Theme and Variation

Aug 10, 2015

On July 18th I stopped contemplating Harmony with about 250 colleagues, friends, and kindred spirits. On the 22nd, I drove up to the University of Kentucky for a week of Latin immersion, and from August 3-7 I was immersed even more deeply into the love of truth-seeking that is the CiRCE Apprenticeship. 

After each, I was physically exhausted and intellectually and spiritually nourished, stimulated, and aroused. Dozens of blog posts asked me to write them. Dozens of ideas raced around the spaces of the hollow caverns of my skull. Frustration and joy contended for my chest. 

Joy has won. Here's why:

Theme and variation. 

Incarnate Word. 

Christ. 

My childhood church sang two hymns pretty often. One went like this:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth 
Will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace

The other went like this:

Heav'n above is softer blue, earth around is sweeter green!
Something lives in every hue, Christless eyes have never seen;
Birds with gladder songs o'erflow, flowers with deeper beauties shine;
Since I know as now I know, I am His and He is mine

So which is it? Do the "things of earth... grow strangely dim" or does "something [live] in every hue, Christless eyes have never seen? 

The answer, of course, is, "Yes." 

I hope I can be forgiven for saying this, but neither of these is particularly good as poetry. But they are both wonderful expressions of a heart singing the same theme with variation, and that theme is Christ. 

The conference theme was called Harmony, but really it was Christ because He is the principle of all Harmony, the key in which the symphony of creation is sung. In Greek, this key or principle was called "the Logos." 

Christ is the principle of all Harmony because, as the great Apostle Paul told the Church in Ephesus, (very possibly the one the Mother of Our Lord attended with the Apostle John), It pleased the Father that all things would be made One in Him. 

Anything that is brought into Christ is blessed and led to flourishing by that bringing in; something lives in its hues and its beauties are deeper because Christ lives in it. Anything that is outside of Christ grows strangely dim." 

This includes education, which, for the Christian, is meant to be the ordering of the mind to, in, and by Christ. He is the object of our thought (we think to know and enjoy Him) the unifying principle of our thought (we order our thoughts around Him as the planets are ordered by the sun) and the director of our thoughts (we follow the lead of Him who is Truth). 

This cannot be done if we seek honor and success in and from the world that does not desire His exaltation and that doesn't particularly like us, at least as a group. I don't think we can be faithful as Christians if our education is not ordering the mind to, in, and by Christ. We also will find that the alternatives will grow strangely dim in the absence of His glory and grace. 

The theme of the entire creation is Christ, but what can that possibly mean? 

I offer this thought: Christ is the Incarnate Logos, the Word Made Flesh. Everything else is an incarnate word (the capitals matter). Everywhere we look, we perceive embodied things, each of which is an expression of a word. 

For example, the light came into existence when God said, "Let there be light." He spoke the word and the word was embodied. 

No man has seen God at any time. But the only-begotten Son... He has revealed Him. 

How? 

The Logos (Word) became flesh. 

The theme of the entire creation is the Incarnate Word. Everything is a variation on that theme. 

When that theme is lost, the tapestry unravels. The mind dis-integrates. We lose our integrity: morally, intellectually, even physically. Our communities break down. 

When we sing that theme together, everything is enriched, nourished, glorified.

Brian Phillips and I introduced the suggestion that our schools need to place a higher value on Harmony because too often we aren't singing the same song in the board meetings that we are singing in the classrooms. If this is so, they can't both be singing Christ. 

If we want our schools to flourish we need to order them to, in, and by Christ. Nothing else is a sufficient principle of order. College admissions, for example, can work as a guide if human life can be defined by the act of getting into a good college. But if it isn't and if that end still guides the curriculum and pedagogy of a school, then it isn't a big enough principle to enrich much of it. The school may succeed in "worldly" terms, but it will grow strangely dim. 

But if to become like Christ, if to become a variation on that theme, is the goal of the school, if Christ the Incarnate Logos orders the curriculum, pedagogy, goverance, environment, community, and even modes of assessment of the school or home, then something will live that Christless eyes can never see. 

I want to appeal to every Christian who educates anybody or who oversees any educational community, please believe in Him and do not fear the world. We cannot afford it any more. If we have not had faith in the green years, how will it arise in the brown? We all need to repent. None of us have fervently and perfectly made Christ the Logos of our school or home. Let us begin now. 

Let us who carry His name believe in Him. He is up to the task. He is sufficient. 

Let us repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. 

 

Andrew  Kern

Andrew Kern

Andrew Kern is the founder and president of The CiRCE Institute and the co-author of the book, Classical Education: the Movement Sweeping America

The opinions and arguments of our contributing writers do not necessarily reflect those of the Institute or its leadership.

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