St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation, Refutation of the Gentiles

A quotation and two questions from the penultimate section of St. Athanasius’ treatise, On the Incarnation.

Quotation

Properly, therefore, the Word of God took a body and used a human instrument, in order to give life to the body and in order that, just as he is known in creation by his works, so also he might act in a human being, and show himself everywhere, leaving nothing barren of his divinity and knowledge. Again, I repeat, resuming what we said before, that the Savior did this in order that as he fills everything everywhere by his presence, so also might he fill all things with the knowledge of himself, as the divine scriptures say, “The whole earth was filled with the knowledge of God” (Isa. 11.9).

§45, my emphasis

I chose this passage because I appreciate this image of Christ not leaving the earth barren of the knowledge of God. Rather the world is now, because of Christ, pregnant with this knowledge.

Particular Question
Why is the body related the universe in these sections? (§41-43)

Universal Question

… in their youth they are temperate, in temptations they endure, in toils they persevere, when insulted they forbear, and deprivations they disregard, and, what is most wonderful is that they scorn even death and become martyrs for Christ.

§53

These points are descriptions for the “disciples of Christ” in this section of On the Incarnation. I know that these behaviors can come to characterize the lives of Christians. Nevertheless, are these behaviors actually descriptive of the lives of Christians?

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Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop

Several days ago, I concluded my reading of Willa Cather’s novel, Death Comes for the Archbishop. It is a novel about Bishop Jean Marie Latour, the new Bishop of New Mexico, and his Vicar, Father Joseph Vaillant. The narrator tells of the founding and building up of this new branch of the Catholic church, the friendship and eventual distancing of these two men, and strings of heaven clear in these relationships and this land.

I enjoyed my time reading this novel. It took me quite a while to read though. My engagement with literature is slightly backwards – I usually find it easier to read overtly complex works rather than *seemingly* simple ones. Cather is a complex novelist, but her language is nothing like Joyce or McCarthy. And that’s a good thing! I just had a hard time adjusting.

It was also difficult for me to read for reasons of temperament. I naturally sympathize with minds tragic and cynical. So, when a work tends the other way, it can be difficult for me to shift to that register. Yet, it is intensely good for me to read books with slightly more comic modes in order to train me in the way of Christ.


Quoting Cather

The Cardinal had an eccentric preference to beginning his dinner at this time in the late afternoon, when the vehemence of the sun suggested motion. The light was full of action and had a peculiar quality of climax – of splendid finish. It was both intense and soft, with a ruddiness as much-multiplied candlelight, an aura of red in its flames. It bored into the ilex trees, illuminating their mahogany trunks and blurring their dark foliage; it warmed the bright green of the orange trees and the rose of the oleander blooms to gold; sent congested spiral patterns quivering over the damask and plate and crystal. (p. 4)

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The blunted pyramid, repeated so many hundred times upon his retina and crowding down upon him in the heat, had confused the traveller, who was sensitive to the shape of things. (p. 18)

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Of all our Lord’s physical sufferings, only one, “I thirst,” rose to His lips. Empowered by long training, the young priest blotted himself out of his own consciousness and meditated upon the anguish of his Lord. The Passion of Jesus became for him the only reality; the need of his own body was but a part of that conception. (p. 20)

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He had persevered in this sandy track, which grew ever fainter, reasoning that it must lead somewhere. (p. 23)

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“[…] To-night we are exiles, happy ones, thinking of home. […]” (p. 36)

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“I am not deprecating your individual talent, Joseph,” the Bishop continued, “but, when one thinks of it, a soup like this is not the work of one man. It is the result of a constantly refined tradition. There are nearly a thousand years of history in this soup.” (p. 39)

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Many painters had visited the shrine and marvelled that paint could be laid at all upon such poor and coarse material. (p. 49)

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“[…] Doctrine is well enough for the wise, Jean; but the miracle is something we can hold in our hands and love.” (p. 50)

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“[…] I do not see you as you really are, Joseph; I see you through my affection for you. The Miracles of the Church seem to me to rest not so much upon faces or voices or healing power coming suddenly near to us from afar off, but upon our perceptions being made finer, so that for a moment our eyes can see and our ears can hear what is there about us always.” (p. 50)

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She took her black shawl from a peg and followed him. Just at the door she turned and caught the eyes of the visitors, who were looking after her in compassion and perplexity. Instantly that stupid face became intense, prophetic, full of awful meaning. With her finger she pointed them away, away! – two quick thrusts into the air. Then, with a look of horror beyond anything language could convey, she threw back her head and drew the edge of her palm quickly across here distended throat – and vanished. The doorway was empty; the two priests stood staring at it, speechless. That flash of electric passion had been so swift, the warning it communicated so vivid and definite, that they were struck dumb” (p. 68)

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There was no way in which he could transfer his own memories of European civilization into the Indian mind, and he was quite willing to believe that Jacinto there was a long tradition, a story of experience, which no language could translate to him. (p. 92)

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The country was still waiting to be made into a landscape. (p. 95)

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Ever afterward the Bishop remembered his first ride to Acoma as his introduction to the mesa country. One thing which struck him at once was that every mesa was duplicated by a cloud mesa, like a reflection, which lay motionless above it or moved slowly up from behind it. These cloud formations seemed to be always there, however hot hot and blue the sky. Sometimes they were flat terraces, ledges of vapour; sometimes they were dome-shaped, or fantastic, like the tops of silvery pagodas, rising one above another, as if an oriental city lay directly behind the rock. The great tables of granite set down in an empty plain were inconceivable without their attendant clouds, which were a part of them, as the smoke is part of the censer, or the foam of the wave. (p. 95)

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Already the Bishop had observed in Indian life a strange literalness, often shocking and disconcerting. The Acomas, who must share the universal human yearning for something permanent, enduring, without shadow of change, – they had their idea in substance. They actually lived upon their Rock; were born upon it and died upon it. There was an element of exaggeration in anything so simple! (p. 98)

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The wind, he knew, was blowing out of the inky cloud bank that lay behind the mountain at sunset; but it might well be blowing out of a remote, black past. (p. 124)

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The two priests rode side by side into Los Ranches de Taos, a little town of yellow walls and winding streets and green orchards. The inhabitants were all gathered in the square before the church. When the Bishop dismounted to enter the church, the women threw their shawls on the dusty pathway for him to walk upon, and as he passed through the kneeling congregation, men and women snatched for his hand to kiss the Episcopal ring.In his own country all this would have been highly distasteful to Jean Marie Latour. Here, these demonstrations seemed a part of the high colour that was in landscape and gardens, in the flaming cactus and the gaudily decorated altars, – in the agonized Christs and dolorous Virgins and learned that with this people religion was necessarily theatrical. (p. 142)

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“[…] No priest can experience repentance and forgiveness of sin unless he himself falls into sin. Since concupiscence is the most common form of temptation, it is better for him to know something about it. The soul cannot be humbled by fasts and prayer; it must be broken by mortal sin to experience forgiveness of sin and rise to a state of grace. Otherwise, religion is nothing but dead logic.” (p. 146)

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This mountain and its ravines had been the seat of old religious ceremonies, honeycombed with noiseless Indian life, the repository of Indian secrets, for many centuries, the Padre remarked. (p. 151)

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Observing them thus in repose, in the act of reflection, Father Latour was thinking how each of these men not only had a story, but seemed to have become his story. (p. 183)

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His prayers were empty words and brought him no refreshment. (p. 211)

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He received the miracle in her heart into his own, saw through her eyes, knew that his poverty was as bleak as hers. (p. 218)

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The peace without seemed all one with the peace in his own soul. The snow had stopped, the gauzy clouds that had ribbed the arch of heaven were now all sunk into one soft white fog bank over the Sangre de Cristo mountains. (p. 219)

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Elsewhere the sky is the roof of the world; but here the earth was the floor of the sky. (p. 232)

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But when he entered his study, he seemed to come back to reality, to the sense of a Presence awaiting him. The curtain of the arched doorway had scarcely fallen behind him when that feeling of personal loneliness was gone, and a sense of loss was replaced by a sense of restoration. He sat down before his desk, deep in reflection. It was just this solitariness of love in which a priest’s life could be like his Master’s. It was not a solitude of atrophy, of negation, but of perpetual flowering. A life need not be cold, or devoid of grace in the worldly sense, if it were filled by Her who was all the graces; Virgin-daughter, Virgin-mother, girl of the people and Queen of Heaven: le reve supreme de la chair. The nursery tale could not view with Her in simplicity, the wisest theologians could not match Her in profundity. (p. 256)

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“[…] death has brought us together […]” (p. 265)

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He often quoted to his students that passage from their fellow Auvergnat, Pascal: that Man was lost and saved in a garden. (p. 267)

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“I shall not die of a cold, my son. I shall die of having lived.” (p. 269)

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Yes, Sangre de Cristo; but no matter how scarlet the sunset, those red hills never became vermilion, but a more and more intense rose-carnelian; not the colour of living blood, the Bishop had often reflected, but the colour of the dried blood of saints and martyrs preserved in old churches in Rome, which liquefies upon occasion. (p. 273)

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There is always something charming in the idea of greatness returning to simplicity […] (p. 282)

Photographers

For my thesis, a book of poems and photographs I am composing, I am reading many books of contemporary poetry and some other contributing literature. Yet, I also have the chance to study specific photographers. I here will show samples of each of the photographers I have gotten to study so far (in order of their influence upon me):

IRVING PENN

  • a photographer who started out with street photography, spent most of his career with studio portraiture (mainly for Vogue), and finished by experimenting in the darkroom with alternative processes.
  • Source: Irving Penn, Beyond Beauty, ed. Merry A. Foresta.
  • Favorite photograph: Mouth (for L’Oreal), New York, 1986.L.2013.9.55_1.tif

JULIUS SHULMAN

  • an architectural photographer mainly focused on the modernist architecture of California, who was intensely atuned to the geometry of man-made made place and nature.
  • Source: Julius Shulman, A Constructed View: The Architectural Photography of Julius Shulman, ed. Joseph Rosa
  • Favorite photograph: Duffield’s Linonc-Mercury Showroom, 1963, Long Beach, Killingsworth, Brady, and Smith, 1963.

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ANSEL ADAMS

  • a photographer undeniably famous for his photographs of Yellowstone National Park. He mainly took landscape photographs, especially of National Parks, and was a part of a group known as the “F-64 Group.”
  • Source: Ansel Adams, 400 Photographs, ed. Andrea G. Stillman
  • Favorite photograph: Saint Francis Church, Ranchos De Taos, New Mexico, c. 1950.

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RICHARD AVEDON

[I am now beginning a book of photographs of Richard Avedon (Avedon, Fashion: 1944-2000, ed. Carol Squiers and Vince Aletti)]

Mark Jarman, Unholy Sonnets, Part IV, 48: The World

I have now finished contemporary poet Mark Jarman’s book of poems, Unholy Sonnets. I have thoroughly enjoyed his variation on John Donne’s Holy Sonnets. It took me a while to harmonize with these poems, but it did happen. Saying that, I will say that I prefer Christian Wiman and Scott Cairns (especially the former).

I wanted to quote a poem from this fourth section of Unholy Sonnets. In each of the four parts, Jarman has one long sonnet (i.e. a poem made of several sonnets). The one from the third part, “Sightings,” is fantastic, but decided to quote a different poem. For the fourth part, I have decided to quote the entire long poem, Unholy Sonnet 48, “The World.” (I am going to bold and red some of this poem to highlight some favorite parts of this poem, since it is slightly longer than a normal 14-liner).

The world works for us and we call it grace.
It works against us and, if we are brave,
We call it nothing and we keep our faith,
And only to ourselves we call it fate.
What makes the world work? No one seems to know.
The clouds arrange the weather, the sea goes
Deep, a black stillness seethes at the earth’s core,
And somebody invents the telephone.
If we are smart, we know where we fit in.
If we are lucky, we know what to bid.
If we are good, we know a charming fib
Can do more good than harm. So we tell it.
The world was meant to operate like this.
The working of the world was ever thus.

The working of the world was ever thus.
The empty air surrounds us with its love.
A fire of water opens at a touch.
And earth erupts, earth curves away, earth yields.
Someone imagines strive and someone peace.
Someone inserts the god in the machine
And someone picks him out like a poppy seed.
In every new construction of desire,
The old dissatisfactions rule the eyes.
The new moon eats the old and, slice by slice,
Rebuilds a face of luminous delight, 
In which we see ourselves, at last, make sense.
It is the mirror in everything that shines.

It is the mirror in everything that shines
And makes the soul the color of the sky
And clarifies and gradually blinds
And shows the spider its enormous bride.
And we show our reluctant gratitude,
Searching the paths and runways for a spoor
Of cosmic personality, one clue,
Even the fossil light of burned-out proof.
It is enough and not enough to sketch
The human mask inside the swarming nest
And hold the face, a template, to the egg
And stamp its features on the blank of death.
Although we break rock open to find life
We cannot stare the strangeness from the leaf.

We cannot stare the strangeness from the leaf,
And so we spin all the difference on a wheel
And blur it into likeness. So we seize
The firefly and teach it human need
And mine its phosphor for cold light and call
Across the world as if it were a lawn,
Blinking awake at summer dusk. We talk
Ceaselessly to things that can’t respond
Or won’t respond. What are we talking for?
We’re talking to coax hope and love from zero.
We’re talking so the brain of the geode
Will listen like a garden heliotrope
And open its quartz flowers. We are talking
Because speech is a sun, a kind of making.

Because speech is a sun, a kind of making,
And muteness we have always found estranging,
Because even our silences are phrasing
And language is the tongue we curl for naming,
Because we want the earth to be like heaven
And heaven to be everywhere we’re headed,
Because we hope our formulae, like hexes,
Will stop and speed up time at our behesting.
There is no help for us, and that’s our glory.
A furious refusal to acknowledge,
Except in words, the smallness of our portion,
Pumps heart, lights brain, and conjures up a soul
From next to nothing. We know all flesh is grass.
And when the world works, we still call it grace.


And here are the titles I gave to each of the Unholy Sonnets (bold means that Jarman titled them himself; red means that I quoted that poem).

Part I

  • 1, The Word Answer
  • 2, Care of Prayers
  • 3, Bend
  • 4, Pry Open the Heavens
  • 5, Out of my Painful Stasis
  • 6, The Chained Angel
  • 7, God in the Details
  • 8, Omniscience
  • 9, Spam Prayers
  • 10, The Haves and Have-nots of Prayer
  • 11, Shoplift Catechism
  • 12, God Is Not and Is

Part II

  • 13, Selfhood
  • 14, In Via Est Cisterna
  • 15, The Definition of Alone
  • 16, Christ’s Paradox
  • 17, Unpleased
  • 18, Cycle
  • 19, Lucifer’s Songs
  • 20, Thinness
  • 21, Harsh Attire
  • 22, The Loss
  • 23, The Third Day
  • 24, The Dead

Part III

  • 25, Pleasure Our God
  • 26, In Memoriam R.J.
  • 27, Heats Devoured
  • 28, Camera
  • 29, The Soul
  • 30, Sightings
  • 31, Worship Always
  • 32, Law
  • 33, A Poet’s Prayer
  • Praying to Nothing
  • 35, Silence
  • 36, Love: The Aftermath

Part IV

  • 37, The Attempts
  • 38, Endure
  • 39, Voices
  • 40, Conception
  • 41, The Muchness of Persimmons
  • 42, Reversal
  • 43, Mind to Mind
  • 44, Dreamless Mindless Sleep
  • 45, Larry Levis
  • 46, Nashville Noon
  • 47, Orchestration
  • 48, The World

 

St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation, Refutation of the Jews

A quotation and two questions concerning the fifth section of St. Athanasius’ treatise, On the Incarnation.

Quotation

Who then is this of whom the divine scriptures say these things? Or who is so great that the prophets also foretell such things about him? For no one else is found in the scriptures except the Savior common to all, the God Word, our Lord Jesus Christ. For he it is who came forth from a virgin, and appeared on earth as a human being, and has an inexpressible generation in the flesh. For there is no one who can speak of his father in the flesh, his body not being from a man but from a virgin alone. Just as one can, therefore, trace the genealogy of David and Moses and all the patriarchs, so no one can tell of the generation in the flesh of the Savior from man. For he it is who made the star tell of the birth [genesis] of his body. For as the Word came down from heaven, it was necessary to have a sign from heaven too; and as the king of creation came forth, it was necessary that he be clearly known by the whole inhabited world. He was born in Judea and they came from Persia to worship him. He it is who even before his bodily manifestation took the victory against opposing demons and the trophy over idolatry. So all Gentiles from everywhere, rejecting the inherited customs and the godlessness of idols, place their hope henceforth in Christ and dedicate themselves to him, so that one can also see such things with the eyes themselves. For at no other time did the godlessness of the Egyptians cease, except when the Lord of all, riding as upon a cloud, went down there in the body, destroyed the error of the idols, and brought all to himself and through himself to the Father. He it is that was crucified, with the sun and creations as witnesses together with those who inflicted death upon him; and by his death salvation has come to all, and all creation been ransomed. He it is who is the Life of all, and who like a sheep delivered his own body to death as a substitute for the salvation of all, even if the Jews do not believe. (§37)

I picked this quotation because it answers the question “Who did the prophets speak of?” with a resounding and indubitable THEY SPOKE OF CHRIST. The prophets could have been speaking of no other human being when they proclaimed a king and savior. They spoke of the human being who was also God.

Particular Question
The lineage of Jesus, as recorded in Matthew, flows through Joseph. Yet Jesus was not biologically of Joseph. What does this mean of this lineage?

Universal Question
Are there no more prophets or visions after Christ? (§39)

The Stitches Here: Poems and Photographs

the stitches here

Hello. I wanted to post something about the thesis I am working on. I am doing my undergraduate honors thesis in English Creative writing at The University of Arkansas. It will be a book of 20 poems and photographs paired together, which I have titled The Stitches Here: Poems and Photographs. My friend, Florence, will be binding some books for me. I wanted to invite whoever would like to receive one of these books to let me know. I will be selling each of the first copies for around $30 or $40 (prices will be solidified soon).


What are the poems and photographs about?
The poems and photographs directly or indirectly seek to expose the places in this where we see God at work, where we see the divine stitches here. Like stitches, this work can often seem gritty and unclean, but it is for our good and His glory.

What kind of poetry do you write?
Well, I typically write free verse, but I do have some formal poems in this work. My thesis advisor, Geoffrey Brock is a formalist, and I have read a decent amount of formal poetry. If you would like to get a sense of my writing style, it would be helpful to read favorite writers: Christian Wiman, Scott Cairns, T.S. Eliot, John Donne, Seamus Heaney, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Cormac McCarthy, Marilynne Robinson, and James Joyce. Also see this.

What will the book look like?
The books will be bound by Florence in Japanese Binding Style, likely to be navy and deep-leather-tan. The paper will be Epson Ultrapremium Presentation Matte Paper. It will be roughly 30 single sided pages. The pages will be 11″ (width) x 8.5″ (height).


TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Preface
  2. Mute
  3. I find God only in my intoxication
  4. Airport Catechism I: Suitcase
  5. An Abstract of the I
  6. Tilma
  7. Airport Catechism II: Plane
  8. Extraction
  9. Gospel Music at a Stoplight
  10. Aphilia
  11. Dispatches from Ireland
  12. Airport Catechism III: Kamikazi
  13. Ecdysis
  14. Tearing Windows
  15. Codename Natalie
  16. Airport Catechism IV: Arrival and Departure
  17. Conjured Proverbs
  18. Perhaps a Prayer
  19. Airport Catechism V: Unanswered
  20. Splash
  21. Mundane Glory
  22. Notes
  23. Bibliography
  24. Acknowledgments

Poetry

I was recently asked about poetry regarding my favorites and/or which poets I suggest one to read. Now my favorite poets and the poets I would suggest could be the same, but perhaps I would suggest differently to different people in different situations. Nevertheless, I wanted to share my favorite poets and poets I would recommend in one list, providing an example poem from each one. Here is the current list in alphabetical order:

  • Scott Cairns
    • Idiot Psalm 10
  • John Donne
    • Batter my heart, O three person’d God
  • T.S. Eliot
    • Four Quartets
  • Seamus Heaney
    • A New Song
  • George Herbert
    • The Pulley
  • Gerard Manley Hopkins
    • As Kingfishers Catch Fire
  • Christian Wiman
    • The Preacher Addresses the Seminarians

*[Note: these are all lyric poets. If I were to make my definition for poetry include things like epic poetry or if I were to make my definition of poetry more broad, I would include this other list]

  • Homer
    • The Odyssey
  • The Book of Ecclesiastes
  • The Book of Lamentations
  • Dante
    • Inferno
  • James Joyce
    • Dubliners
  • Cormac McCarthy
    • Blood Meridiean
  • Marilynne Robinson
    • Housekeeping
    • Gilead

*[While I know Joyce, McCarthy, and Robinson are novelists, they compose the most poetic prose I have graced my eyes with. That is why I include them in my broadened definition of poetry, even though I know them to be writers of fiction and not of poetry]