Millet’s Calf, a Newborn Jesus, and God of Earth

Maybe it’s the way the light falls, illuminating the bed of straw like some upside-down and disheveled halo, all gold and shimmery, on which the baby lies – a baby cow, in this case. Or maybe it’s the calf’s beatific face, alert and looking straight out at us from the center of the canvas. I suspect part of it is the posture of the farmer and of his field hand, heads bent, and the care with which they carry the newborn toward the stone cottage (a human home, no doubt about that) and the little girls waiting there. Surely the mother has something to do with it — a spine-startling cow with skinny legs and modest udder, her head titled just so, her muzzle bumping the calf’s rear with that same attention to even the humblest body parts that a baby unashamedly demands. I don’t know why the woman is the only one with her mouth open – singing, speaking, calling, assuring…?Millet Peasants Bringing Home a Calf Born in the Fields

On This Feast Day of the Ass

Happy Feast Day of the Ass! No kidding. Animals get short shrift in religious beliefs and practice (apart from the Hindu cow, and sacrifice, of course), so I found it quite wonderful to stumble on an old tradition celebrating the biblical donkey.joseph-leading-mary-on-donkey

For a time, Christians seriously honored the animal who brought a pregnant Mary to Bethlehem and spirited the newborn Jesus to safety in Egypt. There is that sweet if monotonous Christmas carol in which the friendly animals each get a word: “I, said the donkey, shaggy and brown. I carried his mother up hill and down. I carried his mother to Bethlehem town. I, said the donkey shaggy and brown.” But the holiday has since died out.

The Dread of You

What do you make of that post-Flood biblical statement about animals living in dread of humans (Gen 9:2)? I love Charles Shields’ take on it — “to mean that we must overcome animals’ dread of us.” It reminds me of the Oct 2010 National Geographic article on Jane Goodall by David Quammen. Now there’s a beautiful life spent not only disarming animals but also dignifying them in the eyes of all the rest of us.

Quiz Your Animal Knowledge

How much do you know about animals in the Bible? Take Beliefnet’s quiz to find out! I had a lot of fun working up this little test. And gosh, there are so many more biblical animals that we could talk about…

Meanwhile, I rescued a big painted turtle yesterday from the humiliation of canine objectification as the setter batted and danced around it. I carried the turtle down to the pond thinking surely it would take its time emerging from the security of its shell. But no! Once she caught sight of water, that turtle was off, no worse for wear…

Forgetting… and Remembering

Living as a nomad, it was bound to happen: I left my computer behind. Bouncing between cities (two) and offices (four) as I’ve done the past semester, I rely on THE LIST — things to do before leaving the house (empty the kitchen compost, e.g.) and things to bring (er, that’d be the computer, e.g.). The list works great… if I actually use it. Last week, I didn’t. The irony is, I’m finally settling in again, finally staying put  — one city, one office, for the most part, anyway. Maybe that was it. I let my guard down, got cocky.

Palm Sunday confusion?

Today, Christians celebrate Palm Sunday — the day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem to great “Hosanna!” acclaim. But just exactly how did he do it? The stories disagree in a puzzling way… unless you know something about the conventions of biblical Hebrew and that the New Testament writers (Matthew, especially) often looked to the Old Testament, for ways to understand Jesus.