O you, eager to hear more,
who have followed in your little bark
my ship that singing makes its way,
turn back if you would see your shores again.
Do not set forth upon the deep,
for, losing sight of me, you would be lost.
The seas I sail were never sailed before….
Die before you die. There is no chance after.
C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Face
Paradise is the love of God, wherein is the enjoyment of all blessedness. The person who lives in love reaps the fruit of life from God, and while yet in this world, even now breathes the air of the resurrection.
St. Isaac of Syria
The thief gained the faith which gained him,
And brought him up and placed him in paradise.
He saw in the Cross a tree of life;
That was the fruit,
He was the eater in Adam’s stead.
St. Ephrem of Syria, from “The Pearl” Hymn IV
Thy grace may wing me to prevent his art
And thou like adamant draw mine iron heart.
John Donne, Holy Sonnet 1
I have fallen like a fish into deep water
In the hope that the Friend will catch me in his net.
Hafez, “The Wine Made Before Adam”
May my dry bones be preserved in your treasury
so that at the time of eternal life,
at the dawn of that first spring light,
on the day of renewed splendor,
through your dew my soul might again stir,
with your immortal salvation
and according to the hope held out in your inspired
Scriptures, may I again become green and blossom,
and send up shoots of spiritual goodness
that will never dry out.
St. Gregory of Narek, Lamentation 88
And in His will is our peace.
It is to that sea all things move,
both what His will creates and that which nature makes.
Arise my body, my small body, we have striven
Enough, and He is merciful; we are forgiven.
Arise small body, puppet-like and pale, and go,
White as the bed-clothes into bed, and cold as snow,
Undress with small, cold fingers and put out the light,
And be alone, hush’d mortal, in the sacred night,
A meadow whipt flat with the rain, a cup
Emptied and clean, a garment washed and folded up,
Faded in colour, thinned almost to raggedness
By dirt and by the washing of that dirtiness.
Be not too quickly warm again. Lie cold; consent
To weariness’ and pardon’s watery element.
Drink up the bitter water, breathe the chilly death;
Soon enough comes the riot of our blood and breath.
C. S. Lewis, “After Prayers, Lie Cold”
Humility is the luxurious art of reducing ourselves to a point, not to a small thing or a large one, but to a thing with no size at all, so that to it all the cosmic things are what they really are — of immeasurable stature. That the trees are high and the grasses short is a mere accident of our own foot-rules and our own stature. But to the spirit which has stripped off for a moment its own idle temporal standards the grass is an everlasting forest, with dragons for denizens; the stones of the road are as incredible mountains piled one upon the other; the dandelions are like gigantic bonfires illuminating the lands around; and the heath-bells on their stalks are like planets hung in heaven each higher than the other.
G. K. Chesterton, “A Defense of Humilities”
The fact is that purification and austerity are even more necessary for the appreciation of life and laughter than for anything else. To let no bird fly past unnoticed, to spell patiently the stones and weeds, to have the mind a storehouse of sunsets, requires a discipline in pleasure and an education in gratitude.
G. K. Chesterton, “Twelve Types”
If we ask… what the essence of Christianity is…: it is God manhood; that is, the union of the human spirit, which is finite and limited in time, with the divine, which is infinite. It is the sanctification of the flesh from the moment the Son of Man adopted our joys and sufferings…. In Christianity the world is sanctified: evil, darkness, and sin are vanquished. This is God’s victory.
Fr. Alexander Men
“Is the sun so very bright?”
“As bright as the lightning.”
“But it doesn’t go out like that, does it?”
“Oh, no. It shines like the moon, rises and sets like the moon, is much the same shape as the moon, only so bright that you can’t look at it for a moment.”
“But I would look at it,” said the princess.
George MacDonald, At the Back of the North Wind, “Little Daylight”
The famous saying ‘God is love’, it is generally assumed, means that God is like our immediate emotional indulgence, not that the meaning of love ought to have something of the ‘otherness’ and terror of God.
Be with those who mix with God
as honey blends with milk, and say,
“Anything that comes and goes,
rises and sets,
is not what I love.”
Live in the one who created the prophets,
else you’ll be like a caravan fire left
to flare itself out alone beside the road.
Rumi, trans. Coleman Barks, “Craftsmanship and Emptiness”
My faith sees You, Lord, just as what is begotten sees its begetter. My faith hears You, Lord, just as what is begotten hears its begetter. The God within me sees and hears the God in You. And God is not created but begotten. My faith is like diving into the abyss of my soul and swimming out with You. My faith is my only genuine knowledge. Everything else is like the children collecting motley pebbles by the lake.
St. Nikolai of Ochrid and Zica, from Prayers by the Lake XXXII
Human folly does not see the wonder lying behind appearances but admires what it beholds. Since our senses operate in a temporal and transitory medium, we learn through [Wisdom’s] noble voice that the person who sees these things sees nothing. But the person guided through such temporalities to an understanding of him who exists, grasps the constancy of [God’s] nature through transitory reality, sees with his mind him who is always the same, beholds the true good and possesses what he sees, for knowledge is the possession of this good.
St. Gregory of Nyssa, 1st Homily on Ecclesiastes
As the eye is little beyond all the members, and yet contains the heaven, the stars, the sun, the moon, cities, and other creatures; for all these are seen under one, are formed and imagined in the pupil of the eye. Thus also the heart is a little vessel. And yet there are dragons, and there are lions, the poisonous beasts, and all the treasures of wickedness, and there are rugged ways, and precipices. In like manner there is GOD, there are the angels; there is the life and the kingdom; there is the light, there are the treasures of grace: there are all things. And yet many find them not….
Macarius, Homily 18
My young brother asked forgiveness of the birds: it seems senseless, yet it is right, for all is like an ocean, all flows and connects; touch it in one place and it echoes at the other end of the world. Let it be madness to ask forgiveness of the birds, still it would be easier for the birds, and for a child, and for any animal near you, if you yourself were more gracious than you are now, if only by a drop, still it would be easier. All is like an ocean, I say to you. Tormented by universal love, you, too, would then start praying to the birds, as if in a sort of ecstasy, and entreat them to forgive you your sin. Cherish this ecstasy, however senseless it may seem to people.
Fr. Zosima in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov
And lo, one night I was sitting in my cell and suddenly it was filled with devils…. I sat down again and said: “Lord, Thou seest that I desire to pray to Thee with a pure mind but the devils will not let me. Tell me what I must do that they may leave me.” And the Lord’s reply came in my soul: “The proud always suffer from devils.” “Lord,” I say, “Thou art merciful. My soul knoweth Thee. Tell me what I must do that my soul may grow humble?” And the Lord answered me in my soul: “Keep thy mind in hell, and despair not.”
I see it as my duty to stimulate reflection on what is essentially human and eternal in each individual soul, and which all too often a person will pass by…. In the end everything can be reduced to the one simple element…: the capacity to love…. My function is to make whoever sees my films aware of his need to love and to give his love, and aware that beauty is summoning him.
The allotted function of art is not, as is often assumed, to put across ideas, to propagate thoughts, to serve as example. The aim of art is to prepare a person for death, to plough and harrow his soul, rendering it capable of turning to good.
All the films I make are about the need to open up. About the need to communicate on another level, rather than just talking about the quality of wine, car prices, flat prices or the best bank deposits. You have to break through the barrier of shame and the feeling that you mustn’t be weak.
Christian drama then must–and I think will–recover speculative intellect. It will consider the nature of God. Except within the Christian Church, God is not supposed to have any nature to speak of; He is left to be universal love, and love itself is not very clearly defined…. I do not wish the plays of religion to be confined to an indeterminate presentation of an undefined love. They might, in fact, take up the business of defining, with intense excitement, the nature, habits, and mode of operation of Almighty Love, infusing into their excitement a proper skepticism as to its existence at all. It is not dogma that creates narrowness; it is the inability to ask an infinite number of questions about dogma. That is where the medievals scored; they were always asking questions. It will be remembered that a Roman legate once wrote from Paris to say that he did not think it was decent that young men should publicly begin their disputations by arguing against the existence of God. Religious drama ought to argue a great deal more strongly than it does against the existence of God. At this point it is far too hampered by good intentions.
Charles Williams, “Religious Drama”
If you keep bogies and goblins away from children they would make them up for themselves…. The fear does not come from fairy tales; the fear comes from the universe of the soul…. Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon. Exactly what the fairy tale does is this: it accustoms him for a series of clear pictures to the idea that these limitless terrors had a limit, that these shapeless enemies have enemies in the knights of God, that there is something in the universe more mystical than darkness, and stronger than strong fear.
G. K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles
Broch is right when he says that Kitsch does not concern art so much as a certain kind of behavior, or a certain kind of person, a ‘Kitsch-man’ who needs such a form of falsehood so that he can recognize himself in it. If we agree with this, then Kitsch will appear as a negative force, a constant mystification, an eternal escape from the responsibilities involved in the experience of art. As the theologian R. Egenter used to say, the Father of Lies would use Kitsch to alienate the masses from all notion of salvation, because he would recognize it as much more powerful, in its mystifying and consoling power, even than scandals, since these have a tendency to awaken the moral defenses of the virtuous at every moment in which they are most effectively attacking them.
I could compare my music to white light which contains all colours. Only a prism can divide the colours and make them appear; this prism could be the spirit of the listener.
Amanda Coomaraswamy says that the mission of art is to delight, instruct, and move. I would add that the best art involves a complex giving of honor. It gives honor to the materials that are being used in the work, therefore giving honor to God; it gives honor to the people for whom the art is made, and it gives honor to the maker, the responsible worker. In that desire to give honor, the artist takes on the obligation to be responsibly connected both to the human community and to nature.
When we look into a mirror, we see our own reflection; but when we see ourselves reflected in another person’s eyes, our mutual gaze transforms a mere impression into an event. History is all about this encounter, the moment in which impression is transformed into event.
Omer Bartov, Mirrors of Destruction
Experience proves that it is rather the so-called ‘intelligentsia’ that is most apt to yield to these disastrous collective suggestions [such as Nazism], since the intellectual has no direct contact with life in the raw, but encounters it in the easiest synthetic form – upon the printed page.