Century Marks

Century Marks

Highest bidder

Boston’s Old South Church is planning to auction one of its two copies of The Bay Psalm Book, the first book published in America, in 1640 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Eleven copies survive. It’s estimated that the book will bring between $15 and $30 million when sold next November at Sotheby’s in New York. Old South plans to use the proceeds to pay for building repairs and to sustain its ministry (Reuters).

Silent God

In the book of Lamentations, God is largely silent in the face of laments about Israel’s suffering under the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem. Beau Harris and Carleen Mandolfo suggest a number of reasons for the divine silence. First, God is a good listener, showing deep respect for Israel’s pain. Second, God may be demonstrating a baffled silence at the extent of the destruction Israel experienced. Finally, God may use silence to teach Israel that God wasn’t going to immediately resolve their situation—and that Israel would need a tough skin for living among their enemies. God’s silence in Lamentations is instructive for pastoral counseling and Christian compassion. People sometimes need a place to spill out their rage, and they don’t need instant responses (Interpretation, April).

Polite company

Death cafés started in England and are catching on in the United States. Usually held in coffee shops and led by social workers or chaplains, death cafés allow people to talk about death and address such issues as advance medical directives, physician-assisted dying, funeral arrangements, and the hereafter. There is a website: deathcafe.com (USA Today, April 7).

Why the bird sings

A teacher told his students that “God is the Unknown and the Unknowable.” Then why speak about God at all? they wondered. The master replied with a question: “Why does the bird sing?” Anthony deMello (1931–1987), a Jesuit priest in India known for integrating Western theology and Eastern spirituality, liked to tell that story to his own students. DeMello adds that the bird sings not because it has a statement, but because it has a song. Likewise, a master’s words need not be understood to awaken something in one’s heart that goes beyond knowledge (Spiritual Life, Spring).

Dating the shroud

New scientific tests on the Shroud of Turin date the cloth to ancient times, challenging earlier experiments that dated it only to the Middle Ages. The burial shroud purports to show the imprint of the face and body of a bearded man, with nail wounds at the man’s wrist and pinpricks around his brow, consistent with the crown of thorns pressed onto Christ before his crucifixion. Many experts have stood by a 1988 carbon-14 dating of scraps of the cloth that dated it to the years 1260 to 1390. In a statement, Pope Francis was careful to refer to the cloth image as an “icon,” not a relic, reflecting the Vatican’s policy of not claiming the cloth was used to cover Christ after the crucifixion (RNS).