Like it or not, a kind of Lent has greeted everyone this season, albeit in the forms of forced social-distancing and the compulsory self-denial of certain goods or activities. (Blessed are they who have trampolines?) For Christians who don’t observe the historic church practice, consider it a forced Lent. For those who do observe Lent, the recent weeks of sheltering at home serve only to extend or intensify the great fast.
A dialogue with a parent, regarding the practice of confessing sins at Morning Prayer (the form of which is taken from the Book of Common Prayer).
It’s early. Sunlight pours into the riparian valley on which the campus of the classical Christian school sits. The Rhetoric School begins to gather at the doors of the auditorium for their ten-minute liturgy of prayer to start the day. Outside, a parent sees the Headmaster and shares concerns.
In That Hideous Strength, C.S. Lewis tells the story of Mark Studdock, a servile man who ironically comes to realize his true freedom in the limitation of a jail cell. However unpleasant it may be, we have it on good authority that “being at close quarters with death” can actually be good medicine for the soul, especially for the Christian soul. Like Boethius and greater men before him, Mark Studdock receives a great blessing in his incarceration (as he comes to see later on). But how can jail time confer a blessing?
So your students can give the right answers with deference and aplomb. They can promote with articulate clarity the correct worldview. And when they graduate, top of the class, their erudition will no doubt attract the most selective colleges.
But what about their habits and tastes?
It’s sometimes easy to smile cynically at the Romantics of the nineteenth century, to dismiss their desire to receive the “greatest delight which the fields and woods minister.” But there were plenty who even over a century ago felt the need to slow down, to go into the woods, “live deliberately,” and “drive life into a corner and reduce it to its lowest terms.” The unbridled desire for things has a cost in any epoch. And when those desires are misguided, it is actually worse, as Boethius suggests, if one should obtain the object of his desire.
Before Christ came lowly into Jerusalem and riding on a donkey, he came lowly into the world, born in the manger of a donkey.
It is Advent now. And nativity scenes display the paradox of Palm 8 on tables and lawns. In that image the cosmos gathers around a baby, where praise and strength are ordained out of the mouth of the infant Christ, where stars shine and angels sing, where men high and low give gifts, and where “all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field” typologically attend the birth of the Lord.
It is sometimes overlooked that the New Testament as a whole is largely the work of masterful exegesis. When St. Augustine said that the New Testament is in the Old concealed and that the Old is in the New revealed, it was the finest summary of the interpretive principle that governed its authors. In this sense, the literature of the New Testament owes its creation not simply from divinely inspired writers but from divinely inspired readers.
There you are in the parking lot, packing up the car with children and bags from church, as you try to carry on the interrupted conversation that began on the way out, when the question comes, “Where do your kids go to school again?” Your mind races. So many answers. So much to say. And yet the car is running now, the kids are hungry, and you have a minute-thirty to explain the entire history of Western culture from dawn to decadence.
“Are you sitting tight? I’m about to give you one hell of a ride.” Perhaps the neurosurgeon Dr. Sergio Canavero did not detect the diabolical irony of this opening statement, as he began his speech on how to transplant a human head in the next two years. While the popular media seems only interested in the plausibility of his claims, most sensible people worry about the ethics. But lurking behind the stunning and almost messianic claims of Dr.
“Are you a man or a mouse?” Perhaps C. S. Lewis had that question in mind when gave form and utterance to one of the most regal and noble of beasts in all of Narnia. No doubt when the Lion of Aslan came bounding in to his mental landscape, so too followed gallant Reepicheep, swinging into view like a swashbuckler down from the high mast of his imagination.