Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Old and the New

Alfred tilted the goblet and considered the translucent medium-red cranberry color of the 1983 Cockburn Vintage Port before taking a sip and saying, “Mother, ‘I love everything that is old; old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wines.’”

“That sounds like a quote, Alfred,” said Mother looking up from her new copy of Neal Sperry’s Lone Star Gardening book.

“Well, yes it is Mother. It’s from Oliver Goldsmith in The Vicar of Wakefield, but that doesn’t make it any the less true.”

“Let me be the first to challenge that, Alfred,” answered Mother. “Surely something being old isn’t the only value by which we should measure things. What did you think about the Paul Revere House in Boston? It was built in 1680. That’s old, but it’s an ugly house.”

“I see what you mean, Mother,” said Alfred. “The Paul Revere House may be old and historically significant but it’s not beautiful. I love it because it’s old, but I would hate to live in it.”

“Mother,” said Alfred, “I didn’t mean to make being old a universal standard by which to appreciate everything. I just happen to like a lot of old traditional things, as you very well know. Take for instance the new 1979 Book of Common Prayer. It has its critics, as well it should, but it rests on a venerable tradition going back to 1549, and many parts of it go well back beyond that. However some of the attempts to modernize the language fall short of the promise. It kind of reminds me of the Curate’s egg.”

“What on earth, Alfred,” said Mother, “does that have to do with the Curate’s breakfast?”

“Ah, well,” said Alfred, “the Curate was invited to breakfast with the Bishop. As he sat there stirring his boiled egg with his spoon the Bishop looked up from his tea and crumpets and asked, ‘Is there something wrong with your egg my son?’ To which the Curate replied, ‘No, my lord, parts of it are very good.”

“That’s surely not the same thing, Alfred,” said Mother. “There might be some things you like in the new Prayer Book, and a few things you don’t, but you don’t need to let the things you don’t like spoil the things you do like. “However if you have a bad boiled egg, it has to be bad all the way through.”

“That raises another question, Mother,” said Alfred. “When I interview people to work in our department store, I want them to ring true. By that I mean I want them to be honest, industrious, and not shirk some of the hard jobs. I don’t enquire about other things. They have to be good enough, but not perfect.

“As you know, Mother, I have decided to serve on the Calling Committee and that raises other issues. I want to know if they have a personal faith, and I want to know if they believe that Holy Scripture is an adequate standard for faith and morality. I also want to know if they love people. I don’t expect a candidate for Rector to be perfect, but we can’t afford to call a bad egg. That just won’t do.”

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ”: [Titus 2:11-13].

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