Vol. 2, Issue 12
June 7, 2007
Welcome once again to all our new subscribers; I'm glad to have you on board. The more the merrier! I hope your summer is starting nicely, but if your summer schedule looks anything like mine, you'll have trouble keeping life simple. Still, that's a worthy goal -- the tyranny of the urgent is one of our great enemies. Perhaps the place to start is keeping the first morning hour free: a walk or a cup of coffee or tea and your thoughts about what is really important today and what is not. And the passage below in Sic Locutus deserves some serious contemplation. Blessings to you all; and if you like what you read here please forward this to your friends. I hope you enjoy this bouquet of musings.
IN THIS ISSUE:
1) SCHOLA NEWS -- Two more Schola get-togethers this summer: Sacramento and Houston
2) COGITEM -- Making Connections
3) DE ASTRIS -- The Dark of the Moon
4) ANNO DOMINI -- Trinity Season
5) SIC LOCUTUS -- Thomas a Kempis
SCHOLA NEWS -- Schola get-togethers: Sacramento and Houston
Besides the four Latin-In-A-Weeks being conducted this summer (Phoenix, Walnut Creek, Lancaster, Houston), there are two more Schola get-togethers planned. One is in Sacramento on Sunday evening, July 1, and the other is in Houston, Friday evening, August 17. Any Schola students, alumni, and their families in those areas are welcome. See the Upcoming Events page (click the link in the left pane of Schola's homepage http://www.scholatutorials.org/).
COGITEM -- Making Connections
What follows is a blog post I wrote in December of 2005. I include it here to illustrate what is for me one of the greatest delights in reading old books and what I hope to inspire my students to do as well: make connections.
In The Company of the Fathers [an online reading group going through the early church fathers], we recently read Pappias, second century Christian bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia, a province in west-central Asia Minor. "Pappias" is really just fragments of his writings, collected from the works of other fathers such as Irenaeus and Eusebius, and not a great deal is known about him, but what is known suggests a godly and erudite man. The very night we read Pappias, I happened to be reading more in Vitruvius's [first century B.C. author] book on architecture where he lists the different qualities of waters in different regions, and he mentioned that in this same Hierapolis there are springs which annually are channeled in between parallel banks of earth and leave behind mineral deposits so abundant that by this means the farmers build "stone" walls. Talk about hard water.
Vitruvius has a chapter on building aquaducts and channels, and in this chapter he discusses means of levelling and sloping so that the water runs properly. He casually mentions that Archimedes had written (a couple centuries earlier) that water doesn't actually lie level but is rounded (higher in the middle than on the ends of a long channel of water) because of the roundness of the earth. Easy enough to see - just look at the oceans; you just can't see the rounding in a short channel of water like you can on the ocean's horizon. Intriguing, and further evidence in primary sources that literate Greeks and Romans accepted without question that the earth was round. Pursuing the chase from book to book, I discovered that Archimedes is also our best source for the heliocentric theory of Aristarchos of Samos, who postulated the Copernican model 1700 years of so before Copernicus. His theory was not accepted but neither was it laughed at - it simply was one interesting theory among many. Archimedes' only extant work on astronomy is called The Sand-Reckoner and contains, among other fascinating tidbits, a base-100,000,000 reckoning system! I thought base-10 was tough. It was deviced as a way of describing the theoretical number of grains of sand in the universe. Archimedes also describes the distances of the stars (they're really, really, really far away) and contstructs a technique for ascertaining the apparent diameter of the sun.
And somehow it all led back to Vitruvius, who has a marvelous chapter on astronomy which includes a listing and description of all the constellations, a method for constructing an analemma, and instructions for building sundials, and two interesting theories of the moon's phases, one wrong (but intriguing, so he has to mention it) and one right.
Church fathers, hydrology, and astronomy. One can barely catch one's breath.
DE ASTRIS -- The Dark of the Moon
If you read gardening almanacs you'll have noticed the phrase "the dark of the moon" in the context of the best times to spade, plant, harvest, etc. The dark of the moon usually refers to the days just before the new moon when the waning moon is so far gone that it gives little light and doesn't even rise till the wee hours of the morning. Some authors consider it the actual new moon, others the three days before the new moon, and some the entire two week period from full to new, when the moon's light is waning. Most seem to agree that it's the handful of days before new moon.
And that's where we're headed now in early June. On Friday, June 8th, the moon will be at third quarter, rising around midnight with the darkness creeping across its face from right to left night after night -- and we'll be in the dark of the moon till Thursday, the 14th of June, when the moon is in conjunction with the sun and becomes new again.
ANNO DOMINI -- Trinity Season
The western church calendar (Roman Catholic, Anglican, Protestant) divides the church year into two halves, the festal season from Advent through Pentecost, and the Trinity season (also called "ordinary time") from Pentecost through Advent. The first half commemorates and reiterates in its great feasts (Christmas, Easter, Pentecost) the life of Christ and His work in the Incarnation, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, and giving of the Holy Spirit. The second half commemorates and depicts in its patterns the life of the church in history as she grows in faith and power to fulfill the Great Commission till Christ returns. We have moved into that second half.
Last Sunday was Trinity Sunday in the western church calendar, the first Sunday after Pentecost. Trinity Sunday became a part of the western church calendar around a thousand years ago (but in the eastern churches it is the feast of All Saints). From now on till Advent (December 2 this year), all Sundays are counted from it as we move through the Trinity Season of the church year, the second half of the year comprising about three months of summer and three of autumn.
Welcome to Summer. Welcome to the Trinity Season!
It is good for us to have trials and troubles at times, for they often remind us that we are on probation and ought not to hope in any worldly thing. It is good for us sometimes to suffer contradiction, to be misjudged by men even though we do well and mean well. These things help us to be humble and shield us from vainglory. When to all outward appearances men give us no credit, when they do not think well of us, then we are more inclined to seek God Who sees our hearts. Therefore, a man ought to root himself so firmly in God that he will not need the consolations of men.
When a man of good will is afflicted, tempted, and tormented by evil thoughts, he realizes clearly that his greatest need is God, without Whom he can do no good. Saddened by his miseries and sufferings, he laments and prays. He wearies of living longer and wishes for death that he might be dissolved and be with Christ. Then he understands fully that perfect security and complete peace cannot be found on earth.
--Thomas a Kempis, "The Imitation of Christ"