Friday, April 16, 2021

Guardian of the Sun

Guardian of the Sun, Remo Savisaar

Do away with counting the cost

When we perform an act of kindness we should rejoice and not be sad about it. If you undo the shackles and the thongs, says Isaiah, that is, if you do away with miserliness and counting the cost, with hesitation and grumbling, what will be the result? Something great and wonderful! What a marvelous reward there will be: Your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will rise up quickly. Who would not aspire to light and healing?
Gregory of Nazianzen, sermon

Thursday, April 15, 2021

The Queen of Spades

The Queen of Spades (1898). John Byam Liston Shaw.
Via Books and Art.

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson

An elderly artist and her six-year-old granddaughter while away a summer together on a tiny island in the gulf of Finland. Gradually, the two learn to adjust to each other's fears, whims and yearnings for independence, and a fierce yet understated love emerges - one that encompasses not only the summer inhabitants but the island itself, with its mossy rocks, windswept firs and unpredictable seas.

This is a perfectly named book. It captures the feeling of summer for those of us lucky enough to grow up without parents urging them into summer camps or other improving activities. For those of us lucky enough to be allowed to have free days and nights and boredom pushing us to observe, discover, and play. In this series of vignettes we come to know a grandmother and granddaughter who provide all the human interactions with their tiny island, home, and each other. Neither is perfect and their imperfection is recognizable. They get mad, fight, cheat, try to help in the wrong way, and more.

It is a wonderful series of snapshots of real life where every situation doesn't tie up neatly or provide a life lesson, though some do. Very highly recommended with much thanks to my daughter, Hannah, who pointed me to this book. I hope she had enough summer freedom in her young days to recognize the feel in this book as much as I did.

Hannah and Scott Danielson discussed it on the Shelf Wear podcast. Their conversation made me pick it up to reread.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Saint Elizabeth of Hungary working for the poor

Saint Elizabeth of Hungary working for the poor by Marianne Stokes, 1920.


Psalm 13 — Waiting on the Lord

Though the plot of the enemies lasts a very long time, do not lose heart, as though God had forgotten you, but call on the Lord, singing Psalm 13.
Athanasius, On the Interpretation of the Psalms

These days it is easy to lose heart and feel as if nothing will ever change. We're a year into the Covid-19 pandemic with contentious political division and everyone arguing ferociously at the drop of a hat.

I especially think of this line from verse 2: "How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long?"

I like how the psalmist thanks God at the end, before his prayer has been answered. Such is his trust.

Psalm 13 in the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry

13:5. Trusting in God's Steadfast Love

A Hope-Filled Soul. St. John Chrysostom: Do you see a hope-filled soul? He asked, and before receiving he gives thanks as though having received, sings praise to God and achieves all that had been anticipated. Commentary on the Psalms

Psalms 1-50 (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture)

Clearly, though, the psalmist has been suffering a long time and feels as if God has abandoned him. This commenter looks at the result of the Babylonian Exile on the Jewish people who felt abandoned by God. I mean to say when your temple has been destroyed and your people dragged to slavery, it is safe to say you feel as if God wasn't around. The change to their thinking about suffering and redemption is transformative. Surely it also paved the way for their ability to recognize Christ's redemptive sacrifice. Also — I never knew why it was called "the Holocaust." Astounding
The Absence of God

Throughout the centuries since, the convention arose of understanding the continuing suffering of Diaspora Judaism as redemptive, vicarious suffering by the faithful remnant for the sins of the whole community. This draws on Isaiah's four Servant Songs (Isa. 42:1-6[9], 49:1-6; 50:4-11; 52: 13-53:12), in which Yahweh's servant (variously identified as Israel, a faithful remnant, the prophet, or some future servant/messiah) suffers innocently for the sins of the people.

In this regard, the acute and tragic suffering of the European Jewish community under the Nazi program of exploitation and extermination during World War II has come to be called "the Holocaust," a reference to the completely burned sin offering offered yearly on the Day of Atonement for the sins of the nation. In this way the suffering and death of six and a half million Jews and their survivors has been interpreted as vicarious and redemptive sacrifice by the innocent for the sins of the world. This reinterpretation of the suffering of the faithful follows the lead of Job and Ecclesiastes in affirming that the absence of God is not a sign of his lack of power or concern. Nor is God's delay in coming a necessary indication of the wickedness of those who suffer in the interim. God is still God and worth of worship and allegiance despite the inability of humans to comprehend human suffering fully.
Psalms Volume 1 (NIV Application Commentary)

Sources are here and an index of psalm posts is here

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Close Reads and The Lord of the Rings

I've been listening to the Close Reads podcast for several years off and on, depending on what they're reading. They discuss books indepth from a classical education perspective which feeds into a homeschooling, Christian audience. That is reflected in their Facebook page which has varied and lively discussions and I regularly check in there too. I especially enjoyed their discussions of True Grit, Death Comes for the Archbishop, Anne of Green Gables, Frankenstein, and Rebecca (a book I detest but which they loved — the discussion was so interesting I just kept listening). They've covered a lot more ground than that so definitely check them out.

Their Patreon subscriber episodes got me through Crime and Punishment, for which I am duly grateful. Russian novels and I don't mix, but the Close Reads conversation pulled me into mostly enjoying that book. 

When they announced they were going to read The Lord of the Rings  I was planning on skipping it. I've read many commentaries on the book and have never found anything that I liked better than Corey Olsen's masterful classes at Mythgard Academy (free!). After all, Olsen's original Tolkien Professor classes were the ones that made me pick up LOTR for a fourth time and finally get through it. Now I consider LOTR the best book ever written, so that's a debt I will never forget. Naturally, I figured between all those other references I'd heard most of the takes on it. 

Then I started seeing outbursts of praise in the Facebook group which piqued my interest so I bit. Finishing up their six-episode discussion of The Fellowship of the Ring, I must add to that outburst of praise. Their conversation is not afraid to dip into Christian viewpoints which resonate with my own take and deepen it considerably. The classical viewpoint also adds richness to appreciating the wisdom J.R.R. Tolkien has woven into the story. The Close Reads discussions equal and complement the Mythgard classes in the best possible way.

Mostly, I thrill to the love and admiration for this work which so clearly emanates from Heidi White and Ian Andrews. They have enhanced my own love of the book which I already thought was the best book ever written. (The host, David Kern, clearly likes the book but he doesn't match the geeking out and love that Heidi and Ian show).

If you're a Tolkien fan and a Christian you're going to want to try this out. The $5 Patreon subscription gets you access to both the LOTR and Crime and Punishment series. They are over halfway through The Two Towers and I look forward to having my mind blown regularly as I journey alongside.

A Movie You Might Have Missed #38 — Internal Affairs (Hong Kong)

It's been 11 years since I began this series highlighting movies I wished more people knew about. I'm rerunning it from the beginning because I still think these are movies you might have missed.

Martin Scorsese remade this as The Departed. Watch the original instead.

This stylistic, smart movie takes the classic crime plot of police versus criminals and turns it into an exciting battle of wits.

Police Superintendent Wong takes his best police cadet, Yan, and has him go undercover to become a mole in the drug-running Triad gang. Unbeknownst to them, the Triad’s leader, Sam, is doing the exact same thing with a young gang member, Lau, who has a clean record and will be accepted into police cadet school.

After years pass both Lau and Yan have become accepted, valuable members of their respective groups. During a drug bust, both the police and the Triad gang become aware that each has been infiltrated by a mole. In an ironic move, the moles are both so trusted that each is tasked by his superior with discovering who the mole is within his own group. Simultaneously, each is contacted by his real boss and told to discover who the mole is in the other group.

What follows is a fascinating plot twist in which each mole struggles to retain his anonymity. while discovering the other’s identity. This movie is gripping until the very end and keeps you guessing the entire time. Everything is masterfully brought together in the last ten minutes with a denouement that gives the entire movie unexpected depths.

This movie was so popular in Hong Kong that it inspired two sequels, Infernal Affairs II which actually was a prequel, and Infernal Affairs III which continues the story begun in the original movie. We watched this movie in the original Cantonese with English subtitles. It was fascinating to hear the large quantity of English scattered through regular conversation. “Channel,” “sorry,” “entrance,” “ok,” “bye,” and “sir” are just a few of the words constantly breaking the pattern of Chinese dialogue.

Spring in Texas

Spring in Texas, Jason Merlo Photography


Monday, April 12, 2021

Easter Chick

Chick, N Puttapipat Illustration


Prayer is an offering that belongs to God

Prayer is an offering that belongs to God and is acceptable to him: it is the offering he has asked for, the offering he planned as his own. ...

Of old, prayer was able to rescue from fire and beasts and hunger, even before it received its perfection from Christ. How much greater then is the power of Christian prayer. No longer does prayer bring an angel of comfort to the heart of a fiery furnace, or close up the mouths of lions, or transport to the hungry food from the fields. No longer does it remove all sense of pain by the grace it wins for others. But it gives the armour of patience to those who suffer, who feel pain, who are distressed. It strengthens the power of grace, so that faith may know what it is gaining from the Lord, and understand what it is suffering for the name of God.

Tertullian, On Prayer

Friday, April 9, 2021

Easter Friday: Here are the beginnings of creatures newly formed

Here, then, is the grace conferred by these heavenly mysteries, the gift which Easter brings, the most longed for feast of the year; here are the beginnings of creatures newly formed: children born from the life giving font of holy Church, born anew with the simplicity of little ones, and crying out with the evidence of a clean conscience. Chaste fathers and inviolate mothers accompany this new family, countless in number, born to new life through faith. As they emerge from the grace giving womb of the font, a blaze of candles burns brightly beneath the tree of faith. The Easter festival brings the grace of holiness from heaven to men. Through the repeated celebration of the sacred mysteries they receive the spiritual nourishment of the sacraments. ...
Easter homily by an ancient author,
via the Liturgy of the Hours
I loved this because it took me back to when I, too, was newly formed and coming into my new life in the Church.


Reptiles, M.C. Escher
The link above is to Lines and Colors where you can see pieces of this painting blown up and really enjoy the creativity Escher uses. There is also a lot more info about Escher and a link to an article about him.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Three Worlds

Three Worlds, M.C. Escher


Easter Thursday: Litany for the Easter Season

A beautiful litany full of praise and joy. And, not too long. What could be better?
Litany for the Easter Season
Father of life, we give you praise and glory.
Christ is risen, alleluia!

You have given Jesus victory over sin.
Christ is risen, alleluia!

You have raised him from the dead.
Christ is risen, alleluia!

You have made his cross a sign of glory.
Christ is risen, alleluia!

You have made us sharers in your life.
Christ is risen, alleluia!

With Christ, you have buried us in death to sin.
Christ is risen, alleluia!

With him you have raised us to new life.
Christ is risen, alleluia!

He is seated with you in glory.
Christ is risen, alleluia!

He sends his Spirit to guide our lives.
Christ is risen, alleluia!

Jesus will come again in glory.
Christ is risen, alleluia!
Now don't forget, Easter doesn't end until Pentecost, so keep on celebrating right up through May 23!