The opposite of not getting in trouble.

My Christmas tree is still standing in my entryway, at the bottom of the stairwell. It’s handy to have an artificial tree so that it never starts looking worn out and dried up. I didn’t get it out of its box and trimmed until very late, and then all the days this month that I was mostly in bed because of my viruses, I couldn’t even see it much. I missed many services of Nativity and Theophany in which I might have been reminded by poetry and theology of the significance of “Immanuel: God with us.”

So bear with me if I continue on the theme of the Incarnation. After all it is, as was pointed out to me not long ago, the second most important point of Christian doctrine, after the Holy Trinity. If we truly live, we live it every day. And it’s worth giving extra attention to at least once a year. 🙂

One of the days I was in bed I started listening to The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West. I would love to hear if any of  my readers has read this book or others in the Aubrey Trilogy of which it is first. This makes the third time I will have read this novel in the last ten years, and I could count on one hand the novels I’ve read three times in my whole life. I read the other two in the series as well, This Real Night and Cousin Rosamund, and a totally different novel of hers, The Birds Fall Down.

They have all made me ask what sort of woman could create these fascinating characters and dramas, portrayed by means of the most revealing dialogue and natural prose. After I started sitting up in the recliner I began to read The Extraordinary Life of Rebecca West by Lorna Gibb. It appears that there is a lot of autobiographical material in The Fountain Overflows, set in England in the Edwardian period. I don’t know if I will ever be able to write a good review of this book or any of West’s; they seem too vast and rich — and mysterious — for me to grasp, and that makes me wonder, Why am I so taken with her as a writer? and How does she accomplish this enchantment? I have some ideas — maybe they will lead to something!

The only reason I have for saying anything just now is, I ran across this passage about a Christmas Day the Aubrey Family celebrated. It contains one of the thought-provoking pearls of wisdom and understanding that are found liberally scattered throughout, not ever as little sermons, but as insights that come to the narrator Rose, or a phrase spoken by the mother as she’s trying to answer one of her children’s questions.

The father of the family wastes and loses money in various ways, so that they are always on the brink of disaster. In the passage below, the young Rose calls him “unlucky,” but the reader knows that it’s a case of children wanting to think the best of their father. His indiscretions or outright shameful behavior are the reason he and his family are always needing rescuing.

On Christmas Day the mother stays home with the maid to prepare Christmas dinner, and the father walks to church with the four children. The girls, having been musically trained to listen carefully and critically to every piece of music they hear, are often unable to enjoy anything slightly imperfect. The italics are mine:

“In church we were so contented that we did not think of the choir as music and did not approve or disapprove, but gratefully took it that it was giving tongue to what was in our hearts. ‘How bright,’ Mary whispered in my ear, ‘the silver dishes on the altar are.’ We liked the holly round the pulpit, the white chrysanthemums on the altar. Of late Mary and I had doubts about religion, we wished God had worked miracles that would have enabled Mamma to keep Aunt Clara’s furniture and saved Papa from his disappointment over the deal in Manchester, but now faith was restored to us. We saw that it was good of God to send His Son to earth because man had sinned, it was the opposite of keeping out of trouble, which was mean, it was the opposite of what Papa’s relatives were doing in not wanting to see him just because he had been unlucky. We liked the way Richard Quinn stood on the seat of the pew and, though he had been told he must be good and sit as still as a mouse in this holy place, nuzzled against Papa’s shoulder and sometimes put up his face for a kiss, certain that showing love for Papa must be part of being good.”

The picture of the family in church is sweet, but it’s the way the love of God and His willingness to come to our aid are put in a child’s very personal terms that strikes me. They paraphrase a word I really appreciate in regard to His taking on human flesh and frailty, human sin and soul-sickness and chains of death: solidarity. Glory to God in the highest!

15 thoughts on “The opposite of not getting in trouble.

  1. Your reviews and reflections always brace me with the goodness of words… inherited no doubt from the goodness of the final Word. Haven’t read this author but she’s now on my list after I finish Silas Marner. Too many good English books to read!


    1. Even truly excellent writers don’t please universally. After all, we are engaging with an author who is another human, and we don’t “click” with everyone for various reasons. I am becoming reluctant to outright recommend books, but I always do like to tell about the ones I love!


  2. This is a writer I’ve not known about. I will be looking out for a book to try. There are so many wonderful ways to express God’s goodness to us. I hope you are feeling much better.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Glory to God in the highest, Amen and Amen!

    I’ve never heard of this writer. Thanks for sharing.

    Glad to read that you are feeling better after being laid up for the holidays.

    Love, hugs and prayers for you dear Gretchen ~ FlowerLady

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I haven’t read anything by Rebecca West. Right now I’m reading Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd. It’s the second time I’m reading it. Strange that sometimes a sentence in a novel will speak loudly to our hearts. Not that Traveling…is a novel. Have you read any of Sue Monk Kidd’s books?

    It’s great to hear you are on the mend. It’s been a tough winter for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. i always love your literary references and suggestions. while i’ve heard of rebecca west, i’ve never read anything that she wrote. i now have this book on request at the library and am looking forward reading it. thank you for the suggestion.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for sharing these books. They sound so good, and I would especially like to read the biography! I hope you’re feeling much better! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Well, GJ, you sent me on a wild goose chase, finding out a little about Rebecca West! What a fascinating woman she was, and what times she did live in! I may well have to order a couple of her books. The most important thing (to me) about a writer is her voice, her wit, her crafting of words — how she sounds in my head. It hardly matters what she’s writing about, as long as those things are right. She sounds like a fine choice! Thank you for the Christmas passage. It is lovely.

    Liked by 1 person

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