In Horto Fragranti: On the Feast of the Transfiguration

Today, August 6, the western church celebrates the Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus. The eastern church will celebrate the same feast in thirteen days. In much of the east, including Georgia, custom dictates that growers of grapes and other fruits and vegetables present their harvest to be blessed on Transfiguration Day. Most of these grapes, which depending on their geography reach peak ripeness in August, will be turned into wine.

What does this custom, dating back to late antiquity, have to do with the transfiguration of Christ described by the synoptic gospels?

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Weekly Miscellany IV: Spiritual Seeking

Weekly Miscellany IV: December 30, 2013–January 5, 2014

 

Readings

John Dewey, Art as Experience (1934)

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov (1880) FINISHED

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The American Scholar” (1837) FINISHED

Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge (1972)

Charles Frazier, Cold Mountain (1997)

Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation (1961)

Jose Manuel Prieto, Rex: A Novel (2009)

Robert C. Solomon, The Big Questions: A Short Introduction to Philosophy (2002)

Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas (2001) FINISHED

Evelyn Waugh, Decline and Fall (1928) FINISHED

Discussion

What do I really want? What am I really seeking?

Over time, the minute complexity of the problems that afflict one’s intellect and spirit begins to break down, and the entire region of the “unsolved” blurs into confusion. In this confusion, the answers grow more complex, but the questions begin to manifest in startling simplicity. If it feels at times that the edges of one’s map have begun to disintegrate, that the borders of ignorance where be only dragons draw ever closer to the heart of one’s philosophy, this contraction of knowledge is followed by a seeming expansion of spirit to incorporate not only those dragon-infested lands but the dragons themselves.

More prosaically, one is drawn from fearful awareness to acceptance. This acceptance is not passive. It does not incline one to stop questioning and seeking, but it is a happy and active embrace of mystery. I have realized the limitations of my intellect, the essential arrogance of ready pronouncements of understanding, and the importance of quiet, receptive contemplation. Macarius wrote, famously, “The heart is but a small vessel; and yet dragons and lions are there…. There also is God.” Rather than merely the best system of doctrine, I seek a living theology, whereby I might descend into the heart, discern Christ, and sanctify it for his purposes. I do not claim to possess the whole map, or claim that the distant mountains are no different from the molehills on either side; I rejoice in the shade of the trees around me, in the shadow of the dim majestic shapes that falls on me every morning, until I am able to ascend to those mountains.

Given the near coextensivity of the sum of truth and my ignorance, it is necessary for me to intellectually reduce my spiritual questing to its essentials. Rather than fracturing my attention on hundreds of questions and conflicts, without knowing what end I have in mind; rather than wandering through the regions of a thousand philosophies, arbitrarily choosing between this table or that at which to sit and eat; it is necessary that I propose a fundamental question to direct my conduct. That question is, “What do I seek?”

My answer to this primal question is “Christ.” All else must be ordered that I may best discern him, follow after him, and become like to him.

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Weekly(ish) Miscellany III

Weekly(ish) Miscellany III: November 18-December 29, 2013

An Explanation

I got married November 30. Hopefully that statement adequately accounts for the long absence. I did most of the writing below prior to the wedding, but nothing was really finished, so I abandoned myself to the busyness of the season rather than try to post anything.

Key Scriptures under contemplation

Matthew 2

“Out of Egypt I called my son.” I spent some time contemplating this line this morning. The source of this prophecy is Hosea 11:1, which, rather than being an explicitly messianic passage, references Israel’s exodus from captivity as it glorifies God for his “tutorship” of his chosen nation, which has nevertheless proved obstinate and wayward. Matthew is clearly revealing Jesus as true Israel, the righteous child of God who fulfills Hosea 11 for being unlike the wandering son Israel described in that passage. The next recorded episode is his baptism (as the Red Sea crossing, the nation’s baptism, follows the exodus).

C. S. Lewis in God in the Dock (an excerpt of which was Saturday’s Advent reading) describes the Christ story as one of “descent and resurrection,” the Resurrection being simply the turning point in the larger story, in which humanity and all creation is retrieved from death, in which the finished work of man is exalted from the slime to which he had sunk. The briefly-described Egypt saga places Christ on this path of descent, continuing from the cosmic descent of his incarnation. Yet he descends that God the Father may call him out of the land of exile and captivity—and call him “my son.” Now that he has taken on Israel, Christ, the lamb, can take Israel and all humanity to the cross and fulfill Hosea 11:1 as Israel never could.

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