Theology Update for the Week of March 20

Dear friends in Christ,

During the Great and Holy Week there is only one class — on Palm Sunday morning at 10 o’clock on the fifth floor. I will look at some of the collects for the season after Pentecost. The class will end by 10:30, to give people plenty of time to have a good seat in church.

The collects are special prayers in an ancient form that the church gives us for Sundays and holy days. In the classic, Latin style they are short, consisting of:

  1. An address to God,
  2. A description of God, some property of his or something that he has done,
  3. A petition,
  4. The reason for the petition, what it is to bring about,
  5. A conclusion, e.g., “through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Sometimes parts 2) and/or 4) are omitted.
Short they are — but condensed. They have theology baked into every syllable! I hope you can join the class this Sunday, and in April. I expect that we will finish this course by the end of April.

There are no other classes in Holy Week, and no classes at all on Easter Day or in Easter Week, save for Easter Friday, April 1, when Father Spurlock will have his Bible study at 12:45pm. He assures me that is not an April’s Fool joke!

But — looking ahead — we will discuss The Warden by Anthony Trollope on Monday, April 4, at 6:15pm. If you read the novel, you’re welcome to the discussion. (And if you haven’t read it, you have a delightful experience awaiting you. Trollope is wonderful. The Warden is the first and the shortest of the Barsetshire Chronicles. The warden of the title is a Church of England clergyman, who is in charge of a small home for old men. He plays the cello, he has a beautiful daughter, he is simple and good and a friend of the old bishop — and late in his life, he has to face a moral question, one which determines his character.)

I hope you have on your calendar the spring theology lecture — Wednesday, April 13, at 6:30pm. Professor Neil Arner of Notre Dame will speak on ethics and the “facts of life.” If it is true, as some people claim, that morality is rooted in our biology (genetics, natural selection, etc.), does that make religious ethics unreal, unnecessary? Dr. Arner is an engaging, vibrant, young, and interesting scholar. The event is free and open to the public. Feel free to tell your friends.

In a review of Auden’s collected prose, I found this — it’s an excerpt from his commonplace book.

Conception, the Immaculate:
Behind this ingenious doctrine, I cannot help suspecting, is a not very savory wish to make the Mother of God an Honorary Gentile. As if we didn’t all know perfectly well that the Holy Ghost and Our Lady both speak British English, He with an Oxford, She with a Yiddish accent.

The Library of America has published a volume of writings by Frederick Law Olmsted, the architect of Central Park. Within a review, I found this excerpt on the purpose of having a park (emphasis added):
It is not simply to give the people of the city an opportunity for getting fresh air and exercise. . . . It is not simply to make a place of amusement or for the gratification of curiosity or for gaining knowledge. The main object and justification is simply to produce a certain influence on the minds of people and through this to make life in the city healthier and happier. The character of this influence is a poetic one and it is to be produced by means of scenes through observation of which the mind may be more or less lifted out of moods and habits into which it is, under the ordinary conditions of life in the city, likely to fall.

My next email will be in two weeks. A blessed Holy Week and a happy Easter,

Father Austin