The Taser's Edge


My own emptiness to report

I am not able to distill from either my
mother’s encounter with death or my own exposure to desert-mountain terrain any universal insights about the wonder-evoking power of fierce landscapes. I am left, ultimately, at an end of language, having nothing more than my own emptiness to report, although gradually coming to recognize emptiness itself as a profound and wonderful gift.

-Belden C. Lane, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes



St. Antony, Abbot in Egypt, 356

St. Antony battles demons in the desert.

Antony is a saint which I wish I had known more about sooner.  He is functionally the Desert Father, an early example of that group of folks who, as Christianity became more the cultural norm and in certain ways more culturally accomodating, retreated further and further into the desert to live lives of study, unceasing prayer, and yes, as the need arose, battling demons.

Antony set one of the early Christian norms for what it meant to be a Christian.  Before Antony, there was the model of Biblical martyrs like St. Stephen, whose last words as he was stoned echoed Christ’s, even as Stephen saw Christ standing at the right hand of the Father in heaven.  In the early church, many Christians believed that literally dying for their faith was the truest way of living into the fullness of Christ.  Then Antony entered the picture; another saint, Athanasius, wrote about him; and there was now a new model for true holiness, which came to be called ‘bloodless martyrdom.’  The ‘way of the cross’ to which Jesus calls everyone who wants to follow him was shown to be a way that certainly costs everything (Antony himself was a rich heir who sold all he had and gave it to the poor), but which also did not necessarily involve the violent spilling of one’s blood.

Read Athanasius’ Life of Antony (really, read it, as it’s worth your time and honestly fairly accessible if you’ll give it a chance) and you find Antony more and more entering into the form of Jesus’ life.  While the author was certainly writing as someone in awe of the desert saint and the story is not historical by today’s understanding of history, the basic message is still clear: the life of Antony (and the life of every saint) looks like the life of Jesus.

The Collect
O God, by your Holy Spirit you enabled your servant Antony to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil: Give us grace, with pure hearts and minds, to follow you, the only God; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.



The Return of Tuesday Reading Roundup

Tuesday Reading Roundup used to be a beloved staple, then it screwed with my tags because things returned too often, and then it disappeared.  But in the interest of blogging more often in the New Year, it makes sense to have a returning feature or two.  This time round, I want to make sure that I’m only naming books which I’m actively reading (although the “Current and Recent Readings” tab will help you keep track of books I’m halfway through).

Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt
by Anne Rice (Knopf, 2005)

Anne Rice famously wrote lots of vampire novels, then converted (returned?) to Christianity, then left organized religion again.  But beginning in that return to Christianity, she started a series of novels on Jesus Christ, and this is the first of them (with a second published and a third apparently still in the works).

Thus far, it’s a fascinating take.  Rice pulls on all the sources, from the apocryphal Gospels to the accepted Gospels to historical Jesus stuff.  No, it’s not concerned with a historically orthodox Christ, but it thus far has a lot going for it in terms of recreating a time and a place and a man who is indeed both human and God.

Also, I’m surprised to say (perhaps unfairly, as I’ve never read anything about Lestat) that it’s really well written thus far.

 

 

Conferences
by John Cassian (this translation)

John Cassian is considered a Church Father both in Eastern and Western Christianity, although he was accused of being a semi-Pelagianist (as West will continually accuse East).  In Conferences, he relates dialogues with various Desert Fathers, and it’s pretty fantastic.  I would offer a quote, but I don’t have one at hand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Radical Optimism: Practical Spirituality in an Uncertain World
by Beatrice Bruteau (Sentient, 2002)

Froofy title with froofy cover art indeed.  The cover to the left is from a different edition.  This book was recommended to me by my spiritual director after I talked to her about a recent (2 years+) trend in the work of the Holy Spirit in me, of God and I working together to cultivate joy.

The title becomes less froofy when you realize that Bruteau means both Radical and Optimism in their literal senses.  Radical, like radish, means rooted.  Optimism has to do with our vision.  So, we are rooted in the ground of reality (‘in Him we live and move and have our being‘), and when we have true sight, that is what we see.

Bruteau approaches this from her own background which is an integration of the sciences, mathematics, philosophy, and Eastern and Western religions.

So far, so good, but, yes, it still might turn out to be quite froofy.