Daily Archives: December 31, 2009

Some Christmas Pictures

I don’t normally clog up my blog with personal pictures. But we have had a good Christmas, and so I thought I might share a few memories with you.

Our Christmas Tree and our "new" lounge suite ($300 from the Salvos!)

Our new nativity set - on sale at the closing down of Unibooks in Little Collins Street. Missing Boy and Donkey. Not essential characters...

The Christmas Tree at St Paul's Lutheran Church Box Hill - for scale, see the door on the left!

Mama's Christmas Plum Pudding (see the flames?)

A very nice bottle of wine which I received as a gift from one of my students which I shared with my honourable mother-in-law on Christmas Day.

At every family celebration at the in-laws there is a competition to see who can get the streamers from their poppers to hang on the chandelier above the dining table

My brother's speed boat on the Murray River. Yes, I did go water skiing for the first time in 20 years. Not very elegant.

The local accountancy firm in my brother's town. I was amused by the rather ecumenical partnership.

My brother is looking after a friend’s Bentley. Now that’s style!

My father and brothers with the Bentley down by the river.

Mia jumping of the "jetty" down by the river

Me taking flying lessons. Unsuccessful.


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Ratzinger bagging Hindus? I don’t think so…

I received a strange comment (unpublished) to an old 2007 Christmas post on this blog. The comment was:

it is interesting that no one has picked up on the pope’s citation of Origen in the homily–namely, Origen’s insistence that pagans such as Hindus can’t love or reason. I’m surprised India hasn’t objected to the insult.

The homily to which this comment refers is the Holy Father’s Midnight Mass homily for this Christmas Eve (given just after he was jumped by a woman from the congregation and pulled to the ground – nice to know that our 82 year old pontiff bounces – I fell over myself the other day and am still suffering the bruises, so I hope that Papa B is okay. Poor old Cardinal Etchegaray wasn’t so lucky. He ended up with a broken hip…

Reader: Get ON with the story!

Schütz: Ok, ok… keep your shirt on… just thought you all might be interested…).

Right, where was I? Oh yes, the Holy Father’s reference to Hindus in his Christmas Homily. What, you say? You didn’t hear him mention Hindus? No, neither did I. Yet that did not stop the anonymous author of the “Insight” blog (not to be confused with the “Insight Scoop” web page of Ignatius Press) from publishing this commentary: “Ratzinger at the Vatican: Hindus can’t love”.

Of course, the reason why there has been no reaction from India is that the Holy Father said nothing of the sort. What he said was:

God’s sign is his humility. God’s sign is that he makes himself small; he becomes a child; he lets us touch him and he asks for our love. How we would prefer a different sign, an imposing, irresistible sign of God’s power and greatness! But his sign summons us to faith and love, and thus it gives us hope: this is what God is like. He has power, he is Goodness itself. He invites us to become like him. Yes indeed, we become like God if we allow ourselves to be shaped by this sign; if we ourselves learn humility and hence true greatness; if we renounce violence and use only the weapons of truth and love. Origen, taking up one of John the Baptist’s sayings, saw the essence of paganism expressed in the symbol of stones: paganism is a lack of feeling, it means a heart of stone that is incapable of loving and perceiving God’s love. Origen says of the pagans: “Lacking feeling and reason, they are transformed into stones and wood” (in Lk 22:9). Christ, though, wishes to give us a heart of flesh. When we see him, the God who became a child, our hearts are opened. In the Liturgy of the holy night, God comes to us as man, so that we might become truly human. Let us listen once again to Origen: “Indeed, what use would it be to you that Christ once came in the flesh if he did not enter your soul? Let us pray that he may come to us each day, that we may be able to say: I live, yet it is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me (Gal 2:20)” (in Lk 22:3).

So, the author of the “Insight” post is surely drawing a long shot by equating Origen’s “pagans” with the Hindus. Those who follow the Hindu religions (and there are many of them) would hardly self-identify as worshippers of “stones and wood”. For that matter, it would be unlikely that any modern day (neo-)Pagans (I met one at the Parliament of the World’s Religions – an interesting coversation…) would identify with this either.

The Holy Father’s point is surely this: God revealed himself in flesh not in stone. This corresponds with the prophecy “I shall remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ez 36). It is the heart of flesh which has passions, feelings, and, yes, love, not the heart of stone.

The irony of today’s situation is that the general religious Zeitgeist has turned from (as in Origen’s day) worshipping “stones and wood” to worshipping “pure spirit” – which actually rejects the flesh. My guess is that “pure spirit” religion can end up being just as passionless, unmoving and unloving as “stones and wood” religion. The Pope’s Christmas message challenges us to see God in the sign of the flesh and blood baby in the manger and the flesh and blood man on the Cross.

He wasn’t bagging Hindus.


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A funny, scarey, and possibly too real look at what happened at Copenhagen

I’ve been meaning to blog on this article (“The truth of Secret Diplomats’ Business”) for some time. I tore it out of last Saturday’s Age and have been carrying it around in my pocket since, waiting for an opportunity to blog a bit.

Forget all the other commentary you have been ploughing through in relation to the Copenhagen meeting. This one short article explains it all. Here is the essence of this (very funny) column by Neil Brown:

UNLIKE most people, who think Copenhagen was a failure, I think it was a great success. It has preserved the golden rule of international diplomacy.

Years ago, when I was a young fellow and started to go to international conferences, an old hand who was about to retire took me aside. ”I’ll be shoving off into retirement soon,” he said, ”so I thought I might pass on the golden rule of international conferences.”

…”The most important item on the agenda at any international conference,” he resumed, ”is to fix the date of the next meeting – and of course the location.”

However – and it was a big however – if a conference succeeded in wiping out poverty or pestilence, there would be no prospect of trying to go to another conference the following year on the same subject. Concentrating on the date of the next conference would guarantee poverty and pestilence would still be there the next year and would provide the excuse for another year’s travel, entertainment, spending other people’s money, passing pious resolutions and generally being self-important, all of which are the only reasons for being in politics or diplomacy.

…Thus, despite the fact that almost everyone says that Copenhagen was a success because it narrowly avoided being a failure, the cognoscenti know it was a great success because it was such an appalling failure.

…[S]ince Kyoto and again since Bali, we were told incessantly that Copenhagen was the last chance to prevent the world being plunged into a watery grave. Everyone was going to Copenhagen in the belief that it was a last chance to save the planet.

When I heard this, I mourned for the international political and diplomatic brotherhood of which I was once a part; they clearly were not going to be able to stretch climate change beyond Copenhagen as the excuse for more conferences, new taxes, tougher and more complicated laws and the perpetual extortion of money from poor workers in rich countries to rich kleptomaniacs in poor countries that foreign aid has become. Some other issue would have to be found.

Fortunately, this has turned out not to be the case. Mercifully, climate change will be there for at least another year to take its vengeance on a profligate and decadent world. It will provide the excuse for conferences next year and for years beyond.

This article would be simply a funny bit of writing except for one fact: it rather seems to explain everything. It is simply too believable.

There is another little snippet in the middle of the article that bears repeating too. Had me chuckling for hours.

Sir Owen Dixon told me that when he was appointed the first UN troubleshooter on Kashmir, he went to New York to recruit an assistant. Someone recommended a young man in the UN building who, believe it or not, actually had the job description ”to bring peace to the world”.

”Do you like your job?” Sir Owen asked. ”Well, at least it’s permanent,” he replied.

As Jesus said, “The poor will be always with you.”

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