Archive for November, 2013

November 20, 2013

Falling for Russians

This was a “roasting” of me that my dear mentor Dr. Christopher Perrin recently composed and read during an Alcuin Fellowship dinner at Calvin College.

There is an Alcuin Fellow named Jesse Hake
Who began to think the Reformation a mistake
Falling for Russians like Florovsky, Dostoevsky–even Trotsky
He followed Andrew Kern into Orthodoxy

November 17, 2013

stopped talking now

The priest, who seemed to be a wise man, had stopped talking now, and only held the cross for the wretched fellow to kiss.

From The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

November 17, 2013

the donkey and was extremely pleased with it

I remember my melancholy was intolerable; I felt inclined to cry; I sat and wondered and wondered uncomfortably; the consciousness that everything was strange weighed terribly upon me; I could understand that it was all foreign and strange. I recollect I awoke from this state for the first time at Basle, one evening; the bray of a donkey aroused me, a donkey in the town market. I saw the donkey and was extremely pleased with it, and from that moment my head seemed to clear.”

From The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

November 17, 2013

among these people

Finally, Totski took cunning means to try to break his chains and be free. He tried to tempt her in various ways to lose her heart; he invited princes, hussars, secretaries of embassies, poets, novelists, even Socialists, to see her; but not one of them all made the faintest impression upon Nastasia. It was as though she had a pebble in place of a heart, as though her feelings and affections were dried up and withered for ever. She lived almost entirely alone; she read, she studied, she loved music. Her principal acquaintances were poor women of various grades, a couple of actresses, and the family of a poor schoolteacher. Among these people she was much beloved.

From The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

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November 17, 2013

he was very near loving her

The general never regretted his early marriage, or regarded it as a foolish youthful escapade; and he so respected and feared his wife that he was very near loving her.

From The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

November 10, 2013

be beginning to despair

Poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins. I heard this recited twice with remarkable mastery by a new friend this past week (once late at night and once early in the morning). These recitations were among top “experiences” of my life thus far.

The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo
(Maidens’ song from St. Winefred’s Well)

THE LEADEN ECHO

HOW to kéep—is there ány any, is there none such, nowhere known some, bow or brooch or braid or brace, láce, latch or catch or key to keep
Back beauty, keep it, beauty, beauty, beauty, … from vanishing away?
Ó is there no frowning of these wrinkles, rankéd wrinkles deep,
Dówn? no waving off of these most mournful messengers, still messengers, sad and stealing messengers of grey?
No there’s none, there’s none, O no there’s none,
Nor can you long be, what you now are, called fair,
Do what you may do, what, do what you may,
And wisdom is early to despair:
Be beginning; since, no, nothing can be done
To keep at bay
Age and age’s evils, hoar hair,
Ruck and wrinkle, drooping, dying, death’s worst, winding sheets, tombs and worms and tumbling to decay;
So be beginning, be beginning to despair.
O there’s none; no no no there’s none:
Be beginning to despair, to despair,
Despair, despair, despair, despair.

THE GOLDEN ECHO

Spare!
There ís one, yes I have one (Hush there!);
Only not within seeing of the sun,
Not within the singeing of the strong sun,
Tall sun’s tingeing, or treacherous the tainting of the earth’s air,
Somewhere elsewhere there is ah well where! one,
Oné. Yes I can tell such a key, I do know such a place,
Where whatever’s prized and passes of us, everything that ’s fresh and fast flying of us, seems to us sweet of us and swiftly away with, done away with, undone,
Undone, done with, soon done with, and yet dearly and dangerously sweet
Of us, the wimpled-water-dimpled, not-by-morning-matchèd face,
The flower of beauty, fleece of beauty, too too apt to, ah! to fleet,
Never fleets móre, fastened with the tenderest truth
To its own best being and its loveliness of youth: it is an everlastingness of, O it is an all youth!
Come then, your ways and airs and looks, locks, maiden gear, gallantry and gaiety and grace,
Winning ways, airs innocent, maiden manners, sweet looks, loose locks, long locks, lovelocks, gaygear, going gallant, girlgrace—
Resign them, sign them, seal them, send them, motion them with breath,
And with sighs soaring, soaring síghs deliver
Them; beauty-in-the-ghost, deliver it, early now, long before death
Give beauty back, beauty, beauty, beauty, back to God, beauty’s self and beauty’s giver.
See; not a hair is, not an eyelash, not the least lash lost; every hair
Is, hair of the head, numbered.
Nay, what we had lighthanded left in surly the mere mould
Will have waked and have waxed and have walked with the wind what while we slept,
This side, that side hurling a heavyheaded hundredfold
What while we, while we slumbered.
O then, weary then why
When the thing we freely fórfeit is kept with fonder a care,
Fonder a care kept than we could have kept it, kept
Far with fonder a care (and we, we should have lost it) finer, fonder
A care kept.—Where kept? Do but tell us where kept, where.—
Yonder.—What high as that! We follow, now we follow.—Yonder, yes yonder, yonder,
Yonder.

November 6, 2013

the one that sings

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

“The Real Work” by Wendell Berry from Standing by Words, 1983. Online here.

November 3, 2013

recognizable and transfigured

Christianity is a paradoxical religion because the Jew of Nazareth is a paradoxical character. No figure in history or fiction contains as many multitudes as the New Testament’s Jesus. He’s a celibate ascetic who enjoys dining with publicans and changing water into wine at weddings. He’s an apocalyptic prophet one moment, a wise ethicist the next. He’s a fierce critic of Jewish religious law who insists that he’s actually fulfilling rather than subverting it. He preaches a reversal of every social hierarchy while deliberately avoiding explicitly political claims. He promises to set parents against children and then disallows divorce; he consorts with prostitutes while denouncing even lustful thoughts. He makes wild claims about his own relationship to God, and perhaps his own divinity, without displaying any of the usual signs of megalomania or madness. He can be egalitarian and hierarchical, gentle and impatient, extraordinarily charitable and extraordinarily judgmental. He sets impossible standards and then forgives the worst of sinners. He blesses the peacemakers and then promises that he’s brought not peace but the sword. He’s superhuman one moment; the next he’s weeping. And of course the accounts of his resurrection only heighten these paradoxes, by introducing a post-crucifixion Jesus who is somehow neither a resuscitated body nor a flitting ghost but something even stranger still—a being at once fleshly and supernatural, recognizable and transfigured, bearing the wounds of the crucifixion even as he passes easily through walls. The boast of Christian orthodoxy, as codified by the councils of the early Church and expounded in the Creeds, has always been its fidelity to the whole of Jesus. Its dogmas and definitions seek to encompass the seeming contradictions in the gospel narratives rather than evading them. Was he God or was he man? Both, says orthodoxy.

From Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics by Ross Douthat.

November 3, 2013

an intellectual effort that spanned generations

The Christianity of the Nicene Creed isn’t a set of self-evident statements that follow inexorably from a quick read of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. It’s the fruit of an intellectual effort that spanned generations—an effort that took one of religious history’s most striking stories, as told and retold in a multiplicity of styles and voices, and tried to tease out its implications for ritual, theology, and belief. The project may have been guided by the Holy Spirit, as orthodox Christianity insists, but it clearly was a project rather than a simple matter of reading the gospels and believing what they said. And, like any other complicated intellectual undertaking, its conclusions can certainly be doubted or dismissed.

From Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics by Ross Douthat.

November 3, 2013

tools for recovering the real Jesus

Even fundamentalism, for all its official emphasis on “the Bible alone,” owes its end-time obsessions to the extracanonical innovations that Cyrus Scofield’s influential Study Bible wove into the scriptures it was supposedly dispassionately interpreting. “Unlike most commentators,” Paul Boyer points out in his history of end-times beliefs, When Time Shall Be No More (1994), “Scofield combined his notes and the biblical text on the same page, so the former took on much the same authority as the latter.” Both Jefferson and Scofield claimed to be reworking the New Testament based on pure reason and simple common sense, while Smith and White and Eddy and all the various spiritualists claimed to be taking divine dictation. To these tools for recovering the real Jesus, nineteenth-century European academics added a third, the historical-critical method. Their First Quest of the Historical Jesus, as it was later called, flowered in Germany and then spread across the Western world, promising to use the tools of scholarship to excavate the biblical narratives, reveal the layers of invention that lay atop the Jesus of history, and recover the truth about his life.

From Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics by Ross Douthat.

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