What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.


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Give thanks


It has seemed to me sometimes as though the Lord breathes on this poor gray ember of Creation and it turns to radiance--for a moment or a year or the span of a life. And then it sinks back into itself again, and to look at it no one would know it has anything to do with fire, or light. That is what I said in the Pentecost sermon. I have reflected on that sermon, and there is some truth in it. But the Lord is more constant and far more extravagant than it seems to imply. Wherever you turn your eyes the world can shine like transfiguration. You don't have to bring a thing to it except a little willingness to see. Only, who could have the courage to see it?

Theologians talk about a prevenient grace that precedes grace itself and allows us to accept it. I think there must also be a prevenient courage that allows us to be brave--that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear, that precious things have been put into our hands and to do nothing to honor them is to do great harm....What have I to leave you but the ruins of old courage, and the lore of old gallantry and hope? Well, as I have said, it is all an ember now, and the good Lord will surely someday breathe it into flame again.

John Ames in Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson

A happy Thanksgiving to our readers here at W4.

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Comments (6)

A blessed Thanksgiving to all, and a special thank you to those of you who post here for helping keep us informed and thinking.

Thank you, Beth. We couldn't do it (I know I couldn't) if it weren't for good readers.


Great quotes! Needless to say, I'm thankful for the opportunity to blog here and for the wonderful (and at times challenging) feedback we get from readers.

I'm finally finishing Saint Augustine's Confessions (it seems like I've been slogging through his final philosophical chapters about Genesis forever). Anyway, one thing he does do well in the book is express gratitude to God:

My faith speaks to my soul -- the faith that you kindle to light my path in the night: "Why are you cast down, my soul, and why are you disquieted in me? Hope in god." For his word is a lamp to your feet. Hope and persevere until the night passes -- that mother of the wicked; until the lord's wrath subsides -- that wrath whose children once we were, of whom we were beforehand in darkness, whose residue we still bear about us in our bodies, dead because of sin. Hope and endure until the day breaks and the shadows flee away. Hope in The Lord: in the morning I shall stand in his presence and keep watch; I shall forever give praise to him. In the morning I shall stand and shall see my god, who is the health of my countenance, who also will quicken our mortal bodies by the spirit that dwells in us, because in mercy he was moving over our lightless and restless inner deep. From this we have received an earnest, even now in this journeying, that we are now in the light, since already we are saved by hope and are children of the light and children of the day -- not children of the night, nor of the darkness, which we have been hitherto. Between those children of the night and ourselves, in this still uncertain state of human knowledge, only you can rightly distinguish -- you who test the heart and who call the light day, and the darkness night. For who can see us clearly but you? What do we have that we have not received from you, who made from the same lump some vessels to noble, and others to ignoble, use?

Thanks, Jeffrey. That's Augustine. He gets on these rolls.

Away back in graduate school, I had to have two foreign languages. So I did a crash course in Latin, which I'd never taken before, in summer school (!) and then approached a prof. in the Classics department and asked if I could take one of his upper-level courses, which is what I needed to complete the requirement. Needless to say, the summer school crash course did not really satisfy the prerequisites, but he pulled a book off the shelf, let me stumble through a few sentences, and let me in. It was a course in Christian Latin texts, including the Confessions. The prof. was an atheist but a real scholar. It was great to watch his face when we would get to these passages where Augustine just got on a roll, praying to God. He'd growl something like, "And then we get another of these passages with all these paradoxes and such. Moving along..."

Re-reading that comment, it might look like I'm dismissing St. Augustine's "rolls." To the contrary, I meant to praise them.

Happy and blessed Thanksgiving to all. I was away visiting family, with no Internet for 5 days. Can't decide whether that lack of access was great or horrible. ;-)

I am afraid I read St. Augustine when I was too young - before 30. I can read him now, when I work at it, but it always seems like some other works are more suited to whatever I am doing at the moment.

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