El Cid (1961)
Because we’re here lad. Nobody else. Just us.
Colour Sergeant Frank Bourne, Zulu (1964)
At the battle of Rorke’s Drift on January 22-23, 1879, some 141 men of B Company, 2 Warwickshire (24th Regiment of Foot) beat off an attack by a Zulu impi, around 4,000 men. At the time it was considered a military miracle. The officers in command had nothing in their careers before or after the battle to mark them out as in any way superior. They were typical run of the mill officers and almost all the men under their command were typical troops. The most unusual was Colour Sergeant Frank Bourne who at the battle was twenty-four years old. Two years previously he had attained the rank of Colour Sergeant, making him the youngest Colour Sergeant, the highest NCO rank in the British Army. He would rise to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel during World War I, and die at 91, last survivor among the defenders of Rorke’s Drift, on V-E Day, appropriately enough, May 8, 1945. For a secular purpose the defenders of Rorke’s Drift were willing to fight with all their being, and they won against apparently overwhelming odds.
This little excursion into military history is caused by this quotation from Father Z:
O God, who raised up a fallen world by the abasement of Your Son, grant holy joy to Your faithful; so that You may cause those whom You snatched from the misfortunes of perpetual death, to enjoy delights unending.
The great L&S indicates that erigo, giving us erexisti, means “to raise up, set up, erect” and, analogously, “to arouse, excite” and “cheer up, encourage.” The verb iaceo (in the L&S find this under jaceo) has many meanings, such as “to lie” as in “lie sick or dead, fallen” and also “to be cast down, fixed on the ground” and “to be overcome, despised, idle, neglected, unemployed.” Humilitas is “lowness”. In Blaise/Dumas, humilitas has a more theological meaning in the “abasement” of the God Incarnate who took the form of a “slave” (cf. Philippians 2:7). Blaise/Dumas cites this Collect in the entry for humilitas.
Because of the Fall, the whole cosmos was put under the bondage of the Enemy, the “prince of this world” (cf. John 10:31 and 14:30). This is why when we bless certain things, and baptize people, there was an exorcism first, to rip the object or person from the grip of the world’s “prince” and give it to the King. God is liberator. He rouses us up from being prone upon the ground. He grasps us, pulling us upward out of sin and death. He directs us again toward the joys possible in this world, first, and then definitively in the next.
Something for the weekend. The forgiveness song from El Cid (1961). I have always loved this retelling of the legend of El Campeador, starring Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren, who purportedly despised each other during the filming. I think the etchings of the intro capture something of the spirit of believing Spain, always waiting for the next great Crusade.
Here is my favorite sequence from the film: Continue reading
Ransom Stoddard: You’re not going to use the story, Mr. Scott?
Maxwell Scott: No, sir. This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.
History tells us that George Washington as a boy did not cut down a cherry tree and, while telling his father about it, assure him that he could not tell a lie. Saint Francis of Assisi almost certainly did not convert a wolf from his thieving ways and teach him to beg humbly for his food like a good Franciscan. Robin Hood did not help King Richard the Lionheart regain his throne from his brother John Lackland. We know almost nothing about King Arthur and what we think we know about him is certainly almost entirely legend. Continue reading