Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Sacred Flame


In a golden lantern on a golden plane, the Olympic Flame was flown across the continent of Europe and is now upon British soil. It was lit by the sun's stolen rays in Greece a week ago. Special permission had to be granted for the ‘symbolic naked flame’ (actually four of them) to fly British Airways, flanked by its own guards, surrounded by priests and priestesses. The ritual is mesmeric: the Princess Royal carried the Sacred Flame off the plane, and the sporting god Sir David Beckham (as he was erroneously honoured) lit the waiting cauldron. Lord Coe bowed respectfully; Mayor Boris quipped irreverently. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg formally welcomed the Flame, supported by members of the armed forces and dignitaries from the four corners of the Kingdom.

It is cultic – a kind of national puja. There is a sense of national offering to a deity, in an ancient ceremony which stretches back to the time of Plato. There’s been some muttering that whole thing was invented by Goebbels for the 1936 Berlin Games. But that is not quite true: the ancient Greeks used fire and torch relays (lampadedromia) as part of their Olympiad: it is all shrouded in national myth, but the tradition certainly predates the Nazis.

And so now it begins its 70-day 8,000-mile journey around the British Isles, to be lauded and honoured by millions of people in hundreds of communities, united in their worship of Prometheus. The Sacred Flame is pure light; the light is knowledge; knowledge is power. It will reach its cultic climax on 27th July, when the Flame will be used to ignite the ceremonial cauldron in London's Olympic Stadium, when we shall see clearly and know completely, and all nations will be united for the good of humanity.

The people yearn for their god: religion is not dead.

41 Comments:

Blogger Anabaptist said...

I don't think it is being carried past my house, but I shall be closing the curtains just in case.

19 May 2012 at 11:36  
Blogger graham wood said...

Anabaptist. Agree. Far too much hype, and another distraction from the need to face more important issues. (I have nothing against sport per se - but this will manic OTT, and medal obsessional I suspect.

Time to re-read Paul's response to those first Athenians in Acts 17 once again. Much the same today really - sadly an 'unknown God' in the midst of Britain 2012.
But Paul's answer is still the same, ever relevant, message of the Christian Gospel prefaced by God as Creator, sustainer of all things, and Saviour.

19 May 2012 at 12:07  
Blogger Anoneumouse said...

And back in Greece, the homeless are on the streets in growing numbers, soup kitchens feed twice as many people as a year ago, and the poor are diving into rubbish bins in search of scrap they can sell.

19 May 2012 at 12:33  
Blogger Tony B said...

This is pseudo religious twaddle though. Some half-arsed shadow of the real thing.

19 May 2012 at 12:35  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

The people yearn for their god: religion is not dead.

That's a fact. And the god in question is man himself. The whole 'Olympic Movement' has morphed into an anthropocentric religion. It is man placing man upon the throne, and worshiping the proclamation of his mighty name. The Opening and Closing ceremonies have become unwatchable.

carl

19 May 2012 at 12:49  
Blogger Timothy Belmont said...

Who's footing the bill for the Torch ceremony etc? The Greeks are bankrupt. Is Mr Beckham paying?

19 May 2012 at 12:55  
Blogger bluedog said...

Communicants seem to be taking this sport/religion thingy a bit too seriously.

If you must, hear therefore the comfortable words of the late Bill Shankly, manager of Liverpool FC, 14th December 1959 to 12th July 1974.

'Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that".

One can almost hear the strains of the great hymn/anthem 'You'll never walk alone' in the background.

But Shankly's words may prove your point.

19 May 2012 at 13:00  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

The people yearn for their god: religion is not dead.

Mammon, Mammon it's always about bloody Mammon - those freaking money worshiping plebs eh Your Grace?.

"Can of Coke sir? of course sir -Ice? -
No thanks -
I'm sorry sir?, No ice? - but its compulsory - each servingmust contain not less than 75% ice sir -
Oh all right then -
Just the one?
Yes.
Small, medium or Queen's Diamond Jubilee size?
Small,
Thank you - and that'll be just £15.99 please sir -
How much!
Still not happy sir? -
May I suggest that if sir is unhappy that he takes his complaint up with the ASA? - but it may be a waste of time; ice is after all, clearly visible in all of our approved advertising imagery and we are living in a market driven economy - any way, you can always now consider yourself part of our global family of sports sponsors - a very worth cause - enjoy your Coke - Oh, and the games sir"

Sacred flames Your Grace?, sports gods, nation against nation in friendly competition, best of the best and all that? - Oh yes - all of that too; except for in 1936 of course, when it was less about Coca-Cola and more about the Nasties, what with them with their, flags, banners, Charlie Chaplin moustaches and blonde hair and wanting to control the world - the men were no better either - the bastards!.

GO TEAM GB!

19 May 2012 at 13:33  
Blogger Roy said...

I am old enough to remember when the common road sign for a school in the UK was a flaming torch, rather like the Olympic one, representing the illuminating influence of knowledge.

It is a pity that so many of our schools today are not burning beacons of knowledge.

19 May 2012 at 16:41  
Blogger Corrigan1 said...

Eugolizing a pagan rite, Cranmer? We'll soon have you back in Rome!

19 May 2012 at 16:47  
Blogger Oswin said...

Dreadnaught: hahaha you're clearly 'on a roll' - whatever you are 'on' I want some too! I think I enjoyed that rather more than I'll enjoy the Olympics.

19 May 2012 at 16:49  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

19 May 2012 at 16:58  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Corrigan said ...

Eugolizing a pagan rite, Cranmer? We'll soon have you back in Rome!

Heh. That makes sense from a certain point of view. The Pontifex Maximus still serves in Rome, doesn't he.

[Scampers away]

carl

19 May 2012 at 16:59  
Blogger Frances said...

Forget all the blather about the pseud-religious aspects: the torch run is just great fun, and I've yet to meet anyone who thinks it is in any way a sacred flame. We were fortunate to have the run in our neighbourhood in the pre-dawn, when the torch really looked good.

And don't worry about the pseudo-worship of the human body: again, for most of us (forget the Olympic committee and the over-the-top commentators and sports types), it's merely an occasion to enjoy watching lots of different sports which aren't normally featured. Of course, we'll be cheering for 'our' athletes; but we don't make the mistake of equating athletic success with national virtue.

Remember the Calgary games: great party, even if Juan Antonio Samaranch did chastise everyone for not taking the competitions seriously enough. The Calgary response: Senor Samaranch was 'waved' several times at the closing ceremonies. Let's hope the London games can have the same fun.

19 May 2012 at 17:09  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

Cheers Ozzie!

19 May 2012 at 17:16  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Archbishop, don’t mention the Olympics again. There’s a good fellow...

Damn torch to arrive to this west of England town shortly. Bus company have issued not a pamphlet about the ensuing chaos, but a booklet...

19 May 2012 at 18:34  
Blogger Atlas Shrugged said...

Religion is certainly not dead, indeed it is healthier then ever.

It is REAL Christianity which is on the critical list, and about to be transferred to a hospice of its choice.

The only thing left to be decided is precisely where the burial is to be, and who if anyone will be invited to the wake.

The Olympic ceremony is paganism pure and simple, and so is as far away from anything to do with Jesus Christ as it is possible to be.

The Olympics is the worlds establishment showing off its true religion, which works under many names, however the most applicable is World Fascism.

Other include.

Internationalism, International Socialism, Marxism, World Communism, Globalism, World Corporatist Capitalism, Holy Roman Imperialism, Ancient Babylonian Mysticism, or plane old fashioned Devil Worship.

I will leave it to others to decide which it is, but the clear thing to understand is that it has absolutely nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

The Establishment celebrate their gods, while the people of Athens start eating dogs.

19 May 2012 at 19:39  
Blogger I am Archbishop Cranmer (and so is my wife) said...

'Tis a great pity that this overblown boondoggle for the IOC ever migrated from Much Wenlock.

As for the hungry Athenians, can they not dine on faggots?

19 May 2012 at 21:33  
Blogger non mouse said...

Well you know, Your Grace: I can’t resist this.

I’ve no access to the commentaries: Did our fame-meisters credit Chaucer with their idea, or have they plagiarised it?
Because: horrified at the idolatry and lies he’d witnessed while contemplating pagan stories in Temple of Venus, that aspiring love-poet dreamt further ... that he stood in the desert. This ensued:

"O Crist!" thoughte I, "that art in blysse,
Fro fantome and illusion
Me save!" and with devocion
Myn eyen to the hevene I caste.
Thoo was I war, lo! at the laste,
That faste be the sonne, as hye
As kenne myghte I with myn yë,
Me thoughte I sawgh an egle sore,
But that hit semed moche more
Then I had any egle seyn.
But this as sooth as deth, certeyn,
Hyt was of gold, and shon so bryghte
That never sawe men such a syghte,
But yf the heven had ywonne
Al newe of gold another sonne;
So shone the egles fethers bryghte,
And somwhat dounward gan hyt lyghte. (HOF I.492-508)*

And, bless us all, today’s clear and present flame is eventually to ‘light quite close to Stratford atte Bowe. This is where the Convent of St. Leonard’s was, to which Chaucer, at the beginning of his vision, says he had made a pilgrimage (HOF 117).

The poet then flies with the eagle: that is, his mind and spirit travel via the (perpetual) House of Fame ... to seek, and find, Enlightenment.

*Chaucer, Geoffrey. "The House of Fame." The Riverside Chaucer. 3rd ed. Ed. Larry D. Benson. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987; 348-373.

cont'd....

19 May 2012 at 21:45  
Blogger non mouse said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

19 May 2012 at 21:58  
Blogger Mr Integrity said...

Your Grace,
Good to see that you are recovering from your ASA assault.

This Olympic pseudo-worship of spiritual flames is not so distant from ancient rituals we practice still today.

In the Marriage service, white gowns is supposedly from the Vestal Virgins and carrying the bride over the threshold is again supposedly linked back to the Rape of the Sabine’s where the women were literally carried off to Rome.

Ritual is synonymous with superstition and too much of Christian religious worship is ritualistic and superstitious. We have Cranmer to thank for the simplification of worship services, particularly this week with the 350th anniversary of the Book of Common Prayer.

19 May 2012 at 23:26  
Blogger non mouse said...

non mouse said...
cont'd...

I suggest that Christian response to pagan imagery is key to understanding the poem. It’s helpful, for example, to appreciate the idea that God voices His will (the Word) even through pagan personas. As Boethius tells us:
Providence is God’s divine reason, and Fate is the instrument through which all mutable and temporal things are governed. “Therefore, whether Fate is carried out by divine spirits in the service of Providence, or by a soul, or by the whole activity of nature, by the heavenly motions of the stars, by angelic virtue or diabolical cleverness, or by some or all of these agents, one thing is certain: Providence is the immovable and simple form of all things,” and “God by his Providence simply and unchangeably disposes all things that are to be done”. (CP. Bk 4, Prose 6, 92.)**

Might we not tie this interestingly to the Olympic flame that just got blown out at its inception :)? The Breath of God ... how they must protect their Promethean image in gusty Britain (of Arthur, and of dragons)..

In any case, we have here a wonderful opportunity to apply the Christian insights of our literary heritage: to fill it “with life anew.” Some scholars have suggested that the 'unfinished' "House of Fame" was actually written so that it could be adapted and performed for such occasions as we now have.
I wish I were involved in some of the villages through which this lucifer will bound!!! (And yes, the imagery also has Miltonic echoes).

**Boethius, A. S. The Consolation of Philosophy. Trans. Richard Green New York: Macmillan, 1962.


PS: I see it is going to several Cathedral(s)/cities, including Canterbury. It's also going to Bamburgh. And Buckingham Palace. I expect they'll tie it to the Jubilee (special significance: Prince Philip's Greek heritage?).

19 May 2012 at 23:38  
Blogger Dodo the Dude said...

Integrity said ...

"Ritual is synonymous with superstition and too much of Christian religious worship is ritualistic and superstitious."

What nonsense and so protestant and puritanical!

You've obviously never attended a Tridentine Mass. Ritual and symbolism, correctly focussed and expressed, lifts man above the mundane.

Ritual is not synonymous with superstition at all! Would you sooner have a loved one dumped unceremoniously in the ground at your funeral? Or a King and Queen simply flung crowns at their coronation?

19 May 2012 at 23:58  
Blogger Isa Kocher said...

the olympic flame is secular. not pagan. for god's sake. it's no more pagan than watching the olympics on bbc. or football.

as for the definition of "marriage" no it is never been one woman one man not in the christian church, not anywhere. gay people are not going to stop having families. we are not going away. church records in france and italy, parish records document institutionalized same sex marriages and families all thru the middle ages.

every society every culture in human history has recognized same sex love and mating since before human history. leviticus no where condemns same sex love but male abuse of power: read the hebrew.

but for god's sake stop lying about human history and the "Bible": that really is just wrong. JESUS praises a gay Centurion for his love of his eremonos. Jesus says some are gay for god's sake. in Matthew's gospel.

You say GOD hates me, and then say that is NOT homophobia. You say GOD hates my family! but that is not hate speech. I say you're wrong and that is persecution. Well you frankly either don't know and don't want to know or you lie.

Throughout human history there has been recognition one way or another of gay love, families with gay parents. North and South America before columbus, all through melanesia and polynesia and India there were male wives and female husbands, Albania, Africa, Oman and church parish records in Western Europe documented formal legal male to male female to female marriages and families. FACT.

stop calling us names damning us and blaming god. God doesn't deserve it.

20 May 2012 at 06:55  
Blogger Isa Kocher said...

yes we should rid ourselves of all pagan rituals. no shaking hands. no goodbye kisses. no goodbyes or helloes. no good mornings or good nights. never open a door for someone: really pagan that one is. no hail to the king and no hail to the queen especially: bible hates feminist rituals. no prematch ceremonies before football baseball tennis etc. no half time ceremonies. no graduations god forbid. no swearing in of politicians. no military parades. no yule log nor wreathes nor lights no puddings. no eggs as pacalia. easter is pagan. no new years. get rid of the calendar. that is super pagan. god forbid a summer or winter holiday. uniformed persons must never salute. nor should flags and standards be raised or lowered.

birthdays and anniversaries are pagan. end of the year bonuses.

rid ourselves of all pagan ceremonies.

20 May 2012 at 07:27  
Blogger Isa Kocher said...

yes we should rid ourselves of all pagan rituals. no shaking hands. no goodbye kisses. no goodbyes or helloes. no good mornings or good nights. never open a door for someone: really pagan that one is. no hail to the king and no hail to the queen especially: bible hates feminist rituals. no prematch ceremonies before football baseball tennis etc. no half time ceremonies. no graduations god forbid. no swearing in of politicians. no military parades. no yule log nor wreathes nor lights no puddings. no eggs as pacalia. easter is pagan. no new years. get rid of the calendar. that is super pagan. god forbid a summer or winter holiday. uniformed persons must never salute. nor should flags and standards be raised or lowered.

birthdays and anniversaries are pagan. end of the year bonuses.

rid ourselves of all pagan ceremonies.

20 May 2012 at 07:27  
Blogger bluedog said...

Mr Isa Kocher @ 06.55 & 07.27 & 07.27, one thing we should thank the International Olympic Committee for is their commitment to inequality.

No prize for just turning up or coming last at the Olympics, it's all about who is best on the day. In addition, men compete as men and women compete as women. There is a clear recognition of the different atheletic potential of the sexes with the inevitable conclusion that men and women are not atheletically equal, but different.

If we can accept the Olympics for what they are, a festival of inequality and difference, why do we have such difficulty with similar acceptance of the differences in human sexuality? It seems you are a homosexual man and keen to tell us that you are different. Why therefore do you want to be treated equally by being permitted to marry on the same terms as men and women?

Do the recent comments by Archbishop John Sentamu on same-sex marriage complicate matters for you? One can imagine that a black man who doesn't know his place in the liberal and atheist orthodoxy may be somewhat disconcerting.

20 May 2012 at 09:45  
Blogger Pubcrawler said...

Mr Kocher, so much twaddle. Crimine ab uno disce omnis.

There is nothing whatsoever in the text to suggest that the centurion was gay, adn the word used in the Greek (Lk 7.2) of the slave is 'entimos', not 'eromenos'. Quite a different thing. And the centurion is praised for his faith, not his estimation of or relationship with said slave.

20 May 2012 at 11:11  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

bluedog: "Why therefore do you want to be treated equally by being permitted to marry on the same terms as men and women?"

The thing works in reverse too. Once marriage is open to all couples with relevantly alike relationships, you will have an equal right to marry as we will. In that case, if you don't want to marry someone of the same sex then you won't have to and I strongly suggest you don't. Marrying someone of the opposite sex will of course continue to be permissible just as it is now.

20 May 2012 at 11:36  
Blogger bluedog said...

Mr DanJO @ 11.36, 'relevantly alike relationships' is the crux of the problem, and we've been through this ad infinitum, if not ad tedium.

A family results from the marriage of a man and a woman and that family is a unique conduit for the genetic and cultural future of humanity. Without introducing a third party, a same-sex marriage is sterile and not relevantly alike a heterosexual marriage.

Why is that so difficult to understand?

PS. Make that a rhetorical question that doesn't require an answer.

20 May 2012 at 12:03  
Blogger Mr Integrity said...

Dodo,
I would like to know which of the religeous rituals that the Church performs today, except for the breaking of bread, that can be dated back to the days of the Desciples?

20 May 2012 at 13:57  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

bluedog: "Why is that so difficult to understand?"

It isn't as it stands but it's an assertion. Marriage is a social institution and society has changed. Why is that so difficult to understand?

20 May 2012 at 14:03  
Blogger Manfarang said...

Ww have Hitler to thank for all this hype,before him it was just a sporting event.

20 May 2012 at 14:25  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

I say Isa Kocher, cheer up, you annoyed thing. Christians DO love you. There you go, a bit of acceptance for you. That’s what it’s mainly about, isn’t it, validation of your lifestyle. Visiting ‘Pink News’ has taught the Inspector that.

It’s just that we can’t have you types calling the shots. Not unreasonable, you lot being a tiny minority. So, fall back into society and find your place there. Carry on...

20 May 2012 at 15:18  
Blogger Unknown said...

Francis is right - IT'S JUST SPORT! Not some pagan ritual - you're welcome to watch or ignore.... leave the rest of us to enjoy the gymnastics and diving!

And why does every post degenerate into an argument about gays? Give us all a break!

20 May 2012 at 15:48  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Unknown. Do you really want a leaflet put through your door entitled “Government Approved and Endorsed Gay Sex Positions” ? Well that’s the kind of guff we’ll all suffer if we let up on the campaigns these gentle people are behind...

20 May 2012 at 17:06  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Goodness! If the government's policy to deter us all from smoking, drinking too much and falling into obesity is called Nudging, can we assume their policy on gay marriage is nudge nudge wink winking? I do think we should be told...

20 May 2012 at 21:28  
Blogger Dodo the Dude said...

Inspector
I say, I'm thinking of visiting 'Pink News'. Any tips about protocol? I mean, one wouldn't want to be accused of being a 'troll' amidst all the disordered types, now would one?

21 May 2012 at 01:04  
Blogger Dodo the Dude said...

Integrity asked ...
"I would like to know which of the religeous rituals that the Church performs today, except for the breaking of bread, that can be dated back to the days of the Desciples?"

Apart from the Eucharist sacrifice, there's Baptism and the laying on of hands for Apostolic succession, Confirmation and healing of the sick.

Have you not read Acts? You should!

21 May 2012 at 01:11  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Dodo. Play it by ear at ‘Pink News’. You will initially arouse hostility when they twig you are not one of the ‘chosen’ but if you don’t bark back, ie show some almost respect, they will tolerate your presence. You’ll find a great deal of hatred towards the religious there. Indeed, the Inspector was going to point out to them that if they are like that towards people of a religious orientation, how can they complain when they get the same regarding their sexual orientation. Didn’t get round to it, so that’s a job for you, if you wish to accept.

The rest of the site is mainly a sounding board for gays who hate hetros for the perceived injuries they’ve been subject to for millennia, and a few desperate for acceptance of their lifestyle. There are also a handful on there who are gay saying ‘calm down’.

All in, a rather unhappy place. The journalist will publish articles, and in the manner of throwing meat to the dogs, the communicants tear into the subject. Absolutely dreadful, you know.

21 May 2012 at 17:50  
Blogger Dodo the Dude said...

Inspector

I'll may change my ID to 'Ginger Beer' so as not to arouse (change that word!) suspicion. I might go on an initial foray some time soon, under cover, and report back.

23 May 2012 at 00:11  

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