Archive for October, 2014

October 28, 2014

souls are more different than faces

Thérèse of Lisieux:

How different are the variety of ways through which the Lord leads souls! Souls are more different than faces.

Recalls this passage from Lewis.

October 27, 2014

the cross of the thief who was crucified next to Him

No one can live without sin, few know how to repent in such a way that their sins are washed as white as fleece, but there is one thing which we all can do; when we can neither avoid sin, nor repent truly, we can then bear the burden of sin, bear it patiently, bear it with pain, bear it without doing anything to avoid the pain and the agony of it, bear it as one would bear a cross; not Christ’s cross, not the cross of true discipleship, but the cross of the thief who was crucified next to Him. Didn’t the thief say to his companion who was blaspheming the Lord: We are enduring because we have committed crimes; He endures sinlessly… And it is to him, because he had accepted the punishment, the pain, the agony, the consequences indeed of evil he had committed, of being the man he was, that Christ said, ‘Thou shalt be with Me today in Paradise…’

Words from a Russian staretz, one of the last elders of Optina (shared on a blog by Fr. Stephen Freeman).

October 27, 2014

desiring to weep

ARGOS

If you think Odysseus too strong and brave to cry,
that the god-loved, god-protected hero
when he returned to Ithaka disguised,
intent to check up on his wife

and candidly apprize the condition of his kingdom,
steeled himself resolutely against surprise
and came into his land cold-hearted, clear-eyed,
ready for revenge–then you read Homer as I did,

too fast, knowing you’d be tested for plot
and major happenings, skimming forward to the massacre,
the shambles engineered with Telemakhos
by turning beggar and taking up the challenge of the bow.

Reading this way you probably missed the tear
Odysseus shed for his decrepit dog, Argos,
who’s nothing but a bag of bones asleep atop
a refuse pile outside the palace gates. The dog is not

a god in earthly clothes, but in its own disguise
of death and destitution is more like Ithaka itself.
And if you returned home after twenty years
you might weep for the hunting dog

you long ago abandoned, rising from the garbage
of its bed, its instinct of recognition still intact,
enough will to wag its tail, lift its head, but little more.
Years ago you had the chance to read that page more closely

but instead you raced ahead, like Odysseus, cocksure
with your plan. Now the past is what you study,
where guile and speed give over to grief so you might stop,
and desiring to weep, weep more deeply.

by Michael Collier, my teacher [shared by Christine Perrin]

October 27, 2014

let us be good to one another

Passage on grief from The Magician’s Nephew by Lewis:

“I asked are you ready?” said the Lion.

“Yes,” said Digory. He had for a second some wild idea of saying “I’ll try to help you if you’ll promise to help my Mother,” but he realized in time that the Lion was not at all the sort of person one could try to make bargains with. But when he said “Yes,” he thought of his Mother, and he thought of the great hopes he had had, and how they were all dying away, and a lump came in his throat and tears in his eyes, and he blurted out:

“But please, please–won’t you–can’t you give me something that will cure my Mother?” Up until then he had been looking at the lion’s great feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself.

“My son, my son,” said Aslan. “I know. Grief is great. Only you and I in this land know that yet. Let us be good to one another.”

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October 22, 2014

using my most tender memories as tools

Poem by Nate Pruitt.

Mist Everywhere

When the afternoon light
touches the broad orange petals
of the tiger lilies, mute tongues
curled, I pray hard
for such joyous sights to continue.

But I pray wrong, selfishly.
I don’t know where the words
are going.

I struggle to recall
even the names of my old friends.

When I remember, I try
to search them out but I don’t
have any illusions about their lives.

It rained last night & all day today
so the lake I can’t quite see
over the tree line is pure frothy white.

There is mist everywhere
& I am alone in it.

The white light
burns my eyes, sears a holy purpose
in my human frame.
I’m setting out
on a new journey, ever faithful.

Early on, I walked away
from everything, from things I loved.

But now, when I come to the ocean,
as I know I will, foaming
like some impossible hell,
I won’t despair or surrender.

I’ll find a tree, growing from a crag
on the shore & I’ll cut it down
with the force of my loneliness.

There is the shape of a boat
hidden beneath the bark,
I know it.

So I’ll release it,
using my most tender memories
as tools. I’ll continue.

Nothing
will block my way.

October 22, 2014

If you do not love the Greeks

If you do not love the Greeks, you cannot love anything.

Quote from Rex Warner (at front of My Brother Michael by Mary Stewart).

October 22, 2014

I am involved in Mankind

From chapter 8 of My Brother Michael by Mary Stewart:

Simon said slowly, those cool eyes vividly alive now, watching the younger man, “You’re partly right. The great men know where they are going; yes, and they get there, but surely it’s a case of driving themselves without pause, rather than juggernauting over all the opposition? You think Polonius was a prosy old bore–you brought him in, remember, not me. I don’t agree with him but do him the justice of looking at the end of the quotation. ‘To thine own self be true, …Thou canst not then be false to any man.’ If being true to oneself means ignoring the claims of other people then it simply doesn’t work, does it? No, your really great man–your Socrates–doesn’t drive along a straight path of his own cutting. He knows what the end is, yes, and he doesn’t turn aside from it, but all the way there he’s reckoning with whatever–and whoever–else is in his way. He sees the whole thing as a pattern, and his own place in it.”
I quoted, thinking back, “‘I am involved in Mankind’?”
“Exactly.”
“What’s that?” said Nigel.
“A quotation from John Donne, a poet who became Dean of vast. Paul’s. This comes from his Devotions … ‘No man is an island, entire of itself.’ He’s right. In the end it’s our place in the pattern that matters.”
“Yes, but the artist?” said Nigel almost fiercely. He’s different, you know he is. …Wouldn’t he be justified in doing almost anything to fulfill himself, if his art was worth it in the end?”
“The end justifies the means? As a working principle, never,” said Simon. “Never, never, never.”

October 19, 2014

till the ductile anchor hold

Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Leaves of Grass. 1900.

208. A Noiseless Patient Spider

A NOISELESS, patient spider,
I mark’d, where, on a little promontory, it stood, isolated;
Mark’d how, to explore the vacant, vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself;
Ever unreeling them—ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you, O my Soul, where you stand,
Surrounded, surrounded, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing,—seeking the spheres, to connect them;
Till the bridge you will need, be form’d—till the ductile anchor hold;
Till the gossamer thread you fling, catch somewhere, O my Soul.

October 19, 2014

born in God’s thoughts

From George MacDonald’s book David Elginbrod. In chapter XIX, Lady Emily muses: “I wish I were you, Margaret.” Margaret answers:

“If I were you, my lady, I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of. For to have been thought about—born in God’s thoughts—and then made by God, is the dearest, grandest, most precious thing in all thinking.”

Note: some concepts and language from George MacDonald here are comparable to what C.S. Lewis has to say in “The Weight of Glory” (see this passage for example).

October 18, 2014

he had done all that he could do to save himself

“Piglet is Entirely Surrounded by Water” by A.A. Milne:

Really, it wasn’t much good having anything exciting like floods, if you couldn’t share them with somebody.

“…There’s Pooh,” he thought to himself. “Pooh hasn’t much Brain, but he never comes to any harm. He does silly things and they turn out right.”

Then suddenly he knew he would never see it again and that he had done all that he could do to save himself.
“So now,” he thought, “somebody else will have to do something….”

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