The famous battle of Thermopylae, which took place in 480 BC between a massive Persian force led by the King Xerxes and a small band of Greeks headed by 300 Spartans and led by the popular King Leonidas is the subject of 300. Thermopylae (“Hot Gates”) was a narrow pass near a hot springs.
In Religious Ed a nun once told us, “You should always make the sign of the cross before and after you pray. The first gesture opens God’s wavelength; the second shuts it off.”
I wonder if the sister knew how many nights I would lie in bed, panicked, wide awake unable to remember if I had signaled “Roger and out.” Odds or evens—heaven or hell. I crossed myself without stopping, hoping to land on evens or at least to interrupt the feed before memories of Linda Ursoni’s blouse and her fully developed fifth grade breasts bubbled forth from the back of my pubescent mind.
Even as an adult, I find myself playing the same game, while hoping that someday I might cross myself one last time and be done with it, but the deep need to hide always follows— in the name of the Father, and of the Son . . .
After four years, Michelangelo has reached the end, and now Jonah, whom he has reserved for last, dangles his bare feet over the Sistine’s void, sharing his precarious aerie with a dead fish, two cherubs and a vine. A marvel of foreshortening, he reclines on his arm and eyes God, still arguing petulantly that he is not the man to undertake such a harebrained job, lacking both talent and inclination. His fingers point in opposite directions, one to the threat of Nineveh and Rome, the other to the safety of Tarshish and Florence, regarding his own death as a small price to pay to make a point. Yet as the fresco dries to stone, he gazes beyond the gap between his intractable pique and God’s intractable grace, dumbfounded at the resplendent vault arching above a city at peace.
You will be blessed if you ever catch a glimpse of their plain feathers, the gray of slate shingles in the rain, and their bright black eyes shining with every good secret they will never tell. They preferred the thickest brush along our creek bed and what was overgrown around the abandoned shed. My grandfather as he lay dying recalled the hidden catbirds from his childhood, how they sang in the thicket of an empty house every morning as if their hearts would break, as if they knew the treasures of heaven lay in every clear note they tendered to the world.
So Jesus’ wealthy friends did prove useful in the end. All four narratives seem to agree on this. Joseph, after all—the one from Arimathea, not his Dad— Joseph pulled strings with Pilate. Did he have to call in a few favors earned in questionable ways so he could claim possession of the corpse? Old Nicodemus too, Jesus’ night-shift friend from the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus makes his own fleeting reprise, carting along a ton—almost—of fragrant spices, nard and myrrh (again!), for preservation purposes. Although where he got such pricey stuff, late on a holiday Friday afternoon, is never quite explained. And that convenient, fresh-hewn, garden tomb; even back in the day, sepulchres such as those did not come ten-a-penny! Add in all the hired help they must have needed to get stuff from here to there and, of course, to roll and seal that massive rock . . . Whole thing makes you wonder—doesn’t it?— wonder if that narrow needle’s eye got prized wide open— camel-size, at least—to accommodate these late allies.
Children who sing in a choir, play in an orchestra, or perform in a play are more likely to make good moral choices compared to their peers. This finding was the result of a study at the University of Birmingham involving 10,000 British children and 250 teachers. The study also concluded that participation in sports doesn’t necessarily lead to better moral choices. The findings suggest that sports build character only when parents and coaches work to ensure that outcome. Children who go to church, get good grades, and have parents with a higher level of education also did better in the moral choices measure (Telegraph, February 27).