Tag Archives: teaching

The elder’s pain and love.

I don’t know who all will be in my class when my parish’s church school program begins again next month. But I think I know what I’ll be teaching, and it includes gleanings from this book that I haven’t read yet, With Pain and Love for Contemporary Man. The arrangement of our classes and students and how and where they will meet is one more realm of decisions that has been affected by the coronavirus situation, and that is why I didn’t know until this week to get busy and start reading; I had expected to be using a different curriculum.

This big book was first published in Greek in 1996, as the first of several volumes of the monk’s teachings. Over the course of 28 years his spiritual counsels were carefully recorded in notes and on tape, by the sisterhood of St. John the Theologian monastery in Souroti, for whom he was a guide and helper. In the preface they tell about his response at the beginning of their project:

“When Elder Paisios realised what we were doing, he was rather irritated: ‘Why are you taking notes?’ he asked. ‘Are you saving them for an emergency? You should put my words into practice; put them to work! Who knows what you are saying in these notes! Let me see them.’ When we showed him a sample, particularly the notes of one Sister, his expression changed. He seemed comforted and reassured, and exclaimed with satisfaction, ‘My goodness! She is like a tape recorder! She wrote it exactly as I said it!'”

St. Paisios of Mount Athos: InjusticeThis man, who in 2015 the Orthodox Church formally recognized as a saint, was in 1924 born Arsenios Eznepidis, in Cappadocia in Asia Minor. This was just after the Greco-Turkish war, and just before those governments mutually agreed upon a population exchange that forced more than a million people to become refugees; his family was among them, and they moved to Greece. You can read all about his life here: St. Paisios, and in other articles and books. I just wanted to tell you a little bit in introduction, because I’m planning to share at least a few quotes from the saint as I go. For now I will leave you with this that I found elsewhere:

“What I see around me would drive me insane
if I did not know that no matter what happens,
God will have the last word.”

— Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain
1924-1974

 

Dear little things.

Sunday evening, and I’m quite worn out, from doing so little, seemingly – but the screens are getting to me. We only have two weeks left of church school on Zoom, for which I am glad. I love the children in my class, which is why it’s exhausting to try to be “with” them this way, and it must be difficult for them, too. In any case, half of them don’t seem to be present the way they were when we were together in the flesh. I think it’s because they are quiet personalities, and Zoom-ing takes a certain amount of assertiveness.

What I did today, not in order: I took a walk first thing in the morning, and another one this evening, just before it started raining. I listened to a story by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala; talked to my godmother on the phone; listened to four homilies on the Samaritan Woman, three of them from previous years and one given fresh this morning. It seems a whole book could be written about the history, psychology and Christology of this passage of scripture, Christ’s encounter with the woman at Jacob’s well. As with many of the lessons, the preparation I do is rich food for my own heart — but I often feel ill prepared to teach about it.

I sat in the garden a bit, and thought about small things that are lovable. Those olive flower buds I mentioned last week, and other tender new growth and flowers I’ve seen here and in the neighborhood. The landscape is already filling out, and it’s only May — which means the mass of foliage and living, breathing botany has yet to reach its summer peak of green-and-fruity.

My grandson Jamie is not little the same way, but he’s still not half-grown, and I have this cute picture. He’s one of the California grandchildren, of which there are only three, so I saw him in March when I was up there.

I bought a hanging pot of succulents last summer, and had to keep it in the greenhouse over winter. It’s kind of a scruffy jumble, but two of the three plants in it have flowers now, which is nice.

olive
succulents

mock orange

I was mistaken about the dear little things in the birdhouse: they are not bluebirds, but chickadees! It’s so obvious now, in this picture taken eight days after my last.

I’ve been busy like a bee in the garden. But if it rains tomorrow, maybe I will read more, and write about books…? Good night, Dear Readers! May God give us restful hearts. If we are sleeping, may it be deep and renewing; if we are awake, may our work make us tired with that good kind of fatigue that helps us go to sleep again, in peace. Amen.

Kinds of Poetry – Tolkien vs. Jackson

Jackson apparently thinks the characters Tolkien gives us are too simply good to be fully believable to modern audiences, and so he feels obligated to “complicate” them, to give them internal conflicts other than the ones they actually have, in the hopes that we will better be able to relate to them.

I’m quoting from this article in the Nov/Dec 2013 Touchstone Magazine, in which Donald T. Williams explains how literature, while delighting us with its art, is more powerful than history or philosophy to nurture our moral vision, or to corrupt us with false images.

With the help of quotes from Sir Philip Sidney, who wrote Apology for Poetry in the sixteenth century, he shows how “Tolkien was very consciously and deliberately following the literary tradition that flows down to us from Sidney through Dr. Johnson and C. S. Lewis.”

Peter Jackson the filmmaker seems to be flowing in a different stream. But he is an artist, and of course will impart his own soul to his work. I wouldn’t expect him to give us The Rings, because that has already been done, and he is not J.R.R. Tolkien. But it is unfortunate that he has changed things to the degree and in the directions he has. Williams points out specific ways in which the characters who inspired us in the books disappoint us in the movies, and makes these general remarks:

By this process of negative moral transformation, in other words, we reach the place where beloved characters are unrecognizable to Tolkien’s fans, and those fans feel betrayed. And they are right to feel so, though mostly they do not understand why. It is because the difference between the books and the movies is not just one of necessary adaptation to a different medium. It is that the author consciously followed the Sidneyan tradition while the adaptor is either ignorant of it or doesn’t understand it or has rejected it.

Read the whole article here.

Limón in the Cazuela

The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred by Samantha R. Vamos is a delightful Hispanic incarnation of The House that Jack Built. It tells the story of a rice pudding from the farm to the table. The reader is introduced to two new words, first in English, every time he turns the page. From then on, those key words are only written in Spanish.

Before I opened the book, Mr. Glad was enjoying it and noticed that the word for lime was much like our lemon. That made me wonder what the word for lemon is.

New World Spanish-English Dictionary sits on the reference shelf here as a leftover from the days when four of our children in turn studied Spanish. Even though their father and I never did study that language that is so useful, almost essential, in California, we’ve lived here our whole lives and have picked up some vocabulary, sometimes by consulting this word book, as I did on this occasion.

The hen helps by grating the limón

I don’t know why, but my dictionary is wrong about limón. It says that it means lemon, and that if you want to talk about a lime you say lima. I found it hard to believe that this book written by a woman with a Hispanic name, illustrated by a man with a Hispanic name, with the intent of teaching 21 words, would get any wrong.

But I have a friend who is married to a Mexican man and teaches at a bilingual school, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to ask my local expert. She wrote, “Okay babe. Limón means lime and limón agria or limón Amarillo can mean lemon. There is a lemon-like fruit called Lima limón. There are not lemons like we have here in the U.S. in Mexico.” That seemed a pretty authoritative word on the subject.

This is a picture book, an Easy Reader, so I must not forget to mention the illustrations, which as you can see from these sample pages I photographed are party-bright, full of the joy and fun of cooking together.

At the back you will find a glossary with pronunciations, in case your Spanish is rusty, and best of all, a recipe for rice pudding. What I would love to do with a young child is read the book, make the pudding together while using the English and Spanish words to talk about the ingredients, and then read the book again while the cazuela simmers.

I would rather one of my grandchildren helped me in the kitchen, while we keep the animals outdoors or in the pages of the book. But an arroz con leche pudding with plenty of crema and some zest of limón would suit me just fine.