Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Poem: Near-Enemy

There’s generosity.
And then there’s something that resembles it.
It wants the favor returned,
This thing that mimics generous.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

We Catch Fire: Some Observations about the Transmission of Knowledge

“It is a common mistake to think that education is on the level of ideas. No! It is always a transmission of experience…. People are not convinced by reasoning; either they catch fire or do not.”—Father Alexander Schmemann1

There’s a tradition in Mahayana Buddhism that the Buddha once gave a sermon without uttering a single word. An expectant assembly had gathered around him. Some of them may have sensed from observing him that something remarkable had happened. Maybe some had heard that there was something about the quality of this man’s presence that inclined one to listen to what he had to say by way of explanation. He regarded the crowd with compassion, wondering, I like to think, if it would even be possible to convey anything about what he had come to understand.  Then he did something unexpected: he picked up a flower and held it up for them to see. He scanned their faces for hints of

Monday, April 1, 2013

Not-Religion: Reflections and Theologoumena

The tiny stone church of Osios David, named for a saint who lived in a nearby tree, is up a steep hill in the Ano Poli neighborhood of Thessaloniki, Greece. It’s thought to have been built in the late fifth or the early sixth century as part of the long-gone Latomou Monastery. It now seems to serve as the neighborhood parish, but the nave is so small that it couldn’t hold many people even if they were to spill out onto the pretty terrace, which I assume they do on feast days.
            The mosaic of Christ in the semi-dome of the apse is the main attraction. It’s from the same era as the church’s construction, thus it’s one of the rare examples of a large Christian image that pre-dates the iconoclastic controversy of the eighth and ninth centuries. It’s said to have been successfully hidden from the anti-image activists under a goatskin. A few hundred years later, it was plastered over by the Muslims who prayed there during the Ottoman period, only to be rediscovered in the 1920s around the time of the exchange of populations between Turkey and Greece that took place then, when many of the churches that had been made into mosques were restored to their original purposes.