“Calumny” is not a word that finds common usage in most people’s everyday vocabulary. Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines “calumny” as “the act of uttering false charges or misrepresentations maliciously calculated to harm another’s reputation.” The word came into English in the 15th century and comes from the Middle French word calomnie of the same meaning. Calomnie, in turn, derives from the Latin word calumnia, (meaning “false accusation,” “false claim,” or “trickery”), which itself traces to the Latin verb calvi, meaning “to deceive.” Calumny made an appearance in these famous words from Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “If thou dost marry, I’ll give thee this plague for thy dowry: be thou chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny. Get thee to a nunnery, go.” Hamlet is basically tormenting poor Ophelia. He tells her that, as a woman, she will never escape slander.
Today is a great set of readings. Here on the first day of December in the year of Our Lord 2020, in the time of the coronavirus pandemic, when I read them is preparation for celebrating Mass, it felt like a half-time locker-room speech by the coach, by Knute Rockne. And, I mean that in the best sense.
The “first half” of the pandemic is over, but we have been taking beating to be sure. The coach begins with this chorus-rousing look to the future when we win:
“On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a Spirit of counsel and of strength, a Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.” (Isaiah 11:1-3a)
I was inspired to hear it in that vein because of something a good friend wrote in response to one of my posts, Choosing Hope. He wrote a response in the comment section, that I will recast to capture the sense of the half-time exhortation with a spiritual war afoot: