I’m Publishing my Faërie Romance: On the Edges of Elfland!

David Russell Mosley

cropped-cropped-img_2861.jpeg

Ordinary Time
21 August 2015
The Edge of Elfland
Hudson, New Hampshire

Dear Friends and Family,

As I announced on my personal Facebook page and both twitter accounts yesterday, I have had my faërie romance, On the Edges of Elfland (still just a working title) accepted for publication with Wipf and Stock Publishers under their Resource Publications imprint. While more well known for their theological books, they’ve also published several works of fiction as well as one volume of poetry from theologian John Milbank. Needless to say I’m overjoyed. I’ve spent the last four years of my life writing about the deificatory importance of human creativity, particularly that of poetry and fantasy. Now I’m being given a chance to show that I at least attempt to live this out.

You may have several questions like: what is my story about and when will it be available? To answer the second question first, the answer is, I don’t know. It will likely be available on Wipf and Stock’s website approximately 3-5 months after I’ve submitted the final manuscript. About six weeks or so after that it will be available from online stores like Amazon and about four to six weeks after that will an ebook be available. As for when I will be submitting the final manuscript, I’m not sure. I still have thesis corrections to do, so it likely won’t be ready until sometime after October.

Now, for what the book is about: Here’s an abstract I wrote for my publication proposal for Wipf and Stock:

When Alfred Perkins was a young boy, growing up in a pub in a small English village, he was often told stories by his godfather, Oliver Cyning. Mr Cyning’s stories always dealt with elves and fairies, and they were usually placed in the past of Alfred’s hometown. Alfred grew up believing these stories and spent many hours in the local forest looking for the denizens of Elfland. After a traumatic childhood experience, Alfred stops seeing his godfather and ceases to believe that Elfland exists. Now grown and having graduated from university, Alfred is forced to believe that his godfather’s stories were true. This discovery also leads Alfred to the knowledge that a plot is afoot to destroy both Elfland and his village. Now he must join together with friends from his village and Elfland in order to stop the evil plots of the Goblin King and take his rightful place in both the village and Elfland.

If this sounds interesting to you I hope you’ll consider buying the book once it comes out. I’m also trying to think of people to provide blurbs for the book so if a fairy-tale for adults is your thing and you have a name that might mean something (no offence to my many friends and family but I don’t think they’d accept blurbs from just anyone, sadly) or you know someone who might be good for providing a blurb for a book like this let me know by emailing me at elflandletters at gmail dot com. I’m also looking for copyeditors if you’re interested, let me know.

In the mean time I’ll keep writing here about the various and sundry topics covered by this blog. Also, to those of you who have read the portions of the book I’ve posted here or read earlier versions of it, I thank you. This book wouldn’t exist without you.

Yours,
David

Angels and Demons: On the Cosmic Reality and Theological Importance of Angelology and Demonology

David Russell Mosley

Ordinary Time
Feast of St Bernard
The Edge of Elfland
Hudson, New Hampshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Several things have aligned in my life to bring me to this letter. The first is my annual re-read of C. S. Lewis’s Cosmic Trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength). I’m currently in the beginning of Perelandra. The second is what re-reading this always leads me to, this interview with John Milbank, here’s a textual reproduction of the most important part. The third was this post, “Have We Made Satan too Powerful” by my friend Adam Tomlinson. Since I’ve written on the others before, I’ll give a quick summary of Adam’s post.

Adam, rightfully, reminds us that Satan is not as powerful as God. In short, he reminds us that we are not gnostics. We don’t believe in co-eternal and co-powerful gods of good and evil. Therefore, when we act like Satan is directly attacking us, or our church, or our small group we may very well be giving him too much power, namely omnipresence since others are saying the exact same thing in completely different parts of the world at the same time. Nevertheless, as Adam admits, just because it isn’t Satan himself does not mean that it isn’t one of his followers (whether human or demonic).

What I have often found, however, is that while many Christians, especially in the West (and particularly in Protestant churches, though Catholics and Orthodox can be confused on this as well), is that while we’ll readily admit the existence of Satan and the demons, angels aren’t something we particularly believe in or even think about. Now I’ve written to you about angels before, but there’s one thing I want to make perfectly clear. Angels and demons are created beings.

It’s easy to forget that they are created since they are so different from us in some obvious ways. They don’t have bodies, or at least don’t have bodies like ours. While they can take shape, as Scripture makes very clear, they don’t seem to be corporeal in the way things we’re used to interacting with are. They aren’t like rocks or trees or animals, we don’t often see them (although that’s likely a problem with our sight) or sense them in any physical way. Yet I can say unequivocally that there is at least one angel with me now as I write this though I am not sensibly aware (as in I cannot see, hear, touch, taste, or smell it) of its presence. But it is here nonetheless.

What is more, that they are created means that they, like us (and everything else that exists), belong to the created order. What this means, in other words, is that angels belong to and exist in the created cosmos. Now, I don’t mean the universe when I say cosmos, at least not how we normally understand it. They aren’t in “space” (a rather inappropriate name for the beauty that lies beyond our atmosphere). They aren’t on some other planet or in some other solar system. Rather they are part of created existence itself. Therefore they, and their abode, namely heaven, are part of our cosmos and their reality, which is many ways more real than our own, often intersects with ours. It is for the reunification of their realm and ours that we look forward to. Supposedly (I’ve studied this somewhat and have found no ancient or medieval evidence of this), the ancient Irish and Welsh Christians believed in “thin” places, places where the boundary between heaven and earth is thinner than in others. I used to be rather infatuated with this idea. Now, however, I think thick is a better adjective. There are places in our world that thicker than others because our reality is filled with a greater reality, although a created one, nonetheless.

So, why is all this important? For this reason, if angels and demons belong to our cosmos, if they can and do interact with us, then we need to be aware of that and we need theologies that give proper space to these beings. According to the Scriptures (insofar as we can take these numbers literally) for every demon out there two more angels exist. This means that whenever we think about demons working to foil the plans of God’s kingdom and God’s people, there are more angels working, in one way or another, toward the consummation of God’s plan for all of reality.

The angels are also waiting for our deification. Theologians like Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, and Maximus the Confessor describe human beings as microcosms. In us comes together the material, the vegetable, the animal, and the rational. While the first three categories cover pretty much all created things that we typically experience here on earth the fourth is, along with a reference to God himself, a reference to the angels who are pure intelligences. This means there is something of rocks, trees, dogs, and angels in us. Christ infused into that nature the divine as well. Therefore, just as all lower creation awaits with longing the coming of the sons of God (deified humanity), so too does the higher creation, the angels and archangels and cherubim and seraphim. Their fate is tied to ours. And let’s not forget that Scriptures tell us “that we will judge angels?” (I Cor 6.3), which is presumably a reference to demons. Therefore we need more than a theology with only a mind of the terrestrial, we need a celestial theology as well. This is what people like John the Theologian, Dionysius the Areopagite, Maximus, and Thomas Aquinas, and all Christian mystics are constantly trying to tell us. We should really start listening.

Yours,
David

On Feasting and Fasting, Joy and Sorrow

David Russell Mosley

Ordinary Time
11th Sunday after Trinity
The Edge of Elfland
Hudson, New Hampshire

Dear Friends and Family,

A few weeks ago at my church we had a sermon on fasting. It was a good sermon, largely compiled from Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, but a good sermon. It, as I have not yet told the one preaching it (who blogs here), inspired me to try to take up the ancient Christian practice of fasting, at least partially, on Wednesdays and Fridays. This has had mixed success thus far. But I’m not writing to you about my fasting habits, Scripture rather prohibits that, at least in this kind of a public manner. Rather, I want to write to you about the nature of feasting and fasting in Christianity.

In a conversation with a friend the other day, I used feasting and fasting as examples of ways we can try to live out the Church Calendar in our daily lives. The whole of the calendar is centered on this kind of back and forth with regular meals and smaller feasts throughout. In Advent we’re meant to fast; in Christmas, we feast. In Lent, we fast; in Easter, we feast. In Ordinary Time we keep eating, but we don’t feast as much; and sometimes we fast, but not as intensely. There’s this rhythm to it all so that neither spend too much time fasting nor too much feasting. Of course, there’s plenty of room in the Calendar for special feasts and fasts. But this brings me to two points concerning feasting and fasting I think very important: The high and low nature of feasting and fasting and the necessary link between feasting and fasting.

In feasting and fasting we get this very paradoxical mix of the high and the low. Culturally speaking fasting is perhaps on the high end. Only those with enough food, who know when their next meal is coming, can fast in the way we so often mean it. It is because I know that there will be eggs in the fridge Thursday morning that I can fast Wednesday night and use it as a cutting out of something I have regular access to. For those who go to bed hungry, fasting is often not an intentional spiritual discipline but a way of life for they know not when they will eat again. The kind of fasting we so often do is therefore a privilege (and the reason Isaiah suggests fasting should be accompanied by feeding the hungry). Feasting, on the other hand, can be culturally low, in the sense that nothing is more common, more accessible to all people than a celebration involving food. Yes, even the impoverished can feast on that happy day when they have enough to eat for the night (however, if feasting means eating only special or expensive foods, which it should not, then it too is culturally high, but it is no longer feasting). Yet spiritually feasting is something of a high for us as it is a celebration of good that has happened in this world (the birth of Christ, his resurrection, etc.). Fasting, however, brings us low, reminds us of our sinfulness (often the sins we cover up with food). This is especially true in Lent when we fast and remember that it was our sins that put Christ on the cross. So feasting and fasting are both high and low.

The second thing I want to emphasise is their mutual importance and inextricability. We can have no true fasting if we do not also feast. Alternatively, we can have no true feasting if we do not fast. I think often one or the other of these gets more attention. Whether it is Lent coming into vogue and everyone talking about their fasts; or else we’re all ready for the next potluck or some other celebration. We need to be thinking in a rhythm of feasting and fasting (as well as a rhythm of just eating and minor fasts). To truly fast we must also have time’s of feasting. Without feasting, without special celebrations, our faith will be too focused on the spiritual lows and cultural highs. This can lead us to think too much on our sinfulness and to alienate our less-privileged brothers and sisters who cannot afford to always be fasting or who may turn to thoughts too dark by the emphasis on sin that so often accompanies fasting. Alternatively, we cannot be all feast and no fast, all cultural low and spiritual high. Even here, the culturally low will quickly become high as so many of our brothers and sisters will not be able to maintain so much feasting. Also, this can lead to too much focus on all the good and joyful things. A life of feasting only is what leads us to the prosperity gospel. No, we need both. We Christians must be a people who feast and fast for we are a people of both joy and sorrow.

Yours,
David

The Reunification of Heaven and Earth: In Honour of Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Birthday

David Russell Mosley

Ordinary Time
12 August 2015
The Edge of Elfland
Hudson, New Hampshire

Dear Friends and Family,

In honour of Hans Urs von Balthasar’s birthday today, I give you a meaningful passage from the final volume in his Theo-Drama, The Last Act:

What is certain is that our earthly existence, though refined and transfigured in God’s fire, will enter into heaven; the new world will remain our world. In heaven, the life we have led on earth will be not only a memory but something like an abiding presence. How is this possible? We must again return to the reciprocity of heaven and earth: everything that is lived in a fragmentary and incomplete way on earth has always had its ultimate ground in heaven. No earthly moment can be fully exhausted (this is the problem with Goethe’s Faust); whatever eternal content it contains––and our temporal existence cannot bring it forth out of its depths––is “laid up” for us in heaven: in heaven we shall live the full and eternal content of what on earth was present only as a transcendent, unsatisfiable longing. This is at least one aspect of heavenly life. In heaven, therefore, our earthly existence––and we have only one existence––will be present in an unimaginable and unimaginably true manner.

Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Last Act, 413.

Yours,
David