Any classics teacher who has laid open the typical patristic commentary on the Odyssey, especially the account of Odysseus being tied to the mast of his ship, has likely encountered students who ask, with either chagrin or ennui, “Isn’t he reading a little too deeply into all of this?” Often enough, the mast of Odysseus’ ship is interpreted as the Cross, and the man of tricks is reckoned safe from the song of heretics because he fastens himself to the Wood.
“While there are many theological matters upon which I heartily disagree with Peter Leithart, he is yet one of the finest literary critics writing…” is not the first line of this article. This is the most important thing I have learned from Peter Leithart. The second most important thing I’ve learned from Peter Leithart is not to talk about myself. As you can already tell, I have some work to do.
The idea that man is a microcosm is old enough to have gathered a diverse collection of interpretations (some pedestrian, some quite exotic) unto itself. In The Wisdom of the World, Remi Brague gives a survey of these interpretations, touching on ancient paganism, Greek philosophy, as well as Medieval Christian, Jewish and Muslim thinkers. For some, the microcosmic nature of man was a purely physical reality.
Scripture uses a number of metaphors to describe the Christian life. Christians are like athletes who need to run so as to win the race. Christians are like soldiers, armed in virtue and piety. Christians are like aliens, whose citizenship in heaven is attained not by birth but by faith, hope and love. In the first millennium of Church history, though, the Christian imagination was captivated by nautical metaphors. The Christian was often thought a sailor, the Church a ship, and all of life a voyage into the heart of God.
Seven planets. Seven virtues. Seven days of the week. While teaching Dante’s Paradise last year, I canvassed friends for connections between all three sets of seven. One friend (Jeremy Downey, whom I feel I ought to name so he can receive credit for the remarkable discovery he made, which will be detailed in a moment) commented that ancient pagan societies understood that each of the spheres were married to particular days of the week. Some of the marriages are obvious (Saturn to Saturday), although some have been obscured by time and translation (Mars to Tuesday).
What is real? Much like essence or being, real is a notoriously difficult concept to talk about, let alone define. For my money, the Skin Horse does well when fielding the question.
On a Friday night, a stranger knocks at your door and puts into your hands a newborn. The stranger says, “This child is fated to be president of this country in fifty years,” then the stranger runs away, vanishing into the night.
Over the coming weeks and months, you don’t regard the newborn any differently than your own children, who are nine and twelve respectively. As the years pass, though, you come to think of the child very differently than your own.
In “Meditation on the Third Commandment,” CS Lewis completely dismisses the idea of a Christian political party. The essay is pretty refreshing.
It’s tempting to end this essay with just those two sentences.
In a few short days, I'll leave Pensacola for Richmond, Virginia, where I'll begin new work for Veritas School. In my closing days at Trinitas, I've found myself wishing others "Good luck," despite the unfortunately pagan conotations those words often carry. I'd like to offer a brief apologia.
The best known passage in Ecclesiastes, and perhaps one of the better known passages in all of Scripture, is the "A time for this, time for that..." poem in chapter three. Some commentators have seen here a profound and telling description of human mutability. A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted. A time to do a thing, and then a time to undo it.