The Feast of our Lord’s Nativity will soon dawn upon us, and we who have sat in darkness shall see a great Light. While this Feast so near, I should note that we have, counting today, ten days still to this calendar year. I hope that is enough for everyone both to enjoy the holidays, and also to take stock of the past year in preparation for the new.
Tomorrow is promised to no one, and our best-laid planes often come to naught, but, as my high school teacher John Weathers used to say, if you fail to plane, you are planning to fail.
At this point last year I had no idea what the new year would bring. I had no thought that I would have my one knee replaced, and after six months of rehab, I am very happy that I did.
Further, I could not have seen that one very anticipated endeavor would rather, and seemingly unhappily, end.
Yet had it not ended, another endeavor, that very quickly materialized, and which has proven wonderful, joyous even, would not have materialized. To wit, I find myself now teaching high school Latin, and I love it. I have eager, engaged students, ones who are eating up such wonderful items as the use of the subjunctive in purpose clauses, conditional clauses, contrary to fact clauses (I could go on); and more teaching opportunities are before me.
I have been able to get back into teaching at the university level with a course at Eastern, and despite some lean times since June, God has wondrously provided for me and my family.
This coming year I will be tutoring Latin students, teaching regular Latin courses, teaching a college course at Muhlenberg College on the origins of the doctrine of the licitness to resist tyranny, teaching my course on Eastern Orthodox History and Theology; another on Modern European thought (with readings in Montaigne, Voltaire, Goethe, Shelley, Nietzsche, Camus, and Solzhenitsyn (inter alios). Lastly, I will be teaching my course on ancient Greece, because you can never have too much of man-slaughtering Hector in your life.
But apart from that I am now diving into my next book (or books, as I think it will be) on the seven ecumenical councils. Some of this I have already prepped for by my podcast, Light Through the Past, but also because I have much review of past reading to do.
As for reading this past year, I think I have been able to slog my way through about 40 books. Some were rereads, such as Gerhard Ladner’s fantastic The Idea of Reform, and most of Robin Lane Fox’s Pagans and Christians. Some were books I had that I hadn’t gotten to, but am now so happy I have, such as W. H. C. Frend’s Martyrdom and Persecution in the Early Church and most especially Fr. Jean Daniélou’s study, Origen (I was also dipping into his series History of Early Christian Doctrine).
That said, I think the first book I am going to crank out, one I will self-publish, is about a 100-page work on prayer. I have most of it written, but need to revise, revise, revise.
I am certainly no expert on prayer. In one sense, the book is simply my observations on other’s thoughts on this, along with a record of my own failings and experiences at failing in trying to keep a rule of prayer. My main aim is for the book to help those who read it at least get started in the discipline of prayer, along with some thoughts about what the life of prayer, fasting, and repentance is.
Before I get to either I have to finish an essay on Sebastian Castellio and the course of religious toleration in sixteenth-century France. I spent today fixing a citation. This citation had been in my book Calvin’s Tormentors, but the footnote was completely off (I have been ill all day about this). As best I can reconstruct it, I had copied the information from two places, at least one of which gave me a wrong reference, and I thus ended up with the wrong information in the footnote. All my research on Castellio I had done at Oxford in 2015, and had spent a good bit of time going back and forth between primary and secondary sources, and now upon checking my numerous notes have found that this citation appears in two places, one the original source, and the other taken from another author, and the latter pointed me in a completely wrong direction. Be that as it may, I have tracked down the original source–not at all where I had said it was– and just retranslated it, as I had used the author’s translation before. Writing is always rewriting.
Again this year I will be running the Tolkien Seminar for the Templeton Honors College, and have secured the services already of my dear friend Dr. William Tighe.
Speaking of Bill, he and I did a podcast on what it means to be an historian, and to be a Christian historian, and it will be out tomorrow on Path to the Academy.
I will try to keep up with my podcasts as well, getting out Light Through the Past every week, and Path to the Academy every two weeks.
Penultimately, this coming year, I hope very much to push the St. Paul’s building committee along a path where I don’t need to be part of it anymore. St. Paul’s has a great opportunity to build and expand. Truth be told, we are busting out of our little parish, and the sooner we can get started on our new temple the better. All the same, it will still be a few years before we will actually be able to start digging.
And lastly, I wish everyone a joyous feast of the Incarnation of our Lord. And may God bless all with a grand start to the new calendar year.