Blessed Are They That Mourn: Stratford Caldecott and Tradition

Stratford Caldecott, a man I never had the pleasure of meeting in this life, has had a profound effect on my life, devotion, theology, understanding of education, and more. This excellent post on his final book, Not as the World Gives, written by someone who knew him personally, is a source of both joy and sadness for me. I can only join the ranks of those who mourn, as Stratford himself understood them, Blessed are they that mourn: “that is, those who remember the dead, and who remain faithful to tradition” (Not as the World Gives, 13).

Read this, and be moved, read more Stratford Caldecott, and let him move you to greater devotion for our Holy Lord.


Hilaire Belloc calls the dons that taught him at Oxford «The horizon of my memories— / Like large and comfortable trees.» I can apply that expression to the friends of my parents whom I knew as a small child. Since we moved often when I was growing up, there are many who form the horizon of my childhood memories whom I have seen only rarely since. There is something wonderful about meeting those people now (or even just reading their writings), and being able to know them in quite a different way than I did as a child.

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Old Posts for Tolkien Reading Day and the Feast of the Annunciation

David Russell Mosley


The Feast of the Annunciation
The Edge of Elfland
Hudson, New Hampshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Today is the day Frodo destroyed the ring, by way of Gollum, and the day we celebrate the archangel Gabriel announcing to Mary that God desired her to be with child. In honour of both events, here are some posts I’ve previously written. I hope you enjoy.

Fiat and Doom, Mary and Frodo: Feast of the Annunciation and Destruction of the Ring

The Sacramental Imagination of The Hobbit

The Sacramental Imagination of Smith of Wooton Major

On The Economics of Elfland: In Honour of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Birthday

The Eucharist Is the End of Marriage: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Advice to His Son


Truth, Beauty: Why I Teach Beautiful Poetry

An excellent post from Megan Von Bergen resonant with several things I’ve written here on Letters from the Edge of Elfland. Including Faeriean Metaphysics: A Diet of Poetry and Faeriean Metaphysics: The Necessity of Poetry, Fantasy, and Faerie in Theology.

Christ & University


During a recent visit to my local art museum, I found that the museum was displaying the St John’s Illuminated Bible, commissioned by the monks of St John’s Abbey. Curious, I made it a point to see the Bible.

It was breathtaking.

In a dim room there were twenty-five glass cases, each holding a portion of the Scripture and opened to reveal the most beautiful illuminations. St John’s Gospel announced the Word Incarnate with a gold figure on a royal purple background; Revelation, the Second Coming with a cacophany of colours marching across the pages, speaking to the terror and joy of the apocryphal books.

I stood in the dim museum light reading page after page, entranced by the glory of the illuminations.

I recalled this enchantment recently, reading Marilynne Robinson’s essay “Freedom of Thought”. There, Robinson wonders sadly whether there is any place in modern education for this…

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Meandering Reflections on and Questions about the Harry Potter Series

David Russell Mosley

The Harry Potter Series: British Editions

The Harry Potter Series: British Editions

9 March 2015
The Edge of Elfland
City, State/County

Dear Friends and Family,

Yesterday I finished, yet again, the Harry Potter Series. I love returning to these stories at least once a year. They aren’t perfect, but nevertheless, I still love them. Below are some unorganised thoughts and reflections on the Harry Potter Series. Perhaps some day I’ll organise them or write more fully on some of them, but for now take these little digests for what they: meanderings.

Body and Soul

Perhaps the most problematic part of the Harry Potter Series for me is Rowling’s understandings of body, mind, and soul. In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, we get introduced to Dementors, fear sucking creatures that somehow also possess the ability to suck out one’s soul if given the opportunity to kiss you. First, of course, we might question this association of fear and happiness (the thing that drives away Dementors when formed into a Patronus) and the soul. Why are these two emotions the ones connected with the soul? Sirius, for instance, is able to mentally combat them by thinking first about his innocence (justice) and then his revenge (vengeance). What’s more bothersome, however, is Rowling’s relatively Cartesian understanding of the human person. Hermione tells Ron and Harry that your body can exist (live) without your soul. It serves, apparently, as the source of personality and consciousness, but not motion. It is the ghost driving the machine. So much so, that Rowling invents the Horcrux. Voldemort is able to split his soul putting pieces of it into both inanimate and animate objects. The inanimate objects are able to manifest themselves as Voldemort the person, but not, initially anyway, Voldemort the body. However, Rowling confuses this both when she creates a mind/soul dichotomy in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when we learn the Voldemort put a part of his soul in Harry (by accident) causing a confusion of mind and soul, thus requiring Harry to learn occlumency. But this causes me to ask, if the soul and mind are not the same, what is the soul and what purpose does it serve? Hermione tells us we should care about our souls, but Rowling provides no real reason as to why, since there seems confusion over the difference between soul and mind.

The Invisibility Cloak

In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows we learn that Harry’s cloak is one of those hallows, a true cloak of invisibility that is supposed to be spell-proof as regards being seen through. However, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire we learn that Moody’s magical eye is capable of seeing through it. This just doesn’t jive.


It seems to me that Rowling undermines everything she sets up about muggle-born wizards in The Tales of Beedle the Bard. In the story of ‘Babbity Rabbity and Her Cackling Stump’ there is a footnote from Dumbledore informing us that while one must be born magical, but that this can come about from muggle parentage, that most research suggests that there is wizarding blood somewhere in that person’s ancestry. This takes away, somewhat, both from my Calvinist/Predestinarian reading of wizardkind, but also takes away from the importance of muggle-wizard relations. One could easily make the argument that if all muggle-borns do in fact have wizard ancestry then they are no longer muggle-borns, they’re just the one person in their family to be born with the wizard genes activated. This would mean that standing up for muggle-borns is no longer related to standing up for muggles qua muggles.

The Importance of Christmas

Christmas plays a really fascinating role in the Harry Potter Series. In each book it seems to serve as a means of furthering the plot (Harry and Co. learn something that helps move them to the climax and its resolution) and/or as a means of giving Harry a family. Some examples will suffice: In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone its on Christmas that Harry receives his father’s invisibility cloak, giving him his first real connection to his family. That night, Harry finds the Mirror of Erised and sees his parents, and extended family, for the very first time. The cloak also serves as a major plot point throughout the series, being given its ultimate significance as the greatest of the Hallows. In Chamber of Secrets, Christmas is when Harry, Ron, and Hermione take polyjuice potion and the first two question Malfoy and learn more about the Chamber’s more recent history. In Deathly Hallows the period from Christmas Eve to St Stephen’s Day is the period over which Harry and Hermione go to his hometown, his parent’s grave, and his destroyed home; are attacked by Nagini; find the sword of Gryffindor; Ron returns; and Ron destroys a horcrux. Christmas thus serves a profoundly important place in Rowling’s work, which I think may suggest an even greater connection between Harry and Christ.

What Happened to Ron the Strategist?

In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone we are introduced to wizard’s chess, which is just normal chess with animated, semi-sentient chess pieces. Ron, we learn, is a proficient. Not only does Ron trounce Harry, but he also beats McGongall’s life-size wizard’s chess set. Chess is a highly complex game, requiring proficients to think rapidly and to think and plan ahead. Where is this Ron when it comes to doing homework, or searching for horcruxes (alright, she does emphasise his leadership after he returns and the group learn about the Deathly Hallows), or really any other time planning is involved? It seems to me Ron would be right useful in planning battle strategies, which would have been great in the battle of Hogwarts. His chess skills seemed so important, like Hermione’s logic or Harry’s leadership and broom-flying abilities which all show up with greater importance throughout the series. Instead, Ron seems to get a little dumber.

Aberforth and Goats

Seriously, what’s the deal?

Hagrid’s mum and dad?

How did that work, and why was his dad sad when she left?


What role did he play in the battle of Hogwarts? Also, why didn’t he see anything worth saying about the death of Dumbledore?

Voldemort: Love potion baby

I can’t corroborate this, but I have read somewhere that Rowling has said the reason Voldemort cannot love is because he was conceived under the effects of a love potion. This seems to literally make him irredeemable which Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince seemed not to indicate. Harry, upon meeting boy Voldemort sees what could have been himself. Even in Order of the Phoenix we learn that the difference between Harry and Voldemort, the ability to love, is often based in Harry’s choices: Harry chose Gryffindor over Slytherin; He chose to befriend Ron and not Draco. If Voldemort lacked the ability to make these choices due to his mother’s unintended wickedness, then Voldemort had no choice and cannot rightly be condemned for his actions because he could not have chosen otherwise, because his mother chose for him.

Anyway, these are just some of my thoughts and reflections. Let me know if you have answers or solutions to some of the problems I’ve noted, or if you simply disagree, or if you have reflections of your own.

Sincerely yours,

Links and videos I Normally Would Have Posted on Facebook: III

David Russell Mosley

4 March 2014
The Edge of Elfland
Hudson, New Hampshire

Dear Friends and Family,

‘What I didn’t know about St Quentin was that its basilica is one of six important French church buildings which contain labyrinths, the best known of which is Chartres. The one at St Quentin follows the same pattern as Chartres, though is slightly smaller and based on an octagon rather than a circle, so its lines are straight and segmented rather than curved. But it is superior to Chartres in that it is always accessible to the public, whereas at Chartres the labyrinth is usually covered with chairs, and only cleared for walking on once a week. I have long been interested in labyrinths, and had even drawn up plans to build one in the theological college where I was on staff. So I took the opportunity to walk around it.’

Life as labyrinth from Psephizo

The Netherlands Bach Society is performing and recording the entire works of Bach. This one is probably my favourite, still being a Bach Neophyte.

‘While it’s true that we can know something about Bach from his music and that we can know something about God from his effects, in both cases our knowledge remains imperfect and incomplete. We can never attain comprehensive knowledge of God; we can only plunge further and further into his infinite intelligibility, and as a result we come to love him more and more truly. But God’s knowledge of us is comprehensive; he does know every single thing there is to know about us. He is, as St. Augustine said, “more inward than the most inward place of my heart and loftier than the highest.” Just as no one could ever know more about Bach’s music than did the composer himself, so no one can know us more deeply than can the Creator himself. We’re not just knowers, we’re known knowers. We’re not mere musicologists, outside observers examining these things from afar—we’re the music!’

MYSTERY AND MUSIC from Word on Fire

‘But it was this past November that one of my sons asked a question that I had (as far as I can recall) never thought of in the form he posed it: “Dad, okay, I get that God has no beginning, that he is the reason for his own existence, but this is what I still don’t get: Why does God exist? I mean, what’s his purpose for existing? And why is he love and not, like, meanness or something else? Oh, and if he’s really free, did he choose to come self-exist and be a Trinity?”’

WHY DOES GOD EXIST? From Word on Fire
‘The ISIS barbarians were actually quite right in entitling their video “A Message Written in Blood.” Up and down the centuries, tyrants and their lackeys have thought that they could wipe out the followers of Jesus through acts of violence. But as Tertullian observed long ago, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. And they were furthermore right in sending their message to “the Nation of the Cross.” But they should know that the cross taunts them.’

‘”Adoption matters because it helps to get rid of a culture of death, and move against the practice of abortion, the practice of modern slavery and people trafficking. It can help avoid infanticide – most of us don’t know that hundreds of children in Holland are euthanised every year. It’s happening in modern Europe.”‘

John Milbank quoted on John Milbank: Adoption reduces abortion, human trafficking and infanticide from Christianity Today

‘Lent prepares us so that the seeming irregularity of the timing of Resurrection Sunday does not take us by surprise. As in the parable of the ten virgins (Mt 25:1-13), Lent is a time to make sure we have enough oil to keep our lamps lit until the bridegroom comes. It is the time of literal darkness in which we should cultivate our light. Since Easter’s timing seems so irregular, we are a bit like the virgins with the lamps—not entirely sure when the groom will arrive. Lent teaches us to tend our light.’

Scholar’s Compass: Lent and Easter’s Timing from Emerging Scholars Blog
‘”Sin is sin, but people live with different degrees of pressure and temptation. … No one knows for sure how hard temptation might bear on another. It is like Augustine exclaiming in exasperated compassion, when faced with Pelagian teachers who insisted that all sin was a fully conscious rejection of God, “Most sins are committed by people weeping and groaning.” A temptation that might seem trivial to you could be crushing to another; an obsession that haunts you day and night may be incomprehensible to someone else. … everyone comes from a different past, with different memories and abilities.” (Where God Happens, p 40)’

Rowan Williams quoted on Lenten Wisdom From the Desert Day 9 from And There Is Every Quest
If you have any interest in living in a monastic type community, for, oh, say, a year, then I highly encourage you to apply for the Community of St Anselm. This yearlong monastic community project is being done by the Church of England and will be headed up by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. Definitely check it out, even if you’re not Anglican.

Apply now to spend a year in God’s time

Why Study the Gift with John Milbank and Simon Oliver at the University of Nottingham.
Sincerely yours,

The Patron Saint of Poets: St David of Wales

David Russell Mosley

Second Sunday in Lent
St David’s Day
1 March 2015
The Edge of Elfland
Hudson, New Hampshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Something Lauren and I decided to do this year is to celebrate Name Days. It’s primarily a Catholic and Orthodox practice, but a good one, I think. Sadly, we didn’t decide to do this until Lauren’s, Theodore’s, and Edwyn’s name days were already passed. I may, on another day, go into more detail about what a Name Day is and how it is or can be celebrated, but today I’ll keep things simple. In short, a Name Day is a day to celebrate the saint after whom you are named (whether or not that was intentional). It isn’t a practice everyone can celebrate, but that shouldn’t stop us who can. The really important thing is to remember the saint anyway.

So today is my Name Day. St David of Wales was a sixth century monk and later archbishop of Wales.St David was actually called Dewi but when his name was latinised it became Davus and eventually David. He is remembered for many things: his simplicity of life in his monasticism, his poetry, and his preaching against the Pelagian heresy. He is credited with expelling Pelagianism (a works based salvation, suggesting we can attain perfection and salvation without the aid of grace) from Wales.

I can’t remember who first suggested it, but someone had suggested to me writing a poem in honour of my namesake, and so that is what I have done. I present to you my first annual St David’s Day Poem.

O Cymric saint by none forgotten,
Patron of Poets, my prayer do hear,
As I try to write a few words devoted
To you. O Saint of God, do draw near.
Son of a King by power revolted,
The monastic habit you chose to wear.
You preached against accurséd heresy.
Then the ground uprose, the dove descended;
That dove who is the Spirit Holy.
Lowly Earth to its Poet ascended
To meet the dove who on the Lord
First landed, to teach us His divinity.
Pray for us poets who speak the Word.
Pray we may attain, by Grace, eternity.
Pray in the name of the Holy Lord,
Father, Son, and Spirit, most holy Trinity.

Sincerely yours,