They lack nerves, and the tiny interior.

In this poem I recently encountered, the poet doesn’t say whether he himself believes in Platonic forms, only that “they” claim to know that this principle orders the minds of angels, and what the effects of its working is. It’s my understanding that Plato’s idea of forms is not in accord with Christian theology; one writer on the subject claims that “Maximus the Confessor remains to this day the single most important figure in Orthodox cosmological thought,” and that “his doctrine of the logoi of things can in no way be reduced to a static world of Platonic forms.” There is no Huge Principle, but there is Almighty God, the great “I am.”

Another thing I wonder about is the location of the “tiny interior” mentioned; I should think it is more in the heart than the brain, this place where the Maker shares His secrets. Both of my wonderings are based on my slight understanding of philosophy and theology; what I do feel more certain of is that angels are basically very different from humans. Christ took on human nature, because it was we humans who needed His solidarity with us, and His quickening of our dead spirits. But having been created “a little lower than the angels,” we were “crowned with honor and glory.”

Whatever all of the attributes of angel nature may be, it is given to us humans to enjoy the senses and their joys, which in the following poem by C.S. Lewis are seen as guards against the richer angel-type experiences that we could not in our earthiness bear. I see these sensory experiences as much more than that, and where the poet evokes the way they can fill our hearts to overflowing, such as when we “drink the whole summer down into the breast,” isn’t he describing more than a purely sensual experience? Quite possibly a thankful, prayerful heart can know mystical secrets of the trees and stones, as their secrets would be not other than whatever the Creator in kindness might reveal of Himself in and through them – and beyond.

ON BEING HUMAN

Angelic minds, they say, by simple intelligence
Behold the Forms of nature. They discern
Unerringly the Archtypes, all the verities
Which mortals lack or indirectly learn.
Transparent in primordial truth, unvarying,
Pure Earthness and right Stonehood from their clear,
High eminence are seen; unveiled, the seminal
Huge Principles appear.

The Tree-ness of the tree they know — the meaning of
Arboreal life, how from earth’s salty lap
The solar beam uplifts it; all the holiness
Enacted by leaves’ fall and rising sap;

But never an angel knows the knife-edged severance
Of sun from shadow where the trees begin,
The blessed cool at every pore caressing us
— An angel has no skin.

They see the Form of Air; but mortals breathing it
Drink the whole summer down into the breast.
The lavish pinks, the field new-mown, the ravishing
Sea-smells, the wood-fire smoke that whispers Rest.
The tremor on the rippled pool of memory
That from each smell in widening circles goes,
The pleasure and the pang — can angels measure it?
An angel has no nose.

The nourishing of life, and how it flourishes
On death, and why, they utterly know; but not
The hill-born, earthy spring, the dark cold bilberries.
The ripe peach from the southern wall still hot
Full-bellied tankards foamy-topped, the delicate
Half-lyric lamb, a new loaf’s billowy curves,
Nor porridge, nor the tingling taste of oranges.
— An angel has no nerves.

Far richer they! I know the senses’ witchery
Guards us like air, from heavens too big to see;
Imminent death to man that barb’d sublimity
And dazzling edge of beauty unsheathed would be.
Yet here, within this tiny, charmed interior,
This parlour of the brain, their Maker shares
With living men some secrets in a privacy
Forever ours, not theirs.

-C.S. Lewis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Fr. Mark Kowalewski for introducing me to this poem.
(said Mr Homegrown)

Material history between the pages.

One thing I love about used books is that their physical selves, regardless of the subject or literary content or the reason I want them, have history. I’m always pleased if I find even the name of a person (or a library) and possibly an inscription, giving evidence of its life before coming into my possession. I have discovered a few other little items, like a theater ticket or a clipped newspaper review of the book . But no money, or bacon, and no love letters.

Pippin just sent me this picture of a tortilla that was found in a library book; it looks like the tortilla came with salsa and cheese, too. She remembered an article I’d passed on years ago from the Abe Books Community page: “Things Found in Books.” I thought I’d blogged on this subject, but I can’t find that I did. So I’m passing on that link, plus this one:

From Atlas Obscura: “Best Things Found Between the Pages of Old Books,” including the story of a woman who found a small negative in a book she bought at a used bookstore, developed it, and found it was a photo of her as a child.

You can probably find more such lists online, and maybe have already. I’d be more interested in things that you, my own readers, have found in books, even if it’s only inscriptions. Let me know in the comments, and possibly I will write an update post.

With the cross, as though with a plow.

The cross is raised and appears above the earth, which until recently malice had kept hidden. It is raised, not to receive glory (for with Christ nailed to it what greater glory could it have?) but to give glory to God who is worshiped on it and proclaimed by it.

It is not surprising that the church rejoices in the cross of Christ and robes herself in festal clothes, revealing her bridal beauty as she honors this day. Nor is it surprising that this great throng of people has gathered together today to see the cross exposed aloft and to worship Christ whom they see raised upon it. For the cross is exposed in order to be raised and is raised to be exposed.

What cross? The cross, which a little while ago was hidden in a place called “The Skull” but now is everywhere adored. This is what we rejoice over today; this is what we celebrate; this is the point of the present feast; this is the manifestation of the mystery. For this hidden and life-giving cross had to be exposed, set on high like a city on a hill or a lamp on a stand, for all the world to see.

We who worship Christ on the cross must try to grasp the greatness of his power and all the wonders he has wrought through the cross on our behalf. The holy David says: “Our God and eternal King has wrought salvation throughout the world.” For through the cross the nations were caught as in a net and the seeds of faith are sown everywhere. With the cross, as though with a plow, the disciples of Christ cultivated the unfruitful nature of humankind, revealed the Church’s ever-green pastures, and gathered in an abundant harvest of believers in Christ.

By the cross the martyrs were strengthened, and as they fell they smote down those who struck them. Through the cross Christ became known, and the Church of the faithful, with the scriptures ever open before her, introduces us to this same Christ, the Son of God, who is truly God and truly Lord, and who cries out: “Any who wish to come after me must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

-St Andrew of Crete – 8th century

Each year on September 14 Orthodox Christians commemorate this of the Twelve Great Feasts: The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Pascha (Easter) is the Feast of Feasts and isn’t counted in this list of other important events in our salvation history.