Today marks the beginning of Advent. For many, the occasion has been lost to the commercialization of Christmas, but in essence, it is foremost a time of fulfilled expectancy. In Jesus, we have the convergence of man’s collective longing with God’s eternal love. During His ministry, He often said He came to seek and to save that which was lost. As bearers of the imago Dei, the very image of God, man intrinsically understood his connection to the eternal, but his soul was darkened by the sin in which he sequestered himself.
Jonathan Swift (born on this day in 1667) was the author of Gulliver’s Travels. In it he wrote “Undoubtedly, philosophers are in the right when they tell us that nothing is great or little otherwise than by comparison.” Expressed a little more crudely, its easy to start believing your own BS. Easy, that is until someone else calls you out. Satire is at once funny and uncomfortable. G.K. Chesterton said “A man is angry at a libel because it is false, but at a satire because it is true.”
In Henry IV Shakespeare wrote “Farewell, thou latter spring; farewell, All-hallown summer!” referring to these summer-like days in late autumn following a killing frost. Today we call it Indian Summer and it is altogether wonderful. Autumn is quickly drawing to a close and winter is soon to set in deep with its shorter days and longer nights, yet for just a moment, we have the brief remembrance of summer days that remind us of what was, and what is to come again.
When we celebrate communion, we are basking in the Indian Summer of our Christian life. Jesus was here. He was one of us and the life He lived taught us how to live abundantly. The death He died provided salvation and His resurrection is our promise of eternal life. We live here now, for a season in winter, but when we celebrate communion we remember Him, our glorious summer and know with full assurance that we will once again bask in His glory.
As Emily Dickinson wrote
These are the days when Birds come back—
A very few—a Bird or two—
To take a backward look.
These are the days when skies resume
The old—old sophistries of June—
A blue and gold mistake.
Oh fraud that cannot cheat the Bee.
Almost thy plausibility
Induces my belief,
Till ranks of seeds their witness bear—
And softly thro’ the altered air
Hurries a timid leaf.
Oh sacrament of summer days,
Oh Last Communion in the Haze—
Permit a child to join—
Thy sacred emblems to partake—
They consecrated bread to take
And thine immortal wine!
Here on Literary Life, the month of Advent is a beautiful occasion to enjoy the season of anticipation as we look forward to Christmas. Literary Life is a nod to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria which poet and priest Malcolm Guite describes as “…an eclectic mix of autobiography, philosophical history, literary criticism, rambling anecdote, and radical new theology, all held together and threaded through with a constant witness to the power of the Logos, to the great analogy of language. At its heart is the idea that the cosmos is spoken into being by Mind, that nature is itself a kind of language, and that our own use of language is, therefore, a series of clues as to the meaning of both mind and cosmos. So the literary criticism and the theology are not separate and disparate parts of the book; they are the same thing.”
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Editor in Chief | Literary Life
However little he may be fitted to teach others, he wishes to share his thoughts with those whom he feels congenial, but who are scattered far and wide in the world. By this means, he wishes to reestablish his relation with his old friends, to continue it with new ones, and to gain in the younger generation still others for the remainder of his life. He wishes to spare youth the circuitous paths upon which he himself went astray, and while observing and utilizing the advantages of the present, to maintain the memory of his praiseworthy earlier efforts.
With this serious view, a small society has been brought together; may cheerfulness attend our undertakings, and time may show whither we are bound.
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.
~John 1: 1-5
The world is saturated with anxiety and uncertainty and for many, the reasonable response is fear. We can thank God that our hope is not built on reason alone. Christians know that happiness is an empty pursuit. Happiness is based on happenings, but peace is the joyous realization that all is well, regardless of circumstance. The Bible says in Philippians 4:6-7 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Suffering is common to us all, but certainly not equally. Many times it intrudes randomly and with such cruelty, we wonder how a good God could allow it. Albert Camus (born this day in 1913) was a leading voice in the struggle for understanding, and he believed understanding was the best we could hope for. In his book The Absurd Man, he wrote: “the clerk in the post office is the equal of a conqueror if consciousness is common to them.” Today we call such a person “Woke.” It comes at a price.
Musical genius Felix Mendelssohn died on this day, November 4th in 1847. His beautiful work was notable for many things, but perhaps most stunning was the ease with which it seemed to flow from his creativity. While many masterpieces are the result of the painful toil of an anguished artist, there are others who seem to produce greatness with little invested suffering. Mendelssohn understood his genius as a gift from God but also recognized his stewardship. He said, “I know perfectly well that no musician can make his thoughts or talents different to what Heaven has made them; but I also know that if Heaven has given him good ones, he must also be able to develop them properly.”