“It follows, therefore, that as far as there is any iniquity in us, to that extent precisely are we far from loving Christ, and to that extent also is there in us transgressions of His commandments. Let us, therefore, make uprightness into a sort of straight-edge; so that if there be anything of iniquity in us, by using this ruler and adding thereto the rule of God’s commandments, anything crooked or twisted that there may be in us may be put straight by this ruler’s edge; so that is may be said of us also: ‘Uprightness has loved Thee.’”
—Origen, Commentary on the Song
“What is music about? What, as Plato would say, does it imitate? Our experience of Time in its twofold aspect, natural or organic repetition, and historical novelty created by choice. And the full development of music as an art depends upon a recognition that these two aspects are different and that choice, being an experience confined to man, is more significant than repetition. A succession of two musical notes is an act of choice; the first causes the second, not in the scientific sense of making it occur necessarily, but in the historical sense of provoking it, of providing it with a motive for occurring. A successful melody is a self-determined history; it is freely what it intends to be, yet is a meaningful whole, not an arbitrary succession of notes.”
—W.H. Auden, The Dyer’s Hand, via Alan Jacobs
Some of my friends wanted to read this (a paper on eternity that recently won an award at the SCP regional conference):
A Complex Eternity
“What ever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off the relish of spiritual things…that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself.”
When will you ever, Peace, wild wooddove, shy wings shut,
Your round me roaming end, and under be my boughs?
When, when, Peace, will you, Peace? I’ll not play hypocrite
To own my heart: I yield you do come sometimes; but
That piecemeal peace is poor peace. What pure peace allows
Alarms of wars, the daunting wars, the death of it?
O surely, reaving Peace, my Lord should leave in lieu
Some good! And so he does leave Patience exquisite,
That plumes to Peace thereafter. And when Peace here does house
He comes with work to do, he does not come to coo,
He comes to brood and sit.
“But since I am not my own father, it is useless for me to seek to awaken this recognition of Him by calling myself “son” in the hollow of my own silence. My own voice is only able to rouse a dead echo when it calls out to itself. There will never be any awakening in me unless I am called out of darkness by Him Who is my light. Only He Who is Life is able to raise the dead. And unless He names me, I remain dead and my silence is the silence of death.
As soon as He speaks my name, my silence is the silence of infinite life, and I know that I am because my heart has opened to my Father in the echo of the eternal years.
My life is a listening, His is a speaking. My salvation is to hear and respond. For this, my life must be silent. Hence, my silence is my salvation.”
—Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude
Musee des Beaux Arts
W. H. Auden
About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.
“We cannot escape [the religious hypothesis] by remaining sceptical and waiting for more light, because, although we do avoid error in that way if religion be untrue, we do loose the good, if it be true, just as certainly as if we positively chose to disbelieve. It is as if a man should hesitate indefinitely to ask a certain woman to marry him because he was not perfectly sure that she would prove an angel after he brought her home. Would he not cut himself off from that particular angel-possibility as decisively as if he went and married some one else?”
—William James, “The Will to Believe”
“Though these young men unfortunately fail to understand that the sacrifice of life is, perhaps, the easiest of all sacrifices, and that to sacrifice, for instance, five or six years of their seething youth to hard and tedious study, if only to multiply tenfold their powers of serving the truth and the cause they have set before them as their goal—such a sacrifice is utterly beyond the strength of many of them”
—Dostoevsky, Brothers Karamazov
A quote which I often refer in ministry contexts.