Category Archives: quotes

Lifting the eyes without horror.

In White Road, Olga Ilyin writes her memoirs of the years 1919-1923 in Russia. I am not very far into the book, but I want to share a short passage describing one Siberian winter morning as she was fleeing eastward with the White Army and some members of their families. Each night they would billet with sympathetic peasants, and move on the next day.

“It was one of those windless mornings…when the air is frozen to the crispness of glass and every sound engraves itself on the darkness with such precision that you can trace its outline with a pencil.

“I had just come on the porch of our cottage. I loved to be the first one to come outside with Bibik [her baby] to steal a moment of quiet before the noise and movement of departing troops, to gaze at the stars overhead, and listen to my footsteps on hard-packed snow fall into silence like notes of music.

“And yet, how could I? For these were the same stars I had watched with horrified eyes on the night when I fled from home; the same stars at which my father had looked from an open truck just a week later when a firing squad drove him to where he was shot. Never again, I had felt, could I lift my eyes without horror to this unyielding gulf between God and man, hammered in by myriads of frightful metallic nails. So, why should I come out to catch a moment to be alone with them? How was it possible that again the stars should reassure me of the wonder of life, telling me that nothing great could really be broken or vanquished? At least within us.”

It was tangled up all through her, too.

In this article “Science fiction, and what Jesus said to the woman at the well,” Fr. Jonathan Tobias discusses the possibility of extra-terrestrial life, what human nature is like, and the meaning of worship.

My favorite line is, “Wherever there is beauty, Christ the Word is speaking to your heart of the Love the Holy Trinity has for you.

Many portions of the article are to me extra-rich soul food, but I will share just a little here. I hope you will like to read more on Fr. Jonathan’s site.

It is interesting that everyone “worships.” You can’t help worshiping some god or another one. If it isn’t the true God, then a human being will construct his own version. He may not call it “god” and will probably even deny that his invention is a “god,” but it occupies the place of “god” in his thoughts and emotions. The very people that claim that God does not exist, but that there is only stuff that you can scientifically observe are the people who have ended up making this “stuff” their god.

Human beings cannot get away from their human nature. Worshiping “god” is a necessary part of what makes us human (and I suggest here that “worship” is the highest act of being human). You and I are going to worship something: “You’re gonna have to serve somebody,” as Dylan once sang. You can deny the true God, but you cannot deny worship. Worship is tangled up all through your psychology: seeking god is not part of your consciousness … it is your consciousness.

Let me say that again.

Seeking God IS your consciousness. It is the essence of your rationality. Seeking God is your life. Seeking God is the air that you breathe.

Let’s just hope that the “god” you seek is the true God, the Holy Trinity, of Which Jesus is the only Word.

-Father Jonathan Tobias

The Samaritan woman at the well. Mosaic, 6th century, Ravenna

Favorites and friends in the garden.

The Mexican daisy “showered down the drystone walls” of Penelope Lively’s grandmother’s garden, and was “a Gertrude Jekyll favorite.” She mentions this plant, Erigeron karvinskianus, four times in her book Life in the Garden, finding its other common name “fleabane” to be disagreeable (as do I).

June 2016

“And, as for me, it has become a kind of signature plant; in London, it has obligingly seeded itself all round the railings at the front of my house, and down the iron steps to the basement. And it has spread along this side of the square, colonizing other frontages, where others have clearly welcomed it — only one insensitive neighbor has torched it with weed-killer.”

I’ve been surprised at how much I have in common with this London gardener. I also have Erigeron, which my landscape designer four years ago knew would fit nicely into my vision for the back garden. At the time I didn’t foresee how I would love it.

Today it is a bit bedraggled by all the drenching it’s received, just when it was beginning to put on a show after being sheared a month ago. When I went looking for a photo showing it in its glory, I found scenes from the past that show how far things have developed.

September 2016

Compare that to this morning, and we can see that clearly, one of the first things I must do when the rain finally stops, is to trim back the native currant that has evolved from being simply a pleasant a background to the bench.

Because very soon, I’m hoping one of you will come and sit there with me, while we drink tea and gaze out on the Mexican daisies and other beauties, talking gardens or whatever you like. ❤

We are enthralled and conflicted.

“It’s natural for a human being to have conflicted feelings, for feelings are mostly the result of the disordered passions to which we are enthralled…. Each feeling is real, but in no way are sentiments the proper ground for making decisions, much less governing a society and doing justice. The reign of sentimentality is the reason behind the dominance of public shaming as an attempted moral practice.”

-Father Stephen Freeman, from this article: on Feelings