My total book reading for 2019 will be 38. Highlights:

  • The Winds of War
  • The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios
  • On Reading Well
  • The Power and the Glory
  • The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

That’s in addition to perennials that I re-read regularly.

Entering the Mystery of Christmas

Because the kind of knowledge that is saving knowledge both causes and requires an inner transformation, it cannot be shared in a manner other than that through which it was first acquired. The single most important means of saving knowledge in the Tradition is the liturgical life of the Church. It is there that we sing the mystery. The hymns of the Church delight in paradox and contradiction. They urge the heart to enter into this mystical bounty. Those who have no experience of Orthodox liturgical worship can only wonder at this. Those who do, I daresay, understand exactly what I am saying.

We can say that it is not merely the rationalization of Christian teaching that is problematic, but even the efforts to make plain and straightforward and easily accessible what can only be known through mystery, paradox and contradiction. For this reason, it is true that most engagement in theological speech is done by those who don’t know what they are talking about. What passes for “theology” can easily be little more than one swine discussing pearls with another.

Fr. Stephen Freeman

Noticed that the Federal Robocall legislation is advancing. But I eliminated robocall problems on iPhone by sending unknown callers to voicemail automatically. There, my greeting invites legitimate callers to leave a message, with a promise I’ll add them to contact list.

Belated: At the Nativity of our Lord, God and Savior in the flesh, buried under the sentimentality and commercial crassness, lies something so unspeakably stupendous that only paradox can begin to capture it. www.youtube.com/watch

Excerpt from my annual Christmas reading

(Mary)

My flesh in terror and fire
Rejoices that the Word
Who utters the world out of nothing,
As a pledge of His word to love her
Against her will, and to turn
Her desperate longing to love,
Should ask to wear me,
From now to their wedding day,
For an engagement ring.

(Gabriel)

Since Adam, being free to choose,
Chose to imagine he was free
To choose his own necessity,
Lost in his freedom, Man pursues
The shadow of his images:
Today the Unknown seeks the known;
What I am willed to ask, your own
Will has to answer; child, it lies
Within your power of choosing to
Conceive the Child who chooses you.

Excerpt from Part III of The Annunciation in W.H. Auden, For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio (1944)

Can great Hercules keep his
Extraordinary promse
To reinvigorate the Empire?
Utterly lost, he cannot
Even locate his task but
Stands in some decaying orchard
Or the irregular shadow
Of a ruined temple …

W.H. Auden, For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio (1944)

Quoting T.S. Eliot.

David Warren pens a politically incorrect but heartwarming tribute to “Darlings.”

Adult coloring books

I don’t see that the variety of books has especially diminished since Hiroshima — I mean, Chicken Soup for the Soul and The Shack and a whole bunch of adult coloring books have appeared since the end of that war ….

Alan Jacobs, responding (in part) to this.

Is the apostrophe dead?

Worse than persecution and plagues?

[T]he challenge of living with popular culture may well be as serious for modern Christians as persecution and plagues were for the saints of earlier centuries … Christian concern about popular culture should be as much about the sensibilities it encourages as about its content.

Ken Myers, All God’s Children & Blue Suede Shoes

[T]he short history of the modern world is the story of a civilization that staggers from one crisis to another. It derives its sense of self-worth and meaning from the problems it solves. It is existentially desperate for such problems …

Fr. Stephen Freeman

Daily prayer: Lord, if only I was in control, I would mess things up so much differently than You’re allowing our current leaders to mess things up.

Veneration (of icons and the whole of creation)

[Y]ou will not see anything face-to-face unless and until you venerate it. Veneration is a word that describes the proper attitude to the whole of creation. Listen to these sweet words from St. John of Damascus (7th century):

I honor all matter, and venerate it. Through it, filled, as it were, with a divine power and grace, my salvation has come to me. Was the three-times happy and blessed wood of the Cross not matter? Was the sacred and holy mountain of Calvary not matter? What of the life-giving rock, the Holy Tomb, the source of our resurrection — was it not matter? Is the holy book of the Gospels not matter? Is the blessed table which gives us the Bread of Life not matter? Are the gold and silver, out of which crosses and altar-plate and chalices are made not matter? And before all these things, is not the body and blood of our Lord matter? Either stop venerating all these things, or submit to the tradition of the Church in the venerating of images, honoring God and his friends, and following in this the grace of the Holy Spirit. Do not despise matter, for it is not despicable. Nothing that God has made is. Only that which does not come from God is despicable — our own invention, the spontaneous decision to disregard the law of human nature, i.e., sin.

Father Stephen Freeman

I’d have enjoyed history classes more had the texts been written this well.

We humans are odd birds. Odd, because if rocks are dropped on our heads, we can expect them to make dents in our skulls – but if valid arguments are dropped on our minds, we can’t necessarily expect them to make dents in our understanding.

J. Budziszewski

I detest gambling so much that I’m missing the E.D. ads, supplanted by sports gambling sites and apps, during sporting events.

Purdue’s President has largely banned betting on Purdue games. Two profs who’d bet a cup of coffee on each game for decades must now desist.

Is Young Goodman Brown the definitive parable for this quadrennium?

Listening to a podcast interview of Wilfred McClay about Land of Hope, I decided I should buy it.

Well, it turns out I had that same thought some time ago and I do already own it. That says something about my unread books list.

Podcast recommendation: Intelligence Matters from CBS New Radio. There are actual adults in the world, though sometimes they’re not in the room when I wish they were.

A nice little app, Paste, has developed an annoying habit of asking me to rate it every single time I use it, and then it won’t let me submit the rating. So essentially every use now adds an extra click.

This annoying habit leads me to lower the rating from five stars to three.