ON DAILY MASS
Sunlight gilds the pine boughs at my window,
Each needle haloed, dark against the light,
As if this evanescent brightness shows
The good this day may hold. The time is tight,
To catch my breath before the press of all
I have to do; the minutes slip away,
The fading sunlight moves along the wall
And I have done so little yet this day.
But still I turn aside, set down my pen,
And heed the deeper call that bids me here.
Agnus Dei, dona nobis pacem.
Time out of time: eternity comes near,
And in the hour I thought I could not spare,
I kneel, and, halting, ask the saints for prayer.
The Apostle John opens his gospel with a description of Jesus as “the Word.” This was especially meaningful to his original readers who understood the complexity of the “logos” as an expression of the inexplicable. The Chinese language contains a similar term, “tao“, which means both “thinking” and “speaking.” As creatures made in His image, God has set eternity in our hearts yet, as the writer of Ecclesiastes says, we “cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to the end” (Ecc 3:11). Fortunately, God graced us with the ability to gain understanding.
Literature is extremely helpful in this regard for both deepening and broadening one’s theory of mind. To begin with, reading imaginative fiction that focuses on character development and interaction, such as the fiction of Jane Austen or Anthony Trollope, helps us hone the skills of observing others, drawing conclusions about their character, reactions, and intentions, and then testing those conclusions.
Good stories do more than allow us to practice theory of mind: they also give us more material with which to work. Literature, here including both fiction and non-fiction in the form of well-written memoirs and biographies, can help us to see from another’s perspective. We have the opportunity to experience other cultures and times, to learn from other experiences, and to engage the world through a different personality, perhaps even very different values and ideas. As Lewis says in An Experiment in Criticism: “Literary experience heals the wound, without undermining the privilege, of individuality. . . . in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.”
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John 1: 1-5
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
Meet The Author
Dr Holly Ordway is Professor of English and faculty in the M.A. in Apologetics at Houston Baptist University; she holds a PhD in English from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
She is the author of Apologetics and the Christian Imagination: An Integrated Approach to Defending the Faith (Emmaus Road, 2017) and Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms (Ignatius, 2014), and she has contributed chapters to C.S. Lewis at Poets’ Corner (edited by Michael Ward and Peter S. Williams), C.S. Lewis’s List: The Ten Books that Influenced Him Most (edited by David Werther) among other volumes; she is also a published poet, with poems in Word in the Wilderness and Love, Remember (edited by Malcolm Guite).
Her academic work focuses on the writings of the Inklings, especially C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Her current book project is Tolkien’s Modern Sources: Middle-earth Beyond the Middle Ages (forthcoming from Kent State University Press, 2019).
She lives in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and travels regularly to speak on Tolkien, Lewis, and imaginative apologetics.
Photo of Holly Ordway by Lancia E Smith