Archive for category Of Created Things
Good day, my fabulous Fantastic Friday’s Feature readers! Last week, I featured an essay by G.K. Chesterton on the glories of cheese (which can be found here) and so this week, as you may have gathered from the title, I am featuring another delectable dainty, known by some as the dew of heaven: coffee.
Yes, coffee. But no, I am not the one to wax eloquent about this tasty treat. My brother, Zak (who also has another guest post here on “Embracing the Fairy Tale Life”), has written a brief essay called “The Romance of Coffee” in true Chestertonian style expounding upon the wonders of this drink we enjoy known as coffee. I hope you enjoy:
Chesterton once said that we all have a tendency to overlook the startling quality of the world around us. We are inclined to use the terms “normal” or “ordinary” to classify things which in fact viciously defy these categories. Recently, it dawned upon me that I was guilty of this crime as it pertains to my view of coffee. I had allowed my daily contact with this magical substance to blind me to its extraordinarily poetic properties. Filled with remorse at such a heinous offense, I have resolved to appease my conscience by writing this eulogy for coffee, the greatest of all beverages. Indeed, the act of drinking coffee is an act of such tremendous romance that it is with great trepidation that I wade into the waters of such a deep and mysterious subject.
The essence of romance lies in thinking that the more dangerous something is, the more beautiful it is. Falling in love is romantic because it involves a loss of control over our actions, which is a very dangerous state of affairs. Sacrificing your life for someone that you love is romantic because it involves danger to the physical body. Now, the romance of coffee lies in its association with two of the most dangerous things in our world: fire and death.
One of the most attractive qualities of coffee is the warmth that it brings to those who partake of it. However, it is sobering to realize that the warmth of coffee is quite capable of being turned to more harmful purposes. The mugs that allow us to drink this beverage are all that restrain the destructive power of this fiery liquid. By such modest means, we casually harness the ancient qualities of Greek fire. However, only a slight movement of the arm would thrust this fire into the face of another, thus releasing all the potential of this primeval weapon. We have laws that set limits to the carrying of firearms, but what laws protect us from those who carry an arsenal of portable lava? When we see a man carrying a cup of coffee, we see a man who dares to fill his goblet at the fountain of flame. When Prometheus gave fire to man, could he ever have foreseen how contemptuously man would regard this gift, that he would have the boldness to transform it into a consumable substance? Not content merely to wield such an awesome power, we daily flaunt our mastery of this element by absorbing liquid fire into our very being.
Coffee also has a bitterness to its taste that carries with it an echo of the bitterness of death. Yet, it is this bitterness that the coffee drinker loves. Is there anything more romantic than how we so willingly give ourselves to this drink of death? I cannot think of a more prevalent and evocative memento mori in our culture. Even the blackness of coffee is reminiscent of death. I never drink a cup of coffee without thinking of Socrates, who cheerfully drank the hemlock that destroyed his life. As I drink, I participate in a symbolic martyrdom, because the essence of martyrdom is a willingness to embrace death. The paradox of coffee is that it stimulates life and vitality, while cloaking itself in the blackness and bitterness of death. When God gave us the gift of coffee, he was giving us the gospel in liquid form.
In all truly romantic things we will find the gospel, because the gospel is the greatest romance story of all. It is the story of God embracing death, so that we could find life. It is a beautiful mystery, and a mystery that no one is better suited to understand than the coffee drinker.
If you were to walk a short way from my home, through the woods, and down a subtle leaf covered path, you would find me sitting upon a great stone in the bed of a creek, which we of my house have affectionately and appropriately dubbed “The Big Rock”. It would take two, or perhaps more, of me lying head to toe to make up its width and more to reach its length. Lying upon a small slope, the rock’s surface slants towards the sky, yet one may sit or walk upon it with ease, as I am now. Other boulders, smaller replications of this larger stone, rest haphazardly along the creek bed. It is with some wonder I imagine, “From whence did this great slab come?” Has it, perhaps, lain here since the great deluge of Noah’s day, when the fountains of the deep burst forth, sundering the very foundations of the earth? How many feet have trod the very spot I sit? Indeed, I am certain that, should this stone speak, it would have great things to tell (though many droll things too; I would assume a stone would have a very tiresome personality). Though it is silent, it is yet a testimony to me of the immutable grandeur of God, and I have often found refuge in Him upon this rock in times of trouble.
The woods that encompass me are equally wondrous. As C.S. Lewis has said (and I paraphrase), enchanted forests of fairy tale lore make every real forest an enchanted one. Have you ever considered the wonders of trees? Branches, bare from Winter’s bite, await their Spring-time resurrection. Within them lies, even now, the potential of life, waiting for the proper moment when the Lord cries out, “Awaken, O sleeper! Come forth, ye buds, ye leaves, ye fruit, in all thy glory!” And so they shall, enlivening this place with viridian glory.
From winter chill and death’s foul sting
Comes life abundant, the joy of spring!
Yet even so, as I gaze upwards towards the clouds, I see the evergreen needles upon the pine trees, great and tall, reminding me that the world shall not always be so. We shall not always pass through the winters of life; one day, we shall burst forth into the Everlasting Spring, and find in Christ our Eternal Joy.
Still I sit in this grey and ashen wood, where the evidence of last year’s Autumn covers the earth. Shall some joy, some taste of that Everlasting Spring, be found even here? I find the answer, hearing a song borne upon the wings of the wind. Nay, no minstrel nor harpist plays; ‘tis musicians of our own Lord’s making, and they still obey His command written in the Psalms:
O “Flying Fowl… Praise the name of the LORD: for His name alone is excellent; His glory is above the earth and heaven”
Their song, rising then falling, floats about me, more beautiful than the music of any man. It is enchanting, as these winged beasts flit about from bough to bough, singing always and ever. Our Lord so invites us to sing and join in with their praise of Him; though the woods be dim and grey, there is yet a song to be found!
If thou hast eyes to see, all Creation cries “Soli Deo Gloria – Glory to God alone!” He knows every leaf upon the trees of all the world, every bird that ever sang upon the earth, and every hair that is upon your head. Is not this God worthy of all our praise? Let us join in with that stream of praise that has been going since before time began, and shall persist when the very ages themselves come to a close! Let us obey that great command of the 150th Psalm: “Let everything that hath breath praise the LORD!”
“Doth not all nature around me praise God? If I were silent, I should be an exception to the universe. Doth not the thunder praise Him as it rolls like drums in the march of the God of armies? Do not the mountains praise Him when the woods upon their summits wave in adoration? Doth not the lightning write His name in letters of fire? Hath not the whole earth a voice? And shall I, can I, silent be?”
– Charles Spurgeon
Praise ye the LORD. Praise ye the LORD from the heavens: praise him in the heights.
Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts.
Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light.
Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that [be] above the heavens.
Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created.
He hath also stablished them for ever and ever: he hath made a decree which shall not pass.
Praise the LORD from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps:
Fire, and hail; snow, and vapour; stormy wind fulfilling his word:
Mountains, and all hills; fruitful trees, and all cedars:
Beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl:
Kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth:
Both young men, and maidens; old men, and children:
Let them praise the name of the LORD: for his name alone is excellent; his glory [is] above the earth and heaven.
He also exalteth the horn of his people, the praise of all his saints; [even] of the children of Israel, a people near unto him. Praise ye the LORD.
– Psalm 148