I have been quite busy, and thus the lack of posts. Aside from some teaching at my parish (which I have thoroughly enjoyed) I have been busy both reading and writing. I am finishing two essays for publication, one on Richard Hooker, his use of the Pseudo-Dionysius, and his understanding of what it means that “God hath deified our nature (a phrase he uses in his Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity); and the other on the Florentine Protestant Reformer, Peter Martyr Vermigli, and his political theology, especially as it pertains to his anthropology; viz., what is the nature of the citizen in Vermigli’s thought? This brings in all sorts of matters about the nature of virtue, what is the first republic (which Vermigli properly identifies as the family), and what is the end of “natural man.” He has some rather good thoughts on the relationship of the contemplative and active lives, but he comes at it almost wholly from the perspective of the civic humanist, a much fraught phrase, and at the moment a term separating historians who lean more to Locke and those who lean more to a social-democrat and leftist model of government.
I have also reviewed three books: Zuidema’s on Vermigli’s Eucharist thought as part of the centrality of his theology, the essays on Faust as l’homme Renaissance, finally tonight just got done a review on a collection of essays on Marsilio Ficino, a fifteenth century Florentine Platonist. He was a man of some moment, an influence on both John Colet and Desiderius Erasmus (though seemingly not at all on Machiavelli), and of course also on Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, the man responsible for convincing Lorenzo de Medici to bring Savonarola to Florence (Ficino was no fan of the friar).
Apart from that, I have been trying to get to a translation of Vermigli’s Latin commentary on Romans (I am supposed to do chapters 6-8, about 300 pages in all). This will only get done over my sabbatical, which I hope is next year. I also am working on a paper with a working title of Reading Richard Hooker through the eyes of Henri de Lubac.
On Monday evening I had the happy opportunity to have at my house some 18 men, each accomplished to some degree or another in their fields, all well read, with two of them priests, two Presbyterian ministers, and twelve others who were professors or teachers, and three who were students still. Some remained till 2:30 speaking about a great number of things. Good colleagues and grand comradery are singular blessings from God. My confessor commented on this to me today, that I have what is a broad group of men who are my friends off of whom I can bounce any number of items. Some of the most important of these were not even there (in particular my oldest if not dearest friend, Gary Hafer). One of the matters that C. S. Lewis spoke about in his Four Loves is the whole matter of the conspiratorial nature of friendship, for friends separate themselves from the herd and mass by dint of standing shoulder-to-shoulder in how they see something (or, like Roland and Oliver, back-to-back against the enemy). Friends, Cicero said, are like other selves. By this he did not mean that friendship is some exercise in Narcissism, but that our friends reflect us, and through them we can attain that which by ourselves we are incapable to do. Further, as Lewis noted, by myself I am incapable of calling forth the whole man. There is something in William that only Mark can elicit; there is something in Gary that only Sascha can bring out; by myself I cannot call out the whole man. Friendship is thus not a jealous love, but the most liberal. If a friend is jealous, I doubt friendship.
Friendship, in keeping with its liberality, invites new friends in, but only, again as Lewis notes, if they can maintain themselves as real friends, and not interlopers. Friends aren’t friends for the benefits of self: I am not a friend to anyone for what they can do for me, even if they can indeed do wonderful things for me. This past year I interviewed someone for a post at an institution. This candidate effused with excitement to be teaching Cicero. So, I asked, what he thought about Cicero’s notion that friendship had no utility. This brought an immediate response that in his day Cicero had slaves to meet his needs and that such a view was one that bespoke repression and betrayed Cicero’s privileged status. We need things from our friends. Such a politicization of the text, of course immediately excluded this candidate from any further consideration. It also told me that this dude had not really given much thought either to friendship or to love. Thus when new friends arrive, we don’t greet them with mercenary intent, but as the blessed in Dante say, “here comes another to augment our love.”
Finally, friendship is conspiratorial. Not that we were planning anything on my back deck that get us brought up on sedition, but that we see things differently. I don’t think there was a man there who took the Great Tradition for granted. Admittedly, we weren’t all agreed as to what this necessarily entailed (again, some were Orthodox, some were Catholic, some Prot), but we all agreed to its vital necessity if our republic is to survive. Thus, I guess for some we would be seditious: defamers of the gods of progress and blasphemers against the dogma of social justice.