Crests and troughs: undulation in my last week of writing

So, I’ve been to the top of the Mountain, only to come down and find heretics waiting for me, and some rather confused ones at that. The mountain was the third Ancient Faith Writers and Podcasters Conference held at Antiochian Village last week. The heretics are a bunch of antitrinitarians from the sixteenth century, the subject of an article I am writing. It’s been a haul, but at last I’m down to revising now. At first, I was going to present the essay as my 20-minute contribution to a panel at Sixteenth Century Studies Conference in Albuquerque (about 2500 words). That was 18 months ago, but then my funding got pulled, fortunately, before I got my plane ticket and made lodging arrangements (a stunt pulled on me in the past). So, I sat on it for a while, but then a colleague who edits the Brill journal Church History and Religious Culture, put out a request for articles, so I dusted it off and told him I’d get it to him in late April. Missed that deadline. It’s all John Mark Reynolds’ and St. Constantine’s fault, I’ll have you know. And also, it’s because I am no longer at Eastern University, but working to start an Orthodox Classical Academy here in the Lehigh Valley, named, The St. Constantine School of the Lehigh Valley; at least that’s what the State of PA and the IRS will know us as. It was also Ancient Faith’s fault as well. Continue reading

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Victory is Never Final

Tonight marks the 204th anniversary of the allied victory at Waterloo. Wellington later called his triumph a close and uncertain thing, something unbelievable had one not been there, and you will read some histories that so depict it. Yet in truth Wellington chose to fight where he did and when did, for he knew that while he had fewer men than Napoleon, he had the defensive position he wished, and most notably, he knew that a Prussian army was but several miles away (something Napoleon did not know). The Prussians were commanded by Field Marshal Eberhard von Blücher, the only man who had ever bested Napoleon in a pitched battle, the 1813 Battle of Nations that ultimately led to Napoleon’s abdication and first exile, though the emperor actually bested Blücher several times after that battle before his abdication. Continue reading

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The Infinite Desire

It’s always good to plan. I had a high school teacher, John Weathers, who constantly quipped “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Quite often I have set goals for reading and only partially realized them, and these past two years which saw my name on two books, entailed a good bit of reading beyond what I normally get to just in my course of my own curiosity. The one, a festschrift for Fr. John Patrick Donnelly was a collection of edited essays, but they were a joy to read and work through. The other, my book on Calvin, had me pouring through reams of original sources, as well as the secondary literature. Yet I also sat down with lots of books I had planned to read through, and some I have just begun.

I should say that I read with delight Fr. Deacon Nicholas Kotar’s Raven’s Son series (well the first four books of it, as he hasn’t finished the others yet). I may well read them all again in anticipation of the next volumes (please, Fr. Nic, be quick to press!). I also reread Tolkien’s main works, The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and LOTR, as well as a good amount of his extra work (all in prep for the St. Basil Summer program). I also made my way through a large section of St. John Chrysostom’s Sermons on the Acts of the Apostles. Continue reading

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Only the free mind contemplates

“The thinking man, if he wants his thought about freedom to be complete, must also reflect—on the basis of his own experience—that freedom is inseparable from consciousness and the conscious experience of pursuing and discerning truth. If freedom is really free, it must be part of self-reflective thought, or logos; otherwise freedom would be identical with chaos.” Fr. Patrick Reardon, “Pastoral Pondering,” Sunday of All Saints, 2016.

Modern education has turned students into commodities, into cogs for some great machine, and nowhere is this more on display than how the powers-that-be treat what they expect from teachers and professors. Higher education’s current craze, indeed the mania of the last few decades, from state education boards, departments of education, university educational committees, and accrediting agencies, is constructing a pedagogy around outcomes, goals, objectives, and assessment, and all able to be placed in some index of metrics and measurable results. In short, they have turned teachers into technicians of learning. This is all the language of bureaucracy as applied to education, and is predicated on the fraud that the progress of the mind can be measured. Continue reading

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In Memoriam: Robert Schuettinger

I think I first met Bob Schuettinger in 1999. From that first meeting, sitting in Christopher’s on N. Wayne Ave., with him  holding forth in his distinct Yankee accent to Allen Guelzo and me, regaling us with a taste of his innumerable eccentricities (“I’ll have another Manhattan, if you don’t mind. They just don’t know how to make these in Oxford.”), and most of all his passion for liberal, humane life and learning, I knew I was in the presence not just of a real character, but of a good one as well. The years only repeatedly proved this, and often in spades. My true measure of Bob (as I always knew him) came when we met again about two years later, though this time Allen wasn’t with me, and we dined at another restaurant. Bob had a friend with him, a lady form DC, and we were joined by a colleague of mine, a rather humorless scold so innocent of imagination that Bob and his friend quickly tired of the conversation, only for my colleague, dauntless in boring us, piped up that her family came from Scotland. At once Bob’s friend pulled out of her purse an article she said had appeared in the London Telegraph about new research showing that Scots were descended from Neanderthals. My colleague, sadly, never got the barb. Bob and I exchanged looks, equal parts horror and glee. It was then he told me that were I ever coming back to Oxford to let him know. So, of course I did. Continue reading

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Some thoughts from dom Gregory Dix

This was read by Professor William Tighe this morning at the St. Basil Center’s summer program. I thought it worth putting on my blog for others to read: it is wonderful. From the final chapter of dom Gregory Dix’s The Shape of the Liturgy, a technical book on the Eucharist that often reads as a novel (and often better than almost all of them).

“THROUGHOUT ALL AGES, WORLD WITHOUT END”

“This do in remembrance of me.” Was ever another command so obeyed? For century after century, spreading slowly to every continent and country and among every race on earth, this action has been done, in every conceivable human circumstance, for every conceivable human need from infancy and before it to extreme old age and after it, from the pinnacle of earthly greatness to the refuge of fugitives in the caves and dens of the earth. Men have found no better thing than this to do for kings at their crowning and for criminals going to the scaffold; for armies in triumph or for a bride and bridegroom in a little country church; Continue reading

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The Ambiguous Metropolitan

This past week, the ostensibly Orthodox journal, The Wheel (whose pages and staff include defrocked priests and people who openly promote jettisoning the Tradition of the Church) ran an issue purportedly on what it means to be human, all the while bringing in as well all sorts authors to argue for (one essay) and against (multiple) Orthodox Christian teaching on marriage, chastity, and sexual mores. The Introductory essays were studied models in ambiguity and question begging offered by two well-known names, viz., Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) and Fr. Andrew Louth. While neither broke openly with the Tradition, both of them left me asking exactly how they were affirming it; more a muddying of waters than a pouring of oil them. Now, Met. Kallistos has always been a very gracious man, though I have only had a very few conversations with him. He hosted me at his digs in Oxford more than 20 years ago and patiently endured my questions. His book, The Orthodox Church, has been keenly influential in the conversion of thousands, including some of my own students, so I am not taking after him. Further, he needs our prayers, as age has caught up with him. The last few times I have been in Oxford he has always been a bit more frail, and he suffers from a number items attendant on age. All the same, this essay was not what one would hope from him.

You can read Met. Kallistos’s essay here; Fr. Louth’s here.

Rebuttals of various weight and insight have come from Pr. Edith Humphrey (here), Fr. John Cox (here), Fr. Lawrence Farley (here), and Hieromonk Herman (Majkrzak) which is here. The news of this came out via a rather distasteful essay on his Excellency’s piece, making rather imprecise, and I would say, inflammatory statements. I am not linking to it.

Now, there are other essays in The Wheel besides the two mentioned, but most of them are behind a paywall (I am not ponying up for these) but two others are not, both very good essays, the one by Fr. John Behr (here) and the other by Prof. Bradley Nassif (here). I commend both to you for your edification.

Currently, I am working on something that may take several posts on what exactly marriage is, looking at it from the Old Testament, the Gospels, the Epistles, the Early Church, and then from the perspective of marriage as a sacrament, that is, that it is an instrument of Grace, one of the means by which we are sanctified to God, along with our whole family.

One of the matters that bugs me about people who crow that homosexuals should be afforded the same outlets as heterosexuals (both labels I find problematic), that they should have the same rights to approach God in marriage to those they love, is the notion that someone, indeed anyone has a right to grace. I have no ‘right’ to marry if no woman will have me. Indeed I have no right to anything from God, it is all a gift, and were I not blessed with the gift of my wife, I cannot go out and demand someone marry me simply because I don’t like to be single. But more on that anon.

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