1999 December, Wrecsam People,
BC in Wales
Ty Mam Duw
What was happening 2000 years ago? This correspondence, found in a Celtic barrow somewhere to the west of Ty Mam Duw, and translated with painstaking accuracy from the Latin, may date from that interesting period. But then again, it may not.
Kyndylan, son of Rhys, son of Rhygyferch
to Alexander, son of Joseph of Arimathea.
The letter brought by your father’s sea captain, the worthy Aaron, has reached me. We were much amused at your characterisation of our fair land. I suppose that there is less rain in the Province of Syria; if, to oblige the Lord Joseph, we could sell him some, believe me, we would. In compensation, with our usual quota of gold and copper and our consignment of fighting dogs for the Roman Circus, I have sent a pair of dogs for you, personally. I have chosen names for them that you will be able to recognise and pronounce: Brutus and Dana.
Brutus was our first King. He fled from Troy with the noble Aeneas, but he was carried by a great storm beyond the Pillars of Hercules, washed up here, on the shores of Decangl, and became a Welshman. Dana is the goddess of the people of the neighbouring Island. They, too, claim descent from the Danaans. Dana is the Celtic form of Danae.
Now, be prudent with Brutus and Dana, they are a cross between the Wolfhound and the Wolf. Longer in the leg and squarer in the jaw. Do not cast out casual challenges to people whose friendship [or whose dog’s friendship] you value. Brutus likes humans but he will infallibly lay out anything on four legs. That is why our fighting dogs have proved such a paying export to Rome.
Salutations to your father and family, in happy memorial of your visit to our Caer,
Kyndylan ap Rhys ap Rhygyferch
To the Lord Kyndylan from the Lady Noë Caecilia, daughter of Joseph of Arimathea.
I write on behalf of my brother, Alexander.
In his excitement at receiving your so appreciated gift, he stepped too hastily from the deck of my father’s ship. Unfortunately he did not fall into the sea but upon the new harbour arm built by our self-styled monarch, the Lord Herod the Great, here at Antioch. His right arm is fractured in three places (Alexander’s, that is, not the lord Herod’s) and he is unable to write.
What is it like in your island? Can you see the big star there that they are all talking about here? What gods do you worship? My mother is Roman, you know, her name is Caecilia Lucina. She thought her daughter should be brought up Roman and her sons should have their father’s beliefs, but my father said everyone was going to have his. So my mother told me about Jupiter and Minerva and Mars and my father told me about the one true God we worship here in Israel (as we call our land). I can read Hebrew as well as a boy. I also speak Greek, as well as Latin and Aramaic. My father and mother disagree about everything except each other. My father says there is no one like my mother and my mother says that there is no more wonderful man than my father - though I really don’t know why.
The dogs are lovely.
on behalf of Alexander ben Joseph
Noë Caecilia bath Joseph
From Kyndylan to the Lady Noë Caecilia
I thank you for your greetings and I sorrow with your sorrow at the injury to your esteemed brother. I rejoice that the dogs give satisfaction. Yes, we can see the great star here. But our sages, men (and women) whom we call Druids, and who come from the Island of Môn on our coastline, say that it is not one star but two, for behold, they have again parted and, I am told, shall soon be joined by a third. But I cannot claim to understand its significance or the interest in it. Here everyone is wrapped up in myths and magic. It is inexpressibly wearisome to me. Our people, the Decangeli, worship what you might call a nymph, though they do not speak her name, in a damp grove of sacred oaks.
My mother’s people, the Atrobates, in the south, are very Roman. I spent part of my childhood there. My Uncle Tincommius is in Rome even now. They eat off the best Samian ware and drink Greek wine out of of glass made in Gaul. But this does not prevent them from severing the heads of their human sacrifices and manipulating them so that they seem to speak.
I do not wish to give offence. Perhaps your people, too, engage in human sacrifice. I know nothing about your father’s religion, but to me it is a dark and burdensome side of life.
My greetings to Alexander. May he soon have the use of his right arm to embrace his friends and chastise his foes.
Kyndylan ap Rhys ap Rhygyferch
To the Lord Prince Kyndylan of the Decangli
My Father says that I have been addressing you very disrespectfully and that your father is a king and your Uncle Tincommius is a very famous king, too. I beg your pardon.
Alas! My brother regained the full use of his arm and engaged Tribune Marcus Octavius son of S. Sentius Saturninus, our Governor, for a dog fight. Brutus won. Then the humans started fighting - and my father was obliged to send my brother to Egypt with great dispatch. However, Saturninus also has departed, taking his sons with him. You see, he was obliged to sit in judgment on King Herod, who recently murdered his own sons Alexander and Aristobulus, and he (Saturninus) though that he (Herod) might have something nasty - and fatal - put in his soup. So he’s magnified a mild ague into malaria and gone home. However, Quirinius, the Governor of the neighbouring province is commanding a legion in the Taurus Mountains with a view to putting down some of our neighbours. So there’s someone to keep an eye on Herod.
The star grows bigger. My father’s steward is a Chaldean Jew from Sepharvaim called Achshah. He told me that the one apparant star is made up of Zedek whom the Romans call Jupiter and Kokhav Shabbtai whom the Romans call Saturn. In our language Zedek means righteousness or justice. And there is a prophecy in our psalms that justice and peace shall embrace: Achshah said that it was the sign of a new age. And that Mars would join to make it a bigger star and that this was the very sign that appeared in the heavens more than a thousand years ago when Moses, the founder of our religion was born.
No, we don’t sacrifice human beings. It is absolutely forbidden. We are taught that obedience is better than sacrifice and a contrite heart is better than the fat of rams.
We believe there is but one God who made all things and all nations. And we may not make images of him. He is a God of loving kindness, slow to anger and abiding in love.
But my father says that Alexander will have to stay in Egypt till he learns to behave responsibly.
Brutus the dog is in my care. He is lying on his back with his feet in the air and an old leather ball between his excellent teeth. Dana has puppies.
Noë Caecilia bath Joseph
To the Lady Noë from Kyndylan
I cannot praise the efficiency of your father’s shipmasters too highly - we see them every three months. Though the trade in Welsh gold and lead is doubtless worth it. It enables me to write to you.
Please do not apologise. Though my father is a [small] king and he rules from Decangl to beyond the Clwyd, I am but the third of his sons and my eldest brother is in excellent health, despite our dense mists which clog the lungs, and through which one cannot see a thing.
Your God interests me greatly. What is he called? What does he do, and what does he require?
Also, are your eyes brown or blue?
To the Lord Prince Kyndylan from the Lady Noë
Dana’s puppies are now large enough to start eating the furniture. Their appetite for cushions is great. I have grey eyes and brown hair.
The star is now enormous and people are saying that it heralds the coming of the Messiah. But they are not saying it very loudly, because it might upset Herod.
You see, long ago, God chose our forefather Abraham and he made him into a people for himself. And later our people went down to Egypt - but God was still with them. He was not a God tied to the land. Then he called Moses, who, though one of us, had been brought up as an Egyptian prince. Moses wanted to know his name and God said: “I am.” You would have to learn Hebrew to understand that and to say it as a name - not that we ever do say it, except in our hearts as a prayer.
God led our people out of Egypt and they walked through a sea to come to our land. Then we understood that God cannot be likened to any visible thing or sculpture or stone, but only to history, because he commands history.
Then he gave us laws. Not like anything anyone else had here; commending justice and respect for the dignity of others. But hard to live up to.
The history of our people has been the history of our failing God. But God is still with us when we fail. That is part of his covenant with us. All through our history, from the very beginning, he has promised us a Messiah, an Anointed One who will save us. He has given us prophets who have told us that the Coming One will be a peace maker, a suffering servant, the eternal king.
To be the mother of the Messiah is something every woman of our race longs for. My father is a very wise and holy man and he knows many things others do not know. I asked him if I could be the mother and he said: ‘My dear, she has already been chosen.”
I truly think this is the promised time. But I don’t know why I should. We are a miserable, stagnant backwater in a great and meaningless empire, our people fail, our priests are corrupt, our hope seems gone. We are bitterly divided amongst ourselves.
But I cannot reason myself out of the knowledge that this is the fullness of time.
Kyndylan to Noë
I am re-reading your letter in my favourite place. There is a stone arch here, made of two enormous uprights with a great flat roofstone above. These, and the circles elsewhere that consist of similar arches are a relic of a people long gone. Perhaps they were once part of a dwelling or had some long lost practical use, but to me they seem to have their own significance. I am sitting with my back against a tree. Trees feature in many of our legends. It is as if the tree is life, and the gateway is time, or perhaps I mean that it leads to a thing beyond time. Perhaps if I could really walk through it I would meet your Messiah. Your religion sounds like a religion and not a sickening degradation and a nightmare of horror.
May I ask how old you are, and whether you are married?
From the Lord Joseph of Arimathea
To the Lord Prince Kyndylan son of Rhys son of Rhygyferch
The dogs that you have so generously bestowed upon my household have eaten my furniture, attacked my menials, initiated dog fights and disrupted my family life. I would beg you to send someone here who knows how to control them. The bitch, Dana, has just had another litter of eleven puppies. I have, sir, no wish to start a circus in Antioch. The weather in Judea is considerably hotter and drier than that in your admittedly greener country. It seems to exasperate their temper.
My daughter is fifteen, she is headstrong, intelligent, exceptionally comely and quite charming. I could not recommend her as a spouse to any but a man of great sense and I have not so far found the like in the Province of Syria.
My captain Aaron is accompanied by a freedman of mine, Apollo, he is an admirable tutor of Greek and Aramaic and he has with him copies of some of our sacred scrolls in Greek to facilitate the study both of that language of our religion. He is a pleasant and entertaining companion for anyone who wishes to take a protracted sea voyage.
Judea is a rather uncivilized backwater, in an uncomfortable political position. But then, so is Decangl.
Our God is the Lord of the whole earth and the faith in God which our people have may be shared by anyone, anywhere. Nonetheless, for the next, let us say, forty years this will be a unique place to live - a time unrivalled in history - the fullness of time.
Joseph [of Arimathaea]
Pontifical Council for Culture PLENARIA '97
link to the Vatican
THE FACE OF CHRIST IN THE CHURCH
Please note, when this was written we were unaware of the movement called Wir sind Kirche, or We Are Church, it may not indeed have existed, but if it did, its objectives were unknown to us. The phrase ‘we are church’ is an allusion to the Salutation of the Blessed Virgin of our Holy Father St Francis in which he refers to the Mother of God as the Virgin made Church. We in our more humble way, as consecrated women, are Church as she is Church.
This perhaps slightly confusing quote below is from a lengthy study, “Icons in the Whirlwind”, on faith and culture made at the Pontifical Council’s invitation.
Ty Mam Duw – Poor Clare Collettine Community – Wales
We accept that God exists. Our speciality is that we accept God as God– omnipotent, all-creating with an absolute right to have us and our obedience.
We have seen and we know that God can do anything (and will).
We cannot deny his presence in our lives even if we want to.
This radically affects the way we live, the way we relate to each other. Together we are Church, for our God is Trinity: our God is community: our God is a mutual relationship, not remote or impersonal but incarnate in history – and in our lives. Together we are Church. We are the only free people. But alongside the things we ostensibly seek in life is a hidden agenda, a longing for the things that our own choices and the rind management have denied us.
So what has the church to offer? Where can we find an opening for witness and an answer to this hidden agenda?
Something User-friendly, Green, and Sustainable
The Monastic Model
In the "dark" ages that followed the collapse of the Roman Empire Christianity and the achievements of human culture survived in the monasteries. It could not have survived outside them. Taking an abstract of the Benedictine, Cistercian and Basilian position and laying aside Carmelites who are eremitic and Poor Clares whose ordained objective is to demonstrate the power of God by living in poverty and who are not intended to be self-supporting, "monasticism" looks a little like this...
– A joint ownership collective
– with an elected but stable executive,
– owning and farming sufficient land to be self-supportive,
– containing and sustaining among the membership the necessary technical_and social skills for survival;
– capable of initiating and sustaining new members;
– practising hospitality especially to people in actual or spiritual need;
– non-introspective; that is, bound together by an external permanent_objective and not totally at the mercy of mutual evaluation;
– non-reproductive – a (usually) single sex community;
– non-consumptive – vowed to a moderate and sustainable life-style_compatible with that of the poor in its own culture;
– people with a committed life-style – capable of being psychologically_well-adjusted and integrated...
This is not some blueprint Utopia that will never get off the drawing- board. It is a life-style that has been sustained for the last 1500 years (at least) and has produced some great intellectuals, heroic achievers and many happy and contented people. The reason for its survival (not listed above)? It succeeds by committing itself to God, by accepting the fallen non-perfectable human condition and, working with the grain and not against it, by applying the principle of forgiveness and positive loving acceptance (which goes far beyond toleration) of others. It is not easy – no easier than being married and having children or not being married and not having children. There are no easy options: the harder you look for them the more vigorously they recede.
Monasticism is a dynamic and fluctuating state that has been switch- backing against external forces from its inception. Taking a wild stab at its history, it does best when it is conscientiously trying to be itself and fails most conspicuously when it tries to compromise with the secular. Its present ruffled state has been brought on by an indifferently discerned return to the secular. And it has been made the target of the social sciences. A dominant trend in psychology makes sexual activity the threshold to adulthood and its denial the root of all unreason. Sociology works from the principle of the human family: man, woman, child, and does not have the mechanics to evaluate single sex, all adult, communities.
Monasticism has also been affected by con-formal social degenesis. In places some of its expressions may die. It is most exposed to the positions promulgated by the social sciences where it is most ignorant of the limitations of the disciplines in question. This is especially true of the attack made by psychology on chastity, particularly as people who profess celibate lives can have psychological problems and some of these can sometimes relate to celibacy and to authority – equally some thieves find prison troublesome and restrictive but there is no great wave of public feeling against its existence.
Psychology and sociology fail most conspicuously where they have no room for original sin and impersonal evil. And as these two aspects are almost universally neglected, these worthy tools (for the social sciences are worthy and they are tools) have a limited, deceptive or unreal view of the real world.
A new civilisation
As a civilisation in an "endtime" we know that some drastic change is becoming necessary. Stabilising the population by scientific and technical means, by contraception, abortion and euthanasia is not only morally unacceptable, it is unsuccessful, and an improvement of method and legislation will not make it more successful. Neither will piously folding our hands and proceeding on our present course assist us. We are adults who have been given the world as stewards and if we neglect our responsibility our numbers will be stabilised by war, devastation and disease. But we are free to choose. Fallen as we are and subject to temptation and original sin, there is a door left open for us. It is called free will.
Monasticism is able to witness over fifteen centuries that wholeness and integration are attainable in the celibate state. Let us repeat the fact that it has produced an above average number of geniuses, saints and happy people – it works and, even now, the failure rate is still less than that of marriage. Christians regard both the celibate and married life as a vocation, a special gift from God. At points in the Middle Ages those in religious life reached and probably exceeded ten per cent of the population. In Tibet before the Chinese takeover, it is estimated that 90% of the population spent some time in a monastery. These are possible and sustainable figures. There is overwhelming evidence that a sizable proportion of people who now marry or contract semi-stable relationships which lead to offspring, have no vocation for the life they lead. The startling number of disturbed and violent children and those whose home tensions render them educationally disadvantaged, make the non-vocation of their parents very obvious.
It would be more socially effective to have fewer married people with larger families, than a host of independent parents with one or two children. In China where the "one child, one family" policy is enforced by compulsory abortion and legal sanctions, they have a name for the result: the "little God" syndrome. Children of larger families are better adjusted than "only children". If large families produce fewer poets and artists [J.C. Bach and St Catherine of Siena came from exceedingly large families], let it be borne in mind that they also produce fewer schizophrenics and psychopaths.
Secular Monasticism and Lay Monasticism
A New Evangelisation
How would this work out in practice?
The first thing that would have to change is the moral climate. Those who have lived as if "anything goes" and have not kept a hold on their own ideals, who think nobody can change anything and it is not worth bothering to try, are always the hardest to sustain in any social experiment. Cynicism and disillusion will have to be put aside in favour of realistic hope. Education for chastity, and not the creation of contraceptive and homosexual cultures, will have to become part of an ordinary school curriculum.
Monasteries should offer Common Life Seminars explaining how to cope with living together in charity and chastity. These must stress the spiritual and redemptive base from which the community acts and by which it is sustained.
Parallel institutes of lay people who covenant a part of their life to serve God should be set up alongside – but not fused totally with – established monasteries. Education should especially encourage the young to give two years to this after school or university and the state should offer small bursaries to assist this. Malthus – considered, wrongly, as the father of birth control – advocated simply that people marry later. "Monastic service" would help create this gap.
The Church and the New Monasticism
The faith survived during the "dark" ages in the monasteries. Much of Europe was evangelised primarily by Celtic monks who were trying to "get away from it all" – the "all" at the time, being, amongst other things, non-stop Viking raids. People became interested in this non-controversial form of evangelisation and brought themselves along.
The new monasticism would give a greater number of people the chance, in a non-combative way, to see the Christian Church at work. Without prejudice to its essential form of life, it should be eager to assist schools and universities whose religious curriculum already includes visits to a monastic institution.
The most singular witness to Christianity is Christianity in action. It is the straightforward witness of people living the Gospel that leads to conversion and inculturation.
1996 Catholic Times
TMD’s Last Article for the Catholic Times
Black River politics
He told them this parable
“Black River plateau is many thousands of feet above sea level in the Sierra Sonrisa.The Black River itself rises in the beautiful heights above the plateau, then it passes through a valley with areas of noble and rugged rockery and pockets of fertile soil where elephant corn and melons grow.
“The Black River cascades over the edge of the plateau, breaking into an hundred streams. These are the sources of a thousand rivers and they water the whole continent.
“Black River Valley is a Royal Reservation. The Emperor gave it in perpetuity to the Black River Tribe as an award for their services in the Great Wars, many centuries ago. And the Government still adheres to the original contract; each kraal of the tribe receives not only its land, but a princely stipend as well.
“The waters of the river have flowed pure and clear for so long that the tribe have forgotten their raison d’etre; they have forgotten why it is called the Black River.
“Chimwemwe lives in the barren heights above the edge of the valley. He is not quite of the tribe and does not really live in the reservation. He has to fight for his existence. The weather has been dry for a long time, it is a bitter astringent dryness with the taste of approaching storm. Chimwemwe remembers what his father had told him: this is the time to watch the river - remember it is called the Black River. Every morning Chimwemwe goes to the stream. Today he sees what he had dreaded; flowing along the surface is a line of black and poisonous matter, like a polluted oil slick.
“Desperately he piles rocks into the stream bed, but the swift waters rise over it with their burden of poison. he runs to find help, and comes to the Kraal of Heavywit who is standing over his daughters as they hoe the elephant corn. Gasping breathlessly, Chimwemwe tells of the poison in the stream.
- Nonsense - says Heavywit - Go away! Can’t you see that we are working? -
The hoe-bearing daughters look up at him with resentment, and indeed the poison has not quite reached them yet.
“Chimwemwe arrives at the kraal of Sitabout. Sitabout lives in a solid state resin teepee with air conditioning and a TV in each fold. Reclining on an easy-lounger he is watching a repeat of Star Wars III with engrossed excitement. Chimwemwe’s appeals fall on deafened ears.
- Just watch this! - Sitabout exclaims, - I’ve simply got to see the end. It’s thrilling! The whole universe is endangered. But they’re sure to win through -
- But Chief Sitabout, - Chimwemwe cries, - the whole universe is in danger! -
Without taking his eyes from the screen, Sitabout offers Chimwemwe an iced beer. He runs on.
At Restorado’s kraal his many daughters are engaged in the most extraordinary dance. With feathers in their hair and skirts of cornweed, they are stripped to the waist. Chimwemwe hastily casts his eyes down. This makes it difficult to talk with Restorado who is standing in front of them.
- Welcome, Chimwemwe! - Restorado exclaims, - You’ve come at just the right time. My life’s work has come to fruition. We are performing the restored dance rites of our Fathers at the time of the Great Wars. We have really got back to our roots, at last! -
- But, - Chimwemwe interrupts, - the river is poisoned. we must...
- Yes, yes, - Restorado says, genially, - of course m’boy. As soon as the dance is finished -
Chimwemwe runs on, feet bruised, lungs aching. He comes to the kraal of Adumbrado. Adumbrado forestalls him.
- The river is going black. - Adumbrado says with excruciating slowness and exhausting pessimism, - I always said it would. Don’t ask us for help. We’re all old. It’s not a pleasant life, but it’s too late to go down the mountain now. All the young ones have gone; they did not like carrying buckets to the well half a mile away now that we have the river at our door. The young today aren't what we were. -
Chimwemwe ran on desperately. Notabene heard the approaching feet and came out quickly. He was something of a recluse and his cave was lined with networked computers.
- Chimwemwe! - he cried, anxiously, - What is it? -
- The river! - gasped Chimwemwe, - Look! -
- My God! - exclaimed Notabene - I’ve just been writing articles for the Valley Life Review and the Tribal Times on how the virtues of our Fathers of the Emperor’s Great Wars can be applied to modern life. I’ll put it in my articles at once, then every one will know and can come and help. -
- But Nota, - groans Chimwemwe [they are old friends], - The Tribal Times only comes out a week on Thursday, and the Valley Life Review is a quarterly! -
Chimwemwe runs on towards the rocks. Looking over his shoulder he can see the tide of poison following him. The Black River leaves the plateau through a narrow embouchure before it breaks into rivulets on the falls below. The strait gap in the rocks through which it passes is but an armspan wide and a couple of handspans deep.
There are states of mind in which the spirit may command the body to hold on and no power on earth, or under the earth, shall move it. At this pass though the arms be torn from their sockets yet still will the hands hold on.
Chimwemwe had nothing to bring to this crisis but his own person. He threw himself into the water and damned the outlet with his own body.
He who has ears let him hear.”
And they came to him and said, Lord, explain this parable to us. And he answered, “The Kingdom of heaven has been given to you, and where it comes to birth on earth, it is like a plateau amongst high mountains at the source of a river.
“The evil one is always seeking to poison the river and to deceive its guardians, for they are the salt of the earth and their destruction will affect not only themselves but the whole of creation.
“You, who, through different charisms, have offered your whole lives to me as what should be a sweet-smelling oblation, are the tribes. The age of Martyrdom was the Emperor’s great war. It is not over, but your life - your Religious Life - is the white martyrdom that you took upon yourselves.
“Chimwemwe is the prophet who sees the truth and the Fathers of the kraals are those who have sold my birthright for a mess of Pot-au-feu.
“Greater love has no person that he lay down his life for his brothers and sisters. Still greater love has he who lays down his life for his brothers and sisters when they cannot see that theirs is in danger.”