Tag Archives: G.K. Chesterton

Notable birthdays of May 29th.

I frequently look in on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac, but rarely do I find every item from his column interesting, as I did today. Today is a reprint of what was in the column in 2017. Of course, it being the birthday of G.K. Chesterton, I wanted to read what Keillor might say about that favorite writer of mine. But Bob Hope and Oswald Spengler were also born on the 29th of May. Spengler studied the history of civilizations, and published the book The Decline of the West in 1918.

A quote from Christopher Hitchens is included in this piece, which I found quite a contrast to the legacies of the other three men; it made me feel sorry for him.

Keillor leads off with the poem, “A Dream of the Future,” by Joyce Sutphen, which I think ties in nicely with the subject of Spengler’s thesis about the “blossoming and withering” of cultures over time.

If any of this piques your interest, check out The Writer’s Almanac.

The very smallness of children.

“The essential rectitude of our view of children lies in the fact that we feel them and their ways to be supernatural while, for some mysterious reason, we do not feel ourselves or our own ways to be supernatural. The very smallness of children makes it possible to regard them as marvels; we seem to be dealing with a new race, only to be seen through a microscope.

I doubt if anyone of any tenderness or imagination can see the hand of a child and not be a little frightened of it. It is awful to think of the essential human energy moving so tiny a thing; it is like imagining that human nature could live in the wing of a butterfly or the leaf of a tree. When we look upon lives so human and yet so small, we feel as if we ourselves were enlarged to an embarrassing bigness of stature. We feel the same kind of obligation to these creatures that a deity might feel if he had created something that he could not understand.” 

-G.K. Chesterton 

We always seem to have a baby or two in our parish at any given time, but in the last couple of years we have lots. It’s a joy to see them growing up through their first year: First they come in a sling or pack on their mother’s chest. After a while, they are sort of “free floating,” carried about by their godparents or friends for admiration and greeting. In Orthodox churches it’s traditional to stand during services, and in my parish we have no pews, so babies often crawl or sit on the floor looking up and around at the tall people; older children like to sit down beside them and engage in silent conversations with their eyes.

Then, surprise — one Sunday the baby will be up on its feet and toddling, and his father probably is following at a short distance, to make sure he doesn’t toddle right up into the altar. My goddaughter Mary, who was born just before my husband died, is now a big girl, and it’s been a while since I could carry her. These days we sometimes go about hand in hand, which is good, because if it came to a chase I would lose that race.

Today during Divine Liturgy I was happy to notice for a few minutes a particular child who has the most beautiful face I have ever seen on a baby. Her temperament, by all accounts, and by what I have seen, is serene. She toddled very near me as I stood near the north wall, and I bent down to whisper “Good morning.”  Later after plopping on the floor by her grandmother’s feet, she turned around and gave me a little wave with her tiny hand.

Sowing in late winter…

…or is it early spring?

The best time to plant some of these seeds would have been two or three weeks ago, but I was otherwise busy on the mild days, and when the weather turned colder I wimped out. But this week, at the end of a day when the sun was shining and my hands didn’t hurt from the cold, I was able to organize my thoughts and my packets enough to get some seeds into the ground. The rain has returned, blessed be God, and has watered them thoroughly.

Calendula plants and stock are growing in a couple of places in the garden; after the hardest winter battering, the stock are covered with little flower buds. The lemon tree having been pruned to a less gangly form, it’s showing off its dozens of fruits to better effect. I love the two plum trees! If they never produced another plum, I’d still count them well worth having, for the way their blossoms brighten these cloudy days and remind me that every hour brings us closer to summer.

Working in the garden through only the late afternoon made me incredibly happy. When I came in the house I could only pray “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

It’s been quite a week, indescribable for the most part, at least, in the way I would prefer to write about things. My report must be vague: The days have been full of friends, those Lenten services that are characterized by bright sadness, and the mercies of God new every morning. Mostly I came here to write about my garden that He uses to bestow on me His also indescribable gifts…

Here ends another day, during which I have had eyes, ears, hands
and the great world around me. Tomorrow begins another day. Why am I allowed two?

-G.K. Chesterton

A new nose and backbone.

Soldier both picked me up from the Denver airport two weeks ago, and dropped me off for my return flight. He drove his truck, which seats four, so each time, in addition to me, he could accommodate two passengers. For the first trip that was Liam and Laddie, and Brodie stayed home with Clara.

Brodie therefore was automatically put on the passenger list for the drop-off yesterday, New Year’s Eve, and the other boys drew lots for second place, the lot falling to Liam. On the way up the highway we got to talking about the new year, and how it is a time when many people resolve to improve themselves in the coming year. Boys of ten and six aren’t likely to set overlarge goals for themselves, so they didn’t really need the cautionary words of their father and me, but we reminded them and ourselves that every day of the year provides the opportunity to pray, and to present ourselves to the Lord as His servants. That’s not a big resolution, but it is a powerful daily orientation.

If you do have a goal you want to work toward, Soldier explained, it must be measurable, so that you will know when you have achieved it. And it needs to be a realistic, reasonably achievable goal (Not of the sort “You can be and do anything you set your mind to!”). I added that it’s good to break such a project into small parts, and figure out what the first step is. If it’s a worthy goal, you probably won’t get it done in one day, or one week.

“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year.
It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose;
new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes.”

-G.K. Chesterton

I think of the command of the Lord, first spoken in Leviticus, of which the Apostle Peter reminds us, to be holy:

Christ and Peter

“Therefore prepare your minds for action. Be sober-minded. Set your hope fully on the grace to be given you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not conform to the passions of your former ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do, for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.'” –I Peter 1

Now that is a large and worthy goal, which one might feel is not in the least achievable… but since it is the will of the Lord God, we have to take it seriously. And not as a rash New Year’s resolution, like: “This year, I am turning over a new leaf, and I will be a saint by 2024!” No, it will have to be sober-mindedness every morning, and setting our hope every evening. St. Peter continues:

“Since you call on a Father who judges each one’s work impartially, conduct yourselves in reverent fear during your stay as foreigners. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life you inherited from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or spot. He was known before the foundation of the world, but was revealed in the last times for your sake. Through Him you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him; and so your faith and hope are in God.”

Christ praying in Gethsemane

How does “Conduct yourselves in reverent fear” fit into an outline according to our modern, systematic way of thinking? I suppose it might serve as Plan 1 under the Goal of Be Holy…. followed by those small steps I advised the boys about. But really, God doesn’t want us to come up with our own system to work toward “goals” that He has set for us. That kind of thing can be a big distraction from His true plan, that we would walk moment-by-moment with Him, and be changed by the Holy Spirit’s work. Improving ourselves by our own devices will ultimately get us nowhere; “…your faith and hope are in God.”

Today is not only New Year’s Day, but being the eighth day after Christ’s birth, it is the day we remember that his parents brought Him to be circumcised according to the law. This sermon on the feast day by Fr. Philip LeMasters on “Purifying the Heart” expresses the mind of the apostles on these same matters:

“Christ’s circumcision is a sign that He fulfilled the requirements of the law and enabled all with faith in Him to find a righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees because it extends to the very depths of our existence, to our hearts.

“Consequently, the only way worthily to celebrate His circumcision is for us to perfect the circumcision of our hearts.  That means purifying them, cutting off their corruption by uniting ourselves to the God-Man from the depths of our souls.  And there is no upward limit to this calling.”

“If we reduce our high calling to legalism or a simple list of deeds to perform, we will have missed the point.  For being united with Christ in holiness is not a matter of simply doing this or that by our own will power.  As St. Paul reminded the Colossians, ‘you were buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, Who raised Him from the dead.’  We obviously cannot conquer sin and death by even our best actions or thoughts.  As St. Paul taught, ‘By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.’ (Eph. 2.:8.)”

You can read the whole sermon: here.

Returning to the Chesterton quote above, I pray that our souls would truly be “new,” along with our eyes, etc., in these first days of 2023, by God’s ever-present gift of grace. If my spiritual “nose” is refreshed by the Lord, it will be better able to detect the sweetness of His mercies every morning, and continuing.