michael the Archangel, undefeated champion of heavenly battles.
Yes, you read it correctly. St. Michael has a very important role in this story.

But so does Mary:
"Bill Dunnigan had gone to sleep with the strong conviction that it was now up to him to carry the ball. But it seemed that Saint Michael thought otherwise - Saint Michael and an Ally even more powerful, no less than the Blessed Virgin Mother herself!
Now, I don't want to go any further into this, in case you have not yet read this wonderful (and surprising) book. But did you note something in the tiny excerpt? I mean this:
"an Ally even more powerful"
Wow. Yes, in the Litany of Loreto we call Mary "Queen of Angels"; I might attempt some excavation into Biblical hints and allusions to this role, beginning with the marvellous address of the angel Gabriel, and the Psalms (e.g. 44(45) of the mystical warrior/writer/woman) or the Song of Songs (e.g. 6:9 about she who is bright as the sun, yet ready for battle like an army!)

But I won't. You will have to read the book.

Just one more thing. In a previous post about the Elements, I quoted the Creed:
per quem omnia facta sunt = "through Him all things were made."
Angels are not elements, as they are pure and simple being, without accidents - yet the angels are included in this "making"... how powerful they are, for whom the greatest stars, the most distant galaxies, the most complex equations, the most poetic songs, are trivialities... and yet they all had to wait, like the gates of the computer, or the drummers of the band, for Mary to give them the signal to sing:
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God...
[Lk 2:13]
Yes, for she chose life: "be it done unto me according to thy word". God exalted the humble and deposed the mighty: old Lucifer, the light bearer, the morning star, the head angel, has fallen, and now in his place sits the Woman - who is the bearer of Light Himself.


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