Great Books

Week 1 – Herodotus

Halicarnassus – was located in southwest Caria, on an advantageous site on the Gulf of Gökova, which is now in Bodrum, Turkey.

Herodotus does not want color to “leech away” due to time

Kleos (Greek: κλέος) is the Greek word often translated to “renown”, or “glory”. It is related to the English word “loud” and carries the implied meaning of “what others hear about you”. A Greek hero earns kleos through accomplishing great deeds. – shining forth of glory through deeds.

History a kind of kleos that should continue as far as possible into modernity (eternally)

Area around Persians, Phoenicians, Greeks, all a seafaring region

Helen – the face that launched a thousand ships

Death solidifies a blessed life (it cannot be revoked – no curve balls)

Great Books

Week 1 – Nicomachean Ethics

Aristotle – Student of Plato

Plato – Student of Socrates

Socrates advocated finding truth through conversation to ensure understanding. Socrates believed writing arguments could lead to error via misunderstandings.

Figure out how each piece of the truth fits together.

Nicomachean Ethics was a lecture course given to students in his academy – specifically directed toward students with political aspirations.

Techne – a technical art or craft

Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action as well as choice, is held to aim at some good. (Ethics in this case is beginning with individual action. Aim at something that we think, individually, will be good for us.) Good desires built in to our nature. Good = we want it. Good is a goal or aim. Humans are based on action (praxis).

Some things we do for their own sake, some things we do for the sake of something else.

Household management (economia, economics, the pursuit of wealth)

What is the ultimate goal? What is the ultimate goal of being a human? – there is some overarching goal and “point” to life. What would that be if it exists?

What is the art or science in dealing with the ultimate good? Architectonic = politics which results in the good life for individuals and community.

Adequate inquiry = clarity // not seeking precision in all arguments alike

Does not matter that there are exceptions to the rule – looking for things that are true in general and “true for the most part” – Similar to class action lawsuits, correlative isn’t always causative, not a strict mathematical standard, example: chemical dumping causing cancers.


Celestial Observations – 01/04/2022

1840 – Jupiter and moons Ganymede, and Europa were visible. Io begins transit of Jupiter. Callisto in eclipse by Jupiter’s shadow.

Moon in a beautiful 4% illuminated waxing crescent

Moon Phase Details For – January 4

Phase: Waxing Crescent
Illumination: 4%
Moon Age: 1.98 days
Moon Angle: 0.54
Moon Distance: 369,836.16 km
Sun Angle: 0.54
Sun Distance: 147,098,384.88 km

Jupiter – Wednesday, January 5, 2022

02:26 UT, Io begins transit of Jupiter.
02:38 UT, Callisto exits eclipse by Jupiter’s shadow.
03:26 UT, Io’s shadow begins to cross Jupiter.
04:44 UT, Io ends transit of Jupiter.
05:44 UT, Io’s shadow leaves Jupiter’s disk.
19:24 UT, Ganymede begins transit of Jupiter.
22:58 UT, Ganymede ends transit of Jupiter.
23:20 UT, Ganymede’s shadow begins to cross Jupiter.
23:36 UT, Io enters occultation behind Jupiter.


Celestial Observations – 01/02/2022

1230 – Using a 40mm and 30mm eyepiece in a Celestron C90 I observed two sunspots (approximately 3:30). A check of solar data showed a SFI of around 93.

1756 – Using a 10mm eyepiece in a Celestron C90 I observed Jupiter approximately 30 degrees in the sky. Moons IO, Ganymede, and Calisto were visible.

Venus was too low in the horizon to see. Saturn quickly moved out of view. No moon was visible (New Moon).

Today I purchased “The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide” and a 2x Barlow Lens.

Harvard Classics

January 1, 2022 – Franklin’s Advice for the New Year

Benjamin Franklin. (1706–1790).  His Autobiography.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Letter from Mr. Abel James, with Notes of my Life (received in Paris).
“MY DEAR AND HONORED FRIEND: I have often been desirous of writing to thee, but could not be reconciled to the thought that the letter might fall into the hands of the British, lest some printer or busy-body should publish some part of the contents, and give our friend pain, and myself censure.
“Some time since there fell into my hands, to my great joy, about twenty-three sheets in thy own handwriting, containing an account of the parentage and life of thyself, directed to thy son, ending in the year 1730, with which there were notes, likewise in thy writing; a copy of which I inclose, in hopes it may be a means, if thou continued it up to a later period, that the first and latter part may be put together; and if it is not yet continued, I hope thee will not delay it. Life is uncertain, as the preacher tells us; and what will the world say if kind, humane, and benevolent Ben. Franklin should leave his friends and the world deprived of so pleasing and profitable a work; a work which would be useful and entertaining not only to a few, but to millions? The influence writings under that class have on the minds of youth is very great, and has nowhere appeared to me so plain, as in our public friend’s journals. It almost insensibly leads the youth into the resolution of endeavoring to become as good and eminent as the journalist. Should thine, for instance, when published (and I think it could not fail of it), lead the youth to equal the industry and temperance of thy early youth, what a blessing with that class would such a work be! I know of no character living, nor many of them put together, who has so much in his power as thyself to promote a greater spirit of industry and early attention to business, frugality, and temperance with the American youth. Not that I think the work would have no other merit and use in the world, far from it; but the first is of such vast importance that I know nothing that can equal it.”  152
The foregoing letter and the minutes accompanying it being shown to a friend, I received from him the following:
Letter from Mr. Benjamin Vaughan.
“PARIS, January 31, 1783.
“MY DEAREST SIR: When I had read over your sheets of minutes of the principal incidents of your life, recovered for you by your Quaker acquaintance, I told you I would send you a letter expressing my reasons why I thought it would be useful to complete and publish it as he desired. Various concerns have for some time past prevented this letter being written, and I do not know whether it was worth any expectation; happening to be at leisure, however, at present, I shall by writing, at least interest and instruct myself; but as the terms I am inclined to use may tend to offend a person of your manners, I shall only tell you how I would address any other person, who was as good and as great as yourself, but less diffident. I would say to him, Sir, I solicit the history of your life from the following motives: Your history is so remarkable, that if you do not give it, somebody else will certainly give it; and perhaps so as nearly to do as much harm, as your own management of the thing might do good. It will moreover present a table of the internal circumstances of your country, which will very much tend to invite to it settlers of virtuous and manly minds. And considering the eagerness with which such information is sought by them, and the extent of your reputation, I do not know of a more efficacious advertisement than your biography would give. All that has happened to you is also connected with the detail of the manners and situation of a rising people; and in this respect I do not think that the writings of Cæsar and Tacitus can be more interesting to a true judge of human nature and society. But these, sir, are small reasons, in my opinion, compared with the chance which your life will give for the forming of future great men; and in conjunction with your Art of Virtue (which you design to publish) of improving the features of private character, and consequently of aiding all happiness, both public and domestic. The two works I allude to, sir, will in particular give a noble rule and example of self-education. School and other education constantly proceed upon false principles, and show a clumsy apparatus pointed at a false mark; but your apparatus is simple, and the mark a true one; and while parents and young persons are left destitute of other just means of estimating and becoming prepared for a reasonable course in life, your discovery that the thing is in many a man’s private power, will be invaluable! Influence upon the private character, late in life, is not only an influence late in life, but a weak influence. It is in youth that we plant our chief habits and prejudices; it is in youth that we take our party as to profession, pursuits and matrimony. In youth, therefore, the turn is given; in youth the education even of the next generation is given; in youth the private and public character is determined; and the term of life extending but from youth to age, life ought to begin well from youth, and more especially before we take our party as to our principal objects. But your biography will not merely teach self-education, but the education of a wise man; and the wisest man will receive lights and improve his progress, by seeing detailed the conduct of another wise man. And why are weaker men to be deprived of such helps, when we see our race has been blundering on in the dark, almost without a guide in this particular, from the farthest trace of time? Show then, sir, how much is to be done, both to sons and fathers; and invite all wise men to become like yourself, and other men to become wise. When we see how cruel statesmen and warriors can be to the human race, and how absurd distinguished men can be to their acquaintance, it will be instructive to observe the instances multiply of pacific, acquiescing manners; and to find how compatible it is to be great and domestic, enviable and yet good-humored.
“The little private incidents which you will also have to relate, will have considerable use, as we want, above all things, rules of prudence in ordinary affairs; and it will be curious to see how you have acted in these. It will be so far a sort of key to life, and explain many things that all men ought to have once explained to them, to give them a chance of becoming wise by foresight. The nearest thing to having experience of one’s own, is to have other people’s affairs brought before us in a shape that is interesting; this is sure to happen from your pen; our affairs and management will have an air of simplicity or importance that will not fail to strike; and I am convinced you have conducted them with as much originality as if you had been conducting discussions in politics or philosophy; and what more worthy of experiments and system (its importance and its errors considered) than human life?  154
“Some men have been virtuous blindly, others have speculated fantastically, and others have been shrewd to bad purposes; but you, sir, I am sure, will give under your hand, nothing but what is at the same moment, wise, practical and good. Your account of yourself (for I suppose the parallel I am drawing for Dr. Franklin, will hold not only in point of character, but of private history) will show that you are ashamed of no origin; a thing the more important, as you prove how little necessary all origin is to happiness, virtue, or greatness. As no end likewise happens without a means, so we shall find, sir, that even you yourself framed a plan by which you became considerable; but at the same time we may see that though the event is flattering, the means are as simple as wisdom could make them; that is, depending upon nature, virtue, thought and habit. Another thing demonstrated will be the propriety of every man’s waiting for his time for appearing upon the stage of the world. Our sensations being very much fixed to the moment, we are apt to forget that more moments are to follow the first, and consequently that man should arrange his conduct so as to suit the whole of a life. Your attribution appears to have been applied to your life, and the passing moments of it have been enlivened with content and enjoyment, instead of being tormented with foolish impatience or regrets. Such a conduct is easy for those who make virtue and themselves in countenance by examples of other truly great men, of whom patience is so often the characteristic. Your Quaker correspondent, sir (for here again I will suppose the subject of my letter resembling Dr. Franklin), praised your frugality, diligence and temperance, which he considered as a pattern for all youth; but it is singular that he should have forgotten your modesty and your disinterestedness, without which you never could have waited for your advancement, or found your situation in the mean time comfortable; which is a strong lesson to show the poverty of glory and the importance of regulating our minds. If this correspondent had known the nature of your reputation as well as I do, he would have said, Your former writings and measures would secure attention to your Biography, and Art of Virtue; and your Biography and Art of Virtue, in return, would secure attention to them. This is an advantage attendant upon a various character, and which brings all that belongs to it into greater play; and it is the more useful, as perhaps more persons are at a loss for the means of improving their minds and characters, than they are for the time or the inclination to do it. But there is one concluding reflection, sir, that will shew the use of your life as a mere piece of biography. This style of writing seems a little gone out of vogue, and yet it is a very useful one; and your specimen of it may be particularly serviceable, as it will make a subject of comparison with the lives of various public cutthroats and intriguers, and with absurd monastic self-tormentors or vain literary triflers. If it encourages more writings of the same kind with your own, and induces more men to spend lives fit to be written, it will be worth all Plutarch’s Lives put together. But being tired of figuring to myself a character of which every feature suits only one man in the world, without giving him the praise of it, I shall end my letter, my dear Dr. Franklin, with a personal application to your proper self. I am earnestly desirous, then, my dear sir, that you should let the world into the traits of your genuine character, as civil broils may otherwise tend to disguise or traduce it. Considering your great age, the caution of your character, and your peculiar style of thinking, it is not likely that any one besides yourself can be sufficiently master of the facts of your life, or the intentions of your mind. Besides all this, the immense revolution of the present period, will necessarily turn our attention towards the author of it, and when virtuous principles have been pretended in it, it will be highly important to shew that such have really influenced; and, as your own character will be the principal one to receive a scrutiny, it is proper (even for its effects upon your vast and rising country, as well as upon England and upon Europe) that it should stand respectable and eternal. For the furtherance of human happiness, I have always maintained that it is necessary to prove that man is not even at present a vicious and detestable animal; and still more to prove that good management may greatly amend him; and it is for much the same reason, that I am anxious to see the opinion established, that there are fair characters existing among the individuals of the race; for the moment that all men, without exception, shall be conceived abandoned, good people will cease efforts deemed to be hopeless, and perhaps think of taking their share in the scramble of life, or at least of making it comfortable principally for themselves. Take then, my dear sir, this work most speedily into hand: shew yourself good as you are good; temperate as you are temperate; and above all things, prove yourself as one, who from your infancy have loved justice, liberty and concord, in a way that has made it natural and consistent for you to have acted, as we have seen you act in the last seventeen years of your life. Let Englishmen be made not only to respect, but even to love you. When they think well of individuals in your native country, they will go nearer to thinking well of your country; and when your countrymen see themselves well thought of by Englishmen, they will go nearer to thinking well of England. Extend your views even further; do not stop at those who speak the English tongue, but after having settled so many points in nature and politics, think of bettering the whole race of men. As I have not read any part of the life in question, but know only the character that lived it, I write somewhat at hazard. I am sure, however, that the life and the treatise I allude to (on the Art of Virtue) will necessarily fulfil the chief of my expectations; and still more so if you take up the measure of suiting these performances to the several views above stated. Should they even prove unsuccessful in all that a sanguine admirer of yours hopes from them, you will at least have framed pieces to interest the human mind; and whoever gives a feeling of pleasure that is innocent to man, has added so much to the fair side of a life otherwise too much darkened by anxiety and too much injured by pain. In the hope, therefore, that you will listen to the prayer addressed to you in this letter, I beg to subscribe myself, my dearest sir, etc., etc.,
“Signed,  BENJ. VAUGHAN.”
Continuation of the Account of my Life, begun at Passy, near Paris, 1784.
It is some time since I receiv’d the above letters, but I have been too busy till now to think of complying with the request they contain. It might, too, be much better done if I were at home among my papers, which would aid my memory, and help to ascertain dates; but my return being uncertain, and having just now a little leisure, I will endeavor to recollect and write what I can; if I live to get home, it may there be corrected and improv’d.
Not having any copy here of what is already written, I know not whether an account is given of the means I used to establish the Philadelphia public library, which, from a small beginning, is now become so considerable, though I remember to have come down to near the time of that transaction (1730). I will therefore begin here with an account of it, which may be struck out if found to have been already given.  157
At the time I establish’d myself in Pennsylvania, there was not a good bookseller’s shop in any of the colonies to the southward of Boston. In New York and Philad’a the printers were indeed stationers; they sold only paper, etc., almanacs, ballads, and a few common school-books. Those who lov’d reading were oblig’d to send for their books from England; the members of the Junto had each a few. We had left the alehouse, where we first met, and hired a room to hold our club in. I propos’d that we should all of us bring our books to that room, where they would not only be ready to consult in our conferences, but become a common benefit, each of us being at liberty to borrow such as he wish’d to read at home. This was accordingly done, and for some time contented us.  158
Finding the advantage of this little collection, I propos’d to render the benefit from books more common, by commencing a public subscription library. I drew a sketch of the plan and rules that would be necessary, and got a skilful conveyancer, Mr. Charles Brockden, to put the whole in form of articles of agreement to be subscribed, by which each subscriber engag’d to pay a certain sum down for the first purchase of books, and an annual contribution for increasing them. So few were the readers at that time in Philadelphia, and the majority of us so poor, that I was not able, with great industry, to find more than fifty persons, mostly young tradesmen, willing to pay down for this purpose forty shillings each, and ten shillings per annum. On this little fund we began. The books were imported; the library was opened one day in the week for lending to the subscribers, on their promissory notes to pay double the value if not duly returned. The institution soon manifested its utility, was imitated by other towns, and in other provinces. The libraries were augmented by donations; reading became fashionable; and our people, having no publick amusements to divert their attention from study, became better acquainted with books, and in a few years were observ’d by strangers to be better instructed and more intelligent than people of the same rank generally are in other countries.  159
When we were about to sign the above-mentioned articles, which were to be binding upon us, our heirs, etc., for fifty years, Mr. Brockden, the scrivener, said to us, “You are young men, but it is scarcely probable that any of you will live to see the expiration of the term fix’d in the instrument.” A number of us, however, are yet living; but the instrument was after a few years rendered null by a charter that incorporated and gave perpetuity to the company.  160
The objections and reluctances I met with in soliciting the subscriptions, made me soon feel the impropriety of presenting one’s self as the proposer of any useful project, that might be suppos’d to raise one’s reputation in the smallest degree above that of one’s neighbors, when one has need of their assistance to accomplish that project. I therefore put myself as much as I could out of sight, and stated it as a scheme of a number of friends, who had requested me to go about and propose it to such as they thought lovers of reading. In this way my affair went on more smoothly, and I ever after practis’d it on such occasions; and, from my frequent successes, can heartily recommend it. The present little sacrifice of your vanity will afterwards be amply repaid. If it remains a while uncertain to whom the merit belongs, some one more vain than yourself will be encouraged to claim it, and then even envy will be disposed to do you justice by plucking those assumed feathers, and restoring them to their right owner.  161
This library afforded me the means of improvement by constant study, for which I set apart an hour or two each day, and thus repair’d in some degree the loss of the learned education my father once intended for me. Reading was the only amusement I allow’d myself. I spent no time in taverns, games, or frolicks of any kind; and my industry in my business continu’d as indefatigable as it was necessary. I was indebted for my printing-house; I had a young family coming on to be educated, and I had to contend with for business two printers, who were established in the place before me. My circumstances, however, grew daily easier. My original habits of frugality continuing, and my father having, among his instructions to me when a boy, frequently repeated a proverb of Solomon, “Seest thou a man diligent in his calling, he shall stand before kings, he shall not stand before mean men,” I from thence considered industry as a means of obtaining wealth and distinction, which encourag’d me, tho’ I did not think that I should ever literally stand before kings, which, however, has since happened; for I have stood before five, and even had the honor of sitting down with one, the King of Denmark, to dinner.  162
We have an English proverb that says, “He that would thrive, must ask his wife.” It was lucky for me that I had one as much dispos’d to industry and frugality as myself. She assisted me cheerfully in my business, folding and stitching pamphlets, tending shop, purchasing old linen rags for the papermakers, etc., etc. We kept no idle servants, our table was plain and simple, our furniture of the cheapest. For instance, my breakfast was a long time bread and milk (no tea), and I ate it out of a twopenny earthen porringer, with a pewter spoon. But mark how luxury will enter families, and make a progress, in spite of principle: being call’d one morning to breakfast, I found it in a China bowl, with a spoon of silver! They had been bought for me without my knowledge by my wife, and had cost her the enormous sum of three-and-twenty shillings, for which she had no other excuse or apology to make, but that she thought her husband deserv’d a silver spoon and China bowl as well as any of his neighbors. This was the first appearance of plate and China in our house, which afterward, in a course of years, as our wealth increas’d, augmented gradually to several hundred pounds in value.  163
I had been religiously educated as a Presbyterian; and tho’ some of the dogmas of that persuasion, such as the eternal decrees of God, election, reprobation, etc., appeared to me unintelligible, others doubtful, and I early absented myself from the public assemblies of the sect, Sunday being my studying day, I never was without some religious principles. I never doubted, for instance, the existence of the Deity; that he made the world, and govern’d it by his Providence; that the most acceptable service of God was the doing good to man; that our souls are immortal; and that all crime will be punished, and virtue rewarded, either here or hereafter. These I esteem’d the essentials of every religion; and, being to be found in all the religions we had in our country, I respected them all, tho’ with different degrees of respect, as I found them more or less mix’d with other articles, which, without any tendency to inspire, promote, or confirm morality, serv’d principally to divide us, and make us unfriendly to one another. This respect to all, with an opinion that the worst had some good effects, induc’d me to avoid all discourse that might tend to lessen the good opinion another might have of his own religion; and as our province increas’d in people, and new places of worship were continually wanted, and generally erected by voluntary contributions, my mite for such purpose, whatever might be the sect, was never refused.  164
Tho’ I seldom attended any public worship, I had still an opinion of its propriety, and of its utility when rightly conducted, and I regularly paid my annual subscription for the support of the only Presbyterian minister or meeting we had in Philadelphia. He us’d to visit me sometimes as a friend, and admonish me to attend his administrations, and I was now and then prevail’d on to do so, once for five Sundays successively. Had he been in my opinion a good preacher, perhaps I might have continued, notwithstanding the occasion I had for the Sunday’s leisure in my course of study; but his discourses were chiefly either polemic arguments, or explications of the peculiar doctrines of our sect, and were all to me very dry, uninteresting, and unedifying, since not a single moral principle was inculcated or enforc’d, their aim seeming to be rather to make us Presbyterians than good citizens.  165
At length he took for his text that verse of the fourth chapter of Philippians, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, or of good report, if there be any virtue, or any praise, think on these things.” And I imagin’d, in a sermon on such a text, we could not miss of having some morality. But he confin’d himself to five points only, as meant by the apostle, viz.: 1. Keeping holy the Sabbath day. 2. Being diligent in reading the holy Scriptures. 3. Attending duly the publick worship. 4. Partaking of the Sacrament. 5. Paying a due respect to God’s ministers. These might be all good things; but, as they were not the kind of good things that I expected from that text, I despaired of ever meeting with them from any other, was disgusted, and attended his preaching no more. I had some years before compos’d a little Liturgy, or form of prayer, for my own private use (viz., in 1728), entitled, Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion. I return’d to the use of this, and went no more to the public assemblies. My conduct might be blameable, but I leave it, without attempting further to excuse it; my present purpose being to relate facts, and not to make apologies for them.  166
It was about this time I conceiv’d the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection. I wish’d to live without committing any fault at any time; I would conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or company might lead me into. As I knew, or thought I knew, what was right and wrong, I did not see why I might not always do the one and avoid the other. But I soon found I had undertaken a task of more difficulty than I had imagined. While my care was employ’d in guarding against one fault, I was often surprised by another; habit took the advantage of inattention; inclination was sometimes too strong for reason. I concluded, at length, that the mere speculative conviction that it was our interest to be completely virtuous, was not sufficient to prevent our slipping; and that the contrary habits must be broken, and good ones acquired and established, before we can have any dependence on a steady, uniform rectitude of conduct. For this purpose I therefore contrived the following method.  167
In the various enumerations of the moral virtues I had met with in my reading, I found the catalogue more or less numerous, as different writers included more or fewer ideas under the same name. Temperance, for example, was by some confined to eating and drinking, while by others it was extended to mean the moderating every other pleasure, appetite, inclination, or passion, bodily or mental, even to our avarice and ambition. I propos’d to myself, for the sake of clearness, to use rather more names, with fewer ideas annex’d to each, than a few names with more ideas; and I included under thirteen names of virtues all that at that time occurr’d to me as necessary or desirable, and annexed to each a short precept, which fully express’d the extent I gave to its meaning.  168
These names of virtues, with their precepts, were:
1. TEMPERANCE. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.  
2. SILENCE. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.  
3. ORDER. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.  
4. RESOLUTION. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.  
5. FRUGALITY. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i. e., waste nothing.  
6. INDUSTRY. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.  
7. SINCERITY. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.  
8. JUSTICE. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.  
9. MODERATION. Avoid extreams; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.  
10. CLEANLINESS. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.  
11. TRANQUILLITY. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.  
12. CHASTITY. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dulness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.  
13. HUMILITY. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
My intention being to acquire the habitude of all these virtues, I judg’d it would be well not to distract my attention by attempting the whole at once, but to fix it on one of them at a time; and, when I should be master of that, then to proceed to another, and so on, till I should have gone thro’ the thirteen; and, as the previous acquisition of some might facilitate the acquisition of certain others, I arrang’d them with that view, as they stand above. Temperance first, as it tends to procure that coolness and clearness of head, which is so necessary where constant vigilance was to be kept up, and guard maintained against the unremitting attraction of ancient habits, and the force of perpetual temptations. This being acquir’d and establish’d, Silence would be more easy; and my desire being to gain knowledge at the same time that I improv’d in virtue, and considering that in conversation it was obtain’d rather by the use of the ears than of the tongue, and therefore wishing to break a habit I was getting into of prattling, punning, and joking, which only made me acceptable to trifling company, I gave Silence the second place. This and the next, Order, I expected would allow me more time for attending to my project and my studies. Resolution, once become habitual, would keep me firm in my endeavors to obtain all the subsequent virtues; Frugality and Industry freeing me from my remaining debt, and producing affluence and independence, would make more easy the practice of Sincerity and Justice, etc., etc. Conceiving then, that, agreeably to the advice of Pythagoras in his Golden Verses, daily examination would be necessary, I contrived the following method for conducting that examination.  170
I made a little book, in which I allotted a page for each of the virtues. I rul’d each page with red ink, so as to have seven columns, one for each day of the week, marking each column with a letter for the day. I cross’d these columns with thirteen red lines, marking the beginning of each line with the first letter of one of the virtues, on which line, and in its proper column, I might mark, by a little black spot, every fault I found upon examination to have been committed respecting that virtue upon that day.  171
I determined to give a week’s strict attention to each of the virtues successively. Thus, in the first week, my great guard was to avoid every the least offence against Temperance, leaving the other virtues to their ordinary chance, only marking every evening the faults of the day. Thus, if in the first week I could keep my first line, marked T, clear of spots, I suppos’d the habit of that virtue so much strengthen’d, and its opposite weaken’d, that I might venture extending my attention to include the next, and for the following week keep both lines clear of spots. Proceeding thus to the last, I could go thro’ a course compleat in thirteen weeks, and four courses in a year. And like him who, having a garden to weed, does not attempt to eradicate all the bad herbs at once, which would exceed his reach and his strength, but works on one of the beds at a time, and, having accomplish’d the first, proceeds to a second, so I should have, I hoped, the encouraging pleasure of seeing on my pages the progress I made in virtue, by clearing successively my lines of their spots, till in the end, by a number of courses, I should he happy in viewing a clean book, after a thirteen weeks’ daily examination.  172
This my little book had for its motto these lines from Addison’s Cato: “Here will I hold. If there’s a power above us (And that there is, all nature cries aloud Thro’ all her works), He must delight in virtue; And that which he delights in must be happy.”  173
Another from Cicero, “O vitæ Philosophia dux! O virtutum indagatrix expultrixque vitiorum! Unus dies, bene et ex præceptis tuis actus, peccanti immortalitati est anteponendus.”  174
Another from the Proverbs of Solomon, speaking of wisdom or virtue: “Length of days is in her right hand, and in her left hand riches and honour. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” iii. 16, 17.  175
And conceiving God to be the fountain of wisdom, I thought it right and necessary to solicit his assistance for obtaining it; to this end I formed the following little prayer, which was prefix’d to my tables of examination, for daily use. “O powerful Goodness! bountiful Father! merciful Guide! Increase in me that wisdom which discovers my truest interest. Strengthen my resolutions to perform what that wisdom dictates. Accept my kind offices to thy other children as the only return in my power for thy continual favors to me.”  176
I used also sometimes a little prayer which I took from Thomson’s Poems, viz.: “Father of light and life, thou Good Supreme!O teach me what is good; teach me Thyself!Save me from folly, vanity, and vice,From every low pursuit; and fill my soulWith knowledge, conscious peace, and virtue pure;Sacred, substantial, never-fading bliss!”  177
The precept of Order requiring that every part of my business should have its allotted time, one page in my little book contain’d the following scheme of employment for the twenty-four hours of a natural day:

(5–7) Question. What good shall I do this day?
Rise, wash, and address Powerful Goodness! Contrive day’s business, and take the resolution of the day; prosecute the present study, and breakfast. 
(8–11) Work. 

(12–1) Read, or overlook my accounts, and dine. 
(2–5) Work. 

(6–9) Question. What good have I done to-day? Put things in their places. Supper. Music or diversion, or conversation. Examination of the day. 

(10–4) Sleep.
I enter’d upon the execution of this plan for self-examination, and continu’d it with occasional intermissions for some time. I was surpris’d to find myself so much fuller of faults than I had imagined; but I had the satisfaction of seeing them diminish. To avoid the trouble of renewing now and then my little book, which, by scraping out the marks on the paper of old faults to make room for new ones in a new course, became full of holes, I transferr’d my tables and precepts to the ivory leaves of a memorandum book, on which the lines were drawn with red ink, that made a durable stain, and on those lines I mark’d my faults with a black-lead pencil, which marks I could easily wipe out with a wet sponge. After a while I went thro’ one course only in a year, and afterward only one in several years, till at length I omitted them entirely, being employ’d in voyages and business abroad, with a multiplicity of affairs that interfered; but I always carried my little book with me.  179
My scheme of ORDER gave me the most trouble; and I found that, tho’ it might be practicable where a man’s business was such as to leave him the disposition of his time, that of a journeyman printer, for instance, it was not possible to be exactly observed by a master, who must mix with the world, and often receive people of business at their own hours. Order, too, with regard to places for things, papers, etc., I found extreamly difficult to acquire. I had not been early accustomed to it, and, having an exceeding good memory, I was not so sensible of the inconvenience attending want of method. This article, therefore, cost me so much painful attention, and my faults in it vexed me so much, and I made so little progress in amendment, and had such frequent relapses, that I was almost ready to give up the attempt, and content myself with a faulty character in that respect, like the man who, in buying an ax of a smith, my neighbour, desired to have the whole of its surface as bright as the edge. The smith consented to grind it bright for him if he would turn the wheel; he turn’d, while the smith press’d the broad face of the ax hard and heavily on the stone, which made the turning of it very fatiguing. The man came every now and then from the wheel to see how the work went on, and at length would take his ax as it was, without farther grinding. “No,” said the smith, “turn on, turn on; we shall have it bright by-and-by; as yet, it is only speckled.” “Yes,” said the man, “but I think I like a speckled ax best.” And I believe this may have been the case with many, who, having, for want of some such means as I employ’d, found the difficulty of obtaining good and breaking bad habits in other points of vice and virtue, have given up the struggle, and concluded that “a speckled ax was best”; for something, that pretended to be reason, was every now and then suggesting to me that such extream nicety as I exacted of myself might be a kind of foppery in morals, which, if it were known, would make me ridiculous; that a perfect character might be attended with the inconvenience of being envied and hated; and that a benevolent man should allow a few faults in himself, to keep his friends in countenance.  180
In truth, I found myself incorrigible with respect to Order; and now I am grown old, and my memory bad, I feel very sensibly the want of it. But, on the whole, tho’ I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell far short of it, yet I was, by the endeavour, a better and a happier man than I otherwise should have been if I had not attempted it; as those who aim at perfect writing by imitating the engraved copies, tho’ they never reach the wish’d-for excellence of those copies, their hand is mended by the endeavor, and is tolerable while it continues fair and legible.  181
It may be well my posterity should be informed that to this little artifice, with the blessing of God, their ancestor ow’d the constant felicity of his life, down to his 79th year, in which this is written. What reverses may attend the remainder is in the hand of Providence; but, if they arrive, the reflection on past happiness enjoy’d ought to help his bearing them with more resignation. To Temperance he ascribes his long-continued health, and what is still left to him of a good constitution; to Industry and Frugality, the early easiness of his circumstances and acquisition of his fortune, with all that knowledge that enabled him to be a useful citizen, and obtained for him some degree of reputation among the learned; to Sincerity and Justice, the confidence of his country, and the honorable employs it conferred upon him; and to the joint influence of the whole mass of the virtues, even in the imperfect state he was able to acquire them, all that evenness of temper, and that cheerfulness in conversation, which makes his company still sought for, and agreeable even to his younger acquaintance. I hope, therefore, that some of my descendants may follow the example and reap the benefit.  182
It will be remark’d that, tho’ my scheme was not wholly without religion, there was in it no mark of any of the distinguishing tenets of any particular sect. I had purposely avoided them; for, being fully persuaded of the utility and excellency of my method, and that it might be serviceable to people in all religions, and intending some time or other to publish it, I would not have any thing in it that should prejudice any one, of any sect, against it. I purposed writing a little comment on each virtue, in which I would have shown the advantages of possessing it, and the mischiefs attending its opposite vice; and I should have called my book THE ART OF VIRTUE, 1 because it would have shown the means and manner of obtaining virtue, which would have distinguished it from the mere exhortation to be good, that does not instruct and indicate the means, but is like the apostle’s man of verbal charity, who only without showing to the naked and hungry how or where they might get clothes or victuals, exhorted them to be fed and clothed.—James ii. 15, 16.  183
But it so happened that my intention of writing and publishing this comment was never fulfilled. I did, indeed, from time to time, put down short hints of the sentiments, reasonings, etc., to be made use of in it, some of which I have still by me; but the necessary close attention to private business in the earlier part of thy life, and public business since, have occasioned my postponing it; for, it being connected in my mind with a great and extensive project, that required the whole man to execute, and which an unforeseen succession of employs prevented my attending to, it has hitherto remain’d unfinish’d.  184
In this piece it was my design to explain and enforce this doctrine, that vicious actions are not hurtful because they are forbidden, but forbidden because they are hurtful, the nature of man alone considered; that it was, therefore, every one’s interest to be virtuous who wish’d to be happy even in this world; and I should, from this circumstance (there being always in the world a number of rich merchants, nobility, states, and princes, who have need of honest instruments for the management of their affairs, and such being so rare), have endeavored to convince young persons that no qualities were so likely to make a poor man’s fortune as those of probity and integrity.  185
My list of virtues contain’d at first but twelve; but a Quaker friend having kindly informed me that I was generally thought proud; that my pride show’d itself frequently in conversation; that I was not content with being in the right when discussing any point, but was overbearing, and rather insolent, of which he convinc’d me by mentioning several instances; I determined endeavouring to cure myself, if I could, of this vice or folly among the rest, and I added Humility to my list, giving an extensive meaning to the word.  186
I cannot boast of much success in acquiring the reality of this virtue, but I had a good deal with regard to the appearance of it. I made it a rule to forbear all direct contradiction to the sentiments of others, and all positive assertion of my own. I even forbid myself, agreeably to the old laws of our Junto, the use of every word or expression in the language that imported a fix’d opinion, such as certainly, undoubtedly, etc., and I adopted, instead of them, I conceive, I apprehend, or I imagine a thing to be so or so; or it so appears to me at present. When another asserted something that I thought an error, I deny’d myself the pleasure of contradicting him abruptly, and of showing immediately some absurdity in his proposition; and in answering I began by observing that in certain cases or circumstances his opinion would be right, but in the present case there appear’d or seem’d to me some difference, etc. I soon found the advantage of this change in my manner; the conversations I engag’d in went on more pleasantly. The modest way in which I propos’d my opinions procur’d them a readier reception and less contradiction; I had less mortification when I was found to be in the wrong, and I more easily prevail’d with others to give up their mistakes and join with me when I happened to be in the right.  187
And this mode, which I at first put on with some violence to natural inclination, became at length so easy, and so habitual to me, that perhaps for these fifty years past no one has ever heard a dogmatical expression escape me. And to this habit (after my character of integrity) I think it principally owing that I had early so much weight with my fellow-citizens when I proposed new institutions, or alterations in the old, and so much influence in public councils when I became a member; for I was but a bad speaker, never eloquent, subject to much hesitation in my choice of words, hardly correct in language, and yet I generally carried my points.  188
In reality, there is, perhaps, no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself; you will see it, perhaps, often in this history; for, even if I could conceive that I had compleatly overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.  189
  [Thus far written at Passy, 1784.]  190
Religious Studies

Young Heretics Advent Calendar

Translated and written by Spencer Klavan (Young Heretics) and noted for further study and reference:

Let’s Start with Luke 1:26-27:

26…ἀπεστάλη ὁ ἄγγελος Γαβριὴλ ἀπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ εἰς πόλιν τῆς Γαλιλαίας ἧ ὄνομα Ναζαρὲθ 27πρὸς παρθένον ἐμνηστευμένην ἀνδρὶ ᾧ ὄνομα Ἰωσὴφ ἐξ οἴκου Δαυίδ, καὶ τὸ ὄνομα τῆς παρθένου Μαριάμ.

Here’s my translation:

“The angel Gabriel was dispatched from God into the city of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man. The man’s name was Joseph–he was from the house of David–and the name of the virgin was Mary.”

The word parthenos (virgin) here has long been an object of discussion. In classical Greek a parthenos just means a “maiden”–she’s usually a young, unmarried girl, but she doesn’t necessarily have to be a virgin. This matches up nicely with the Hebrew prophecy in Isaiah 7:14–“behold, a maiden shall conceive.” The Hebrew word for “maiden” there is “almah”–like parthenos, it can mean virgin, but it can also just mean “young girl.”

The New Testament, though, goes further–as we’ll shortly see in further installments. Because a few verses later Mary says that she “has not known a man,” meaning she is in fact a virgin. And thus the doctrine of the virgin birth comes into being.

What I love about this is the way the Greek text quietly acknowledges the ambiguity of the prophecy by using a word–parthenos–which echoes the ambiguity of Isaiah’s Hebrew–almah. But Luke also then goes further to resolve that ambiguity by showing that Mary is specifically the kind of “almah” that has not known man–that the person who fulfill the prophecy is, in fact, a virgin.

The New Testament does this a lot, and we don’t always notice it: the Greek authors have carefully read the Hebrew, but they know the Hebrew can be fulfilled in multiple ways. Jesus’ life represents a specific, concrete fulfillment: it narrows down the ambiguities and makes the prediction something real, in the here and now. Even before his birth, then, Jesus is making the infinite specific and personal, narrowing eternity to a point and embodying it in time.

I hope you enjoy these whether you’re Christian or not–it’s a good time to be learning about the richness of these books and what they mean in their original context. It’s a lot more sophisticated than we give it credit for! More anon.

Young Heretics Advent Calendar: Thursday, 12/2
Every day this season I will translate and comment on a small Bible portion. Here’s Luke 1:28-33:

28καὶ εἰσελθὼν πρὸς αὐτὴν εἶπεν, Χαῖρε, κεχαριτωμένη, ὁ κύριος μετὰ σοῦ. 29ἡ δὲ ἐπὶ τῷ λόγῳ διεταράχθη καὶ διελογίζετο ποταπὸς εἴη ὁ ἀσπασμὸς οὗτος. 30καὶ εἶπεν ὁ ἄγγελος αὐτῇ, Μὴ φοβοῦ, Μαριάμ, εὗρες γὰρ χάριν παρὰ τῷ θεῷ: 31καὶ ἰδοὺ συλλήμψῃ ἐν γαστρὶ καὶ τέξῃ υἱόν, καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν. 32οὗτος ἔσται μέγας καὶ υἱὸς ὑψίστου κληθήσεται, καὶ δώσει αὐτῷ κύριος ὁ θεὸς τὸν θρόνον Δαυὶδ τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ, 33καὶ βασιλεύσει ἐπὶ τὸν οἶκον Ἰακὼβ εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας, καὶ τῆς βασιλείας αὐτοῦ οὐκ ἔσται τέλος.

My translation:

The angel came to her and said: “greetings and grace to you who are graced with the presence of the Lord.” But at that utterance she was alarmed and tried to work out what kind of greeting this could be. Then the angel said to her, “don’t be afraid, Mary: you have found grace from God. And see: you will conceive in your womb and give birth to a son, and you will call him by the name of Jesus. He will be the magnificent one; he will be called the son of the most high, and the lord will give to him the throne of David his father, and he will be king over the house of Jacob for all ages–of his kingdom, there shall be no end.”

The Angel’s greeting to Mary–translated in the traditional Catholic prayer as “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee”–contains probably my two favorite words in the Greek Bible. “Chaire, kecharitōmenē”: no translation quite captures the music and the wordplay of it.

“Chaire” is a form of greeting like “hail!” or “God save you!” It means both “hi there” and “be well.” But as you can probably see from the shape of the word, “kecharitōmenē” has the same root as Chaire. Chaire is the imperative form, a command: have grace in your life! Kecharitōmenē is a passive participle, a description: you who are full of grace.

The angel takes a standard human greeting and explodes it out of its normal shape, contorting the usual verb form into something strange, complicated, and divine. From the moment of his utterance the command is already fulfilled–he wishes grace to her who already has grace by virtue of the utterance and its contents. It’s a sublime literary flourish and it’s a shame we can’t do it justice in English.

It’s worth noting, too, that in all the ensuing Annunciation Mary is both A) getting a ton of information and B) not being told certain things which we now take for granted. The description the angel gives conforms pretty well to the prophecies of the Messiah in the Hebrew Bible: he will be the great one, called the son of the most high, to rule on the throne of David.

But the natural assumption for most Jews of this time would have been that this was a supernaturally ordained human king–not God himself but the one God would anoint as ruler: in Hebrew, the Meshiach or Mashiach. The Messiah. That word simply means “one who has been anointed” (with kingly and priestly oil). In Greek, the word that means “anointed” and so translates Mashiach is “Christos”: Christ.

So Mary knows now that she will give birth to God’s anointed ruler. But what kind of ruler? How? Why? All these theological commonplaces are mysteries to her in this moment, as I suppose they are ultimately to us as well–to be pondered as much as proclaimed.

Young Heretics Advent Calendar: Friday, 12/3
Here is today’s passage from Luke (1:34-37), first in Greek, then with my translation:

34εἶπεν δὲ Μαριὰμ πρὸς τὸν ἄγγελον, Πῶς ἔσται τοῦτο, ἐπεὶ ἄνδρα οὐ γινώσκω; 35καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ ἄγγελος εἶπεν αὐτῇ, Πνεῦμα ἅγιον ἐπελεύσεται ἐπὶ σέ, καὶ δύναμις ὑψίστου ἐπισκιάσει σοι: διὸ καὶ τὸ γεννώμενον ἅγιον κληθήσεται, υἱὸς θεοῦ. 36καὶ ἰδοὺ Ἐλισάβετ ἡ συγγενίς σου καὶ αὐτὴ συνείληφεν υἱὸν ἐν γήρει αὐτῆς, καὶ οὗτος μὴν ἕκτος ἐστὶν αὐτῇ τῇ καλουμένῃ στείρᾳ: 37ὅτι οὐκ ἀδυνατήσει παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ πᾶν ῥῆμα.

My translation:

“Then Mary said to the Angel, ‘how will this be, since I know no man?’ And the angel answered: he said to her, ‘the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the most high will overshadow you. And so the one who is born will be called holy, son of God. And see: Elizabeth your kinswoman, even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is already the sixth month for her. And they called her barren! For not one thing is impossible with God.”

My comment today is less about the Greek than about Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist and kinswoman of Mary. Prior to these lines we have heard the story from her perspective, as if she were the main character. Now, she serves as a supporting player and a kind of sign: a symbol to Mary that “not one thing is impossible with God.” What strikes me today is that both are true.

Elizabeth, wrapped up in the drama of her miraculous pregnancy and the misadventures of her husband, is an entire human life unto herself. Mary, too, is living out her calling and discovering how much more strange and adventurous it is than she could have fathomed. These are complete little worlds. But through the angel we also get a glimpse into a mysterious fact: Elizabeth is not only a complete story that God is telling. She is also there to serve as an allegory for Mary.

I think we are all like this: both a complete world unto ourselves, and a sign or symbol of God’s favor in somebody else’s life. In the Space Trilogy, Lewis has the angels say that every particle of dust is equally at the center of the universe: “Where Maleldil [God] is, there is the centre. He is in every place.” The old hymn says, “ever more, from his store, new worlds rise up to adore.” Everything is entirely itself, and every consciousness makes the world entirely new by seeing it in from its own fresh perspective.

I am often struck when someone says that some comment I made offhand had this or that pivotal effect on his or her life: for me, that was an insignificant moment. For him, it was a crucial moment when everything changed, and I was just the stone that happened to fall in just the right place so his path went another way. Who is right? We both are. The question falls to pieces from the point of view of God. Jesus, the true center of the universe, makes of Mary and Elizabeth, Joseph and Zechariah, you and me, a cosmos unto ourselves worth dying for.

Young Heretics Advent Calendar 12/4
Here’s Luke 1:38 in Greek:

38εἶπεν δὲ Μαριάμ, Ἰδοὺ ἡ δούλη κυρίου: γένοιτό μοι κατὰ τὸ ῥῆμά σου. καὶ ἀπῆλθεν ἀπ’ αὐτῆς ὁ ἄγγελος.

And here’s my translation:

“And Mary said, ‘behold the handmaid of the Lord. Let it happen to me, as you have said.’ And the angel went away from her.”

There has been much annotation and discussion about the Greek word “doulos,” meaning literally “slave.” That, in female form, is what Mary calls herself here: behold the doulē, the slave-girl, of the Lord.

Of course the human world knows all kinds of slavery, most of them vile and all of them subject to abuse. But slavery in the ancient world could also be a gentler arrangement, even a kind of patronage. The servant lived in the house and was under the protection of the family.

I think this must be what Aristotle means in the Politics when he says that the family is made of three fundamental relationships: husband and wife, parent and child, master and slave. At its noblest, slavery in the ancient world was the economic dimension of the family, the way it extended its protection beyond its own biological limits to include the less fortunate.

No doubt many masters treated slaves very poorly, just as many husbands treat their wives very poorly and many parents mistreat their children. But it stands to reason that servitude to God is the best kind, the kind with no trace of corruption or abuse. In that ideal form, ancient slavery means: “live in my house. Pour out your labor upon me and I will pour out my protection and nourishment upon you. The exchange between us will be too total, too complete to be accountable in mere monetary or numerical terms.”

This is not the relationship we will live in with God forever: Jesus says at the appropriate time that he no longer calls us servants but friends. But at this crucial moment Mary says to God that she will consent to total servitude, to give over even her body. The membership in God’s household which she receives in return will be extended to all humanity.

Modern ethics teaches us to count up everything in terms of dollars, as if even motherhood and housework could be cashed out in financial terms. But Mary’s labor is beyond any wage she could receive, and the relation of loving submission she enters into is answered with a patronage that knows no talk of limits or price.

“They are but beggars that can count their worth,” said Juliet to Romeo at the moment of their marriage. There is no reckoning or settling of accounts between those who offer their very flesh to one another–as wife to husband, as Mary to Christ, as Christ to us.

Young Heretics Advent Calendar 12/5
Luke 1:39-41

39Ἀναστᾶσα δὲ Μαριὰμ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ταύταις ἐπορεύθη εἰς τὴν ὀρεινὴν μετὰ σπουδῆς εἰς πόλιν Ἰούδα, 40καὶ εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὸν οἶκον Ζαχαρίου καὶ ἠσπάσατο τὴν Ἐλισάβετ. 41καὶ ἐγένετο ὡς ἤκουσεν τὸν ἀσπασμὸν τῆς Μαρίας ἡ Ἐλισάβετ, ἐσκίρτησεν τὸ βρέφος ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ αὐτῆς, καὶ ἐπλήσθη πνεύματος ἁγίου ἡ Ἐλισάβετ

My translation:

“Mary stood up in those days and went into the hill country eagerly, into the city of Juda. And she came into the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. Then it happened: when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb leapt for joy, and Elizabeth was full of the Holy Spirit.”

It’s interesting to me that the word for “greeting” here–aspasmos–is the same as the word used for the Angel’s strange salutation a few lines earlier (“Mary pondered what sort of greeting this could be…”). The word is warmer in Greek than “greeting” in English: literally it can mean “embrace.” These are family members, a young girl and an old matron, falling into one another’s arms. They must have been dying to see each other.

Worth noting, too, that a baby in the womb was the first ever to recognize Jesus: for those who don’t know, the baby Elizabeth has conceived is John the Baptist, prophetic forerunner of Christ’s coming. John knew his savior long before he announced him on the River Jordan–the news that was once brought from the angel to Mary is now brought from womb to womb. From hence forth the content of heavenly utterance is not words but flesh, the very fact of the life inside Mary. What manner of greeting is this, indeed.

The Young Heretics Advent Calendar 12/6
Here’s Luke 1:42-45 in Greek:

42καὶ ἀνεφώνησεν κραυγῇ μεγάλῃ καὶ εἶπεν, Εὐλογημένη σὺ ἐν γυναιξίν, καὶ εὐλογημένος ὁ καρπὸς τῆς κοιλίας σου. 43καὶ πόθεν μοι τοῦτο ἵνα ἔλθῃ ἡ μήτηρ τοῦ κυρίου μου πρὸς ἐμέ; 44ἰδοὺ γὰρ ὡς ἐγένετο ἡ φωνὴ τοῦ ἀσπασμοῦ σου εἰς τὰ ὦτά μου, ἐσκίρτησεν ἐν ἀγαλλιάσει τὸ βρέφος ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ μου. 45καὶ μακαρία ἡ πιστεύσασα ὅτι ἔσται τελείωσις τοῖς λελαλημένοις αὐτῇ παρὰ κυρίου.

And my translation:

Elizabeth cried out with a great shout and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. How should this be, that the mother of my lord should come to me? See: at the sound of your greeting in my ears, the child in my womb leapt up in rejoicing. And blessed is she who trusts in the completion of all the things said to her by her lord.”

Another untranslatable phrase is “eskirtēsen en agalliasei,” which I’ve rendered here as “leapt up in rejoicing.” But the phrase Elizabeth uses to describe her baby’s motion in the womb is the phrase that epic poets use to describe young men and horses in the prime of their lives, running and tossing their heads in the sheer exaltation of their strength. It’s an intensely male energy, the rambunctious kind that young men show when they’re roughhousing with each other. The baby has a character of its own, the kind that rejoices in the robust abundance of life.

It’s distinct from the shout with which Elizabeth greets Mary–the “kraugē megalē”–which is just a generic phrase for “loud shout,” but which I have always imagined in this case as the kind of delighted squeal that some women who love each other make at an exciting or long-anticipated moment of meeting.

Everyone is brimming with uncontainable glee here, and each in his own way: a profoundly human, and yet totally miraculous, scene of anticipation. A feeling of “here it is, at last, the moment when it all gets going.” For all the trouble and struggle that is to come, I love seeing them this way in this strange tableau of unforced intimacy–the two unborn babies and the mothers old and young, the strangest and most lovely family in the world.

Young Heretics Advent Calendar 12/7
Here’s Luke 1:46-55 in Greek:

46Καὶ εἶπεν Μαριάμ, Μεγαλύνει ἡ ψυχή μου τὸν κύριον, 47καὶ ἠγαλλίασεν τὸ πνεῦμά μου ἐπὶ τῷ θεῷ τῷ σωτῆρί μου, 48ὅτι ἐπέβλεψεν ἐπὶ τὴν ταπείνωσιν τῆς δούλης αὐτοῦ. ἰδοὺ γὰρ ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν μακαριοῦσίν με πᾶσαι αἱ γενεαί: 49ὅτι ἐποίησέν μοι μεγάλα ὁ δυνατός, καὶ ἅγιον τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ

And here’s my translation:

And Mary said, “my soul magnifies the LORD, and my spirit has gloried in God my savior. For he looked down from on high upon on the humility of his serving-girl, and see: from from this moment all generations will bless my name. For the mighty one has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”

Mary’s response to Elizabeth’s greeting is a song, a poem, a prophecy. It is called the “magnificat,” because that is the Latin translation of the first word in Greek: “Megalunei.” It means “magnifies” or “calls great”–my soul magnifies the LORD, sings Mary. What comes next is a single flawless composition, but I will divide it roughly here into three parts which I will translate over the course of three days. Mary sings about what God has done for her, for the world, and for the people of Israel.

First, she sings about herself: God has looked upon her “tapeinōsis,” a word referring to abject poverty and lowliness. It’s more than just lacking money: those who are “tapeinoi” lack all social standing, authority, and power. This is what God has looked on and seen in Mary: not just her position in the world but a spiritual sense of total submission and need.

Mary says, in effect, that this is why he has chosen her: he saw not only that she lacked money and social position, but that she considered herself that way in spirit, too. The outer poverty of her life was mirrored by an inward receptivity, a sense that she had nothing to offer God and God had everything to offer her. The irony is that sense of need is her offering: she knows she has nothing to give God, and so God is well pleased to receive her.

In this, as the rest of the song shows, Mary is a stand-in for all of humanity: those who are aware of themselves as beggars can give themselves to God and receive his favor. Those whom the world has taught to think of themselves as great must be brought low before they can have any hope of conversion. Mary’s name will be blessed for all generations because she is the one who knew fully that God’s name alone is blessed of itself.

Young Heretics Advent Calendar 12/8
Here’s Luke 1:50-53 in Greek:

50καὶ τὸ ἔλεος αὐτοῦ εἰς γενεὰς καὶ γενεὰς τοῖς φοβουμένοις αὐτόν. 51Ἐποίησεν κράτος ἐν βραχίονι αὐτοῦ, διεσκόρπισεν ὑπερηφάνους διανοίᾳ καρδίας αὐτῶν: 52καθεῖλεν δυνάστας ἀπὸ θρόνων καὶ ὕψωσεν ταπεινούς, 53πεινῶντας ἐνέπλησεν ἀγαθῶν καὶ πλουτοῦντας ἐξαπέστειλεν κενούς

And here’s my translation:

“And his mercy endures from generation to generation for those who fear him. He has shown the strength of his arm, scattering the proud in the imagination of their hearts; he has tossed the mighty down from their thrones and exalted the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.”

The link between the first part of the Magnificat, which I translated yesterday, and this middle part, which I translate today, is God. Mary considers how God has treated her in her lowliness, and moves from there to reflect on what this reveals about God’s nature more generally, and how he treats the world.

The answer is: he inverts every power relation and thwarts every kind of self-regard to elevate those who think of themselves as little as possible. I love the phrase “dianoia tēs kardias autōn,” which means literally “in the thinking of their heart.” The translation I’ve given is the traditional one: proud rulers have grand designs “in the imagination of their hearts.”

It’s a perfect description of today’s ruling elites, their grand dreams to erase human nature, establish one world government, and rule over a digital world where all the rules are changed. Think of the metaverse, or Klaus Schwab in Davos, or COVID tyranny: these are all examples of “the proud” who imagine that they can remake the world in their own image by sheer force of will.

It’s encouraging to me to find those fantasies of world domination so perfectly described in just a few words from two thousand years ago, with a promise that it will all come to nothing. We may be surprised at how the kings of this world talk, at their arrogance and self-sure dreams of power. God is not.

Young Heretics Advent Calendar 12/9
ΝΟΤΕ: every day during Advent, I am translating a portion of Luke’s gospel and commenting on its meaning in light of the Greek. Most of the installments are only available to Young Heretics VIPs, but I’ve made this one free to all–so you can see what you’re missing!

If you’d like to be a part of this, as well as everything else we do here on Locals (exclusive articles, Q&As, advance episodes, etc.) now is the time to sign up! A year-long membership is only $40 during the Christmas season. Come join us at youngheretics.com/locals.

Luke 1:54-6 in Greek:

54ἀντελάβετο Ἰσραὴλ παιδὸς αὐτοῦ, μνησθῆναι ἐλέους, 55καθὼς ἐλάλησεν πρὸς τοὺς πατέρας ἡμῶν, τῷ Ἀβραὰμ καὶ τῷ σπέρματι αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα. 56Ἔμεινεν δὲ Μαριὰμ σὺν αὐτῇ ὡς μῆνας τρεῖς, καὶ ὑπέστρεψεν εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτῆς.

And my translation:

“‘He has taken the side of his child, Israel, remembering his mercy as he said to their fathers–to Abraham and his seed across every age.’ And Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months, and went back to her house.”

Often translations here will say “his servant Israel.” And it’s true that the Greek “pais” can mean “servant.” But it can also mean “child,” and that is also how God talks about the people of Israel. “Israel is my first-born son” (Exodus 4:22)–at the moment of ransom from Egypt, God tells his people that he will treat them corporately as a dependent in his household.

I think the connection here between “child” and “servant” underscores what I said earlier about Mary: that if she is a “slave” of the Lord it is in the ancient sense of a member of the household, and one destined to be adopted at that. As God once brought his people out of bondage, now he will bring them out of sin, because they are his and he will ransom them at a high price (compare Isaiah 43).

All of this also makes a connection between the whole nation of Israel and Jesus, both of whom are God’s son: Jesus himself will now do in his own life what Israel as a whole nation did in Egypt. He will go down into bondage, be ransomed by God, and set free. And just as Israel’s exodus from Egypt inaugurated an age of freedom for all those who were born afterward, Jesus’s victory over death will usher in generations and generations of adoption into God’s household.

Young Heretics Advent Calendar 12/10
Here’s Luke 1:57-61 in Greek:

57Τῇ δὲ Ἐλισάβετ ἐπλήσθη ὁ χρόνος τοῦ τεκεῖν αὐτήν, καὶ ἐγέννησεν υἱόν. 58καὶ ἤκουσαν οἱ περίοικοι καὶ οἱ συγγενεῖς αὐτῆς ὅτι ἐμεγάλυνεν κύριος τὸ ἔλεος αὐτοῦ μετ’ αὐτῆς, καὶ συνέχαιρον αὐτῇ. 59Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ ὀγδόῃ ἦλθον περιτεμεῖν τὸ παιδίον, καὶ ἐκάλουν αὐτὸ ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματι τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ Ζαχαρίαν. 60καὶ ἀποκριθεῖσα ἡ μήτηρ αὐτοῦ εἶπεν, Οὐχί, ἀλλὰ κληθήσεται Ἰωάννης. 61καὶ εἶπαν πρὸς αὐτὴν ὅτι Οὐδείς ἐστιν ἐκ τῆς συγγενείας σου ὃς καλεῖται τῷ ὀνόματι τούτῳ.

And my translation:

“For Elizabeth, the time was completed for her to have her baby, and she gave birth to a son. Then those who lived nearby and her kinsmen heard that the Lord had magnified his mercy with her, and they rejoiced with her. And it transpired that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they called him by the name of his father: Zechariah. But in response his mother said, ‘no: call him John.'”

Tomorrow, I will say more about the highly unusual discussion of the baby’s name. For now I just wanted to note something I had never quite seen before: John, whose coming has been foretold as the voice that cries out in the wilderness of Isaiah 40, is “preparing the way of the Lord” even now. Before Jesus will heal the sick or the blind, before he will go to the cross, he will undergo all the rituals that any Jewish newborn son would. He will be circumcised, presented in the temple, and named.

John goes through all that in advance of Jesus, and Luke takes care to tell us so: even in small human matters, John lays the groundwork for what will happen to Jesus. In this way he gathers all human experience up to this point and goes through it one last time before everything changes: there is a kind of poignancy to this passage which is like the poignancy of closing the doors on your old house for the last time.

Maybe you are more than ready to leave the house, maybe it’s too small and the new one is better in every way–better neighborhood, better fit, better bones. But you still feel that catch in your chest as you look on the empty living room where you spent your earlier years. That’s what this scene reminds me of: the basic rituals of human life performed once more before Jesus performs them, and their meaning is forever changed.

Christians believe that many of these rituals take on a character of prophecy now: once they were the law of God, now they are shown as a precursor to redeemed life. But we feel no less affection for them despite all that–it is a heresy to say that the Jewish law was some kind of idolatry or sin. It was, in the Christian view, the house humanity lived in with God until we moved into the mansion of heaven, which Jesus now prepares for us. This scene is like the one last look we take at our first house and the memories we made in it, before closing the door and moving on.

Young Heretics Advent Calendar 12/11-12
First of all, let me apologize for missing the Advent Calendar yesterday! We were throwing a Christmas party and I lost track of the time.

To make up for it, here’s an extra long excerpt to cover the two days. Luke 1:61-66 in Greek:

61καὶ εἶπαν πρὸς αὐτὴν ὅτι Οὐδείς ἐστιν ἐκ τῆς συγγενείας σου ὃς καλεῖται τῷ ὀνόματι τούτῳ. 62ἐνένευον δὲ τῷ πατρὶ αὐτοῦ τὸ τί ἂν θέλοι καλεῖσθαι αὐτό. 63καὶ αἰτήσας πινακίδιον ἔγραψεν λέγων, Ἰωάννης ἐστὶν ὄνομα αὐτοῦ. καὶ ἐθαύμασαν πάντες. 64ἀνεῴχθη δὲ τὸ στόμα αὐτοῦ παραχρῆμα καὶ ἡ γλῶσσα αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἐλάλει εὐλογῶν τὸν θεόν. 65καὶ ἐγένετο ἐπὶ πάντας φόβος τοὺς περιοικοῦντας αὐτούς, καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ ὀρεινῇ τῆς Ἰουδαίας διελαλεῖτο πάντα τὰ ῥήματα ταῦτα, 66καὶ ἔθεντο πάντες οἱ ἀκούσαντες ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτῶν, λέγοντες, Τί ἄρα τὸ παιδίον τοῦτο ἔσται; καὶ γὰρ χεὶρ κυρίου ἦν μετ’ αὐτοῦ.

And my translation:

“They said to Elizabeth, ‘there’s no one of any relation to you who is called by that name.’ They made signs to his father, asking what he wanted the child to be called. So, he sent for a tablet and wrote on it the statement, ‘John is his name.’ And they were all astonished. Then his mouth was opened suddenly and his tongue released, and he spoke in praise of God. And fear fell upon all those living nearby, and in the whole hill country of Judea all these things were discussed, and all those who heard it took it to heart, saying, ‘what will this child be then?’ For the hand of the Lord himself was with him.”

An untranslatable Greek word that needs our close attention is the verb “thaumazō.” In Greek, a “thauma” is a wonder, a mystery, or a portent: it might be a blazing star that lights up the heavens, or a calf born with two heads, or an act of God to turn the tide of a battle. It’s something astonishing and unusual, something that seems charged with meaning but remains difficult to interpret.

So here when Luke says that all the neighbors “ethaumasen,” i.e., “were astonished,” it means not just that the events were unexpected but that they seemed to have an obscure meaning. It means the people saw in these events some symbol of a great and mysterious thing to come.

Zechariah had his speech taken from him by an angel because he questioned the prophecy of John’s birth in Elizabeth’s old age. Now his speech is restored when he affirms, contrary to normal practice and tradition, that the baby will be named John. It is a name that can only come from heaven, because it breaks the usual practice of naming a boy child after another man in the family. Like any miracle, this one shows itself by changing the usual fixed pattern of things.

The miracle of naming is followed by a miracle of speech: in the presence of this John, harbinger of Jesus, the dumb are given voice. It is only a precursor, as Zechariah was not mute from birth but rendered mute through divine intercession. This makes it like a little forecast, a miniature play-acted version of the miraculous healings that will soon follow.

What Zechariah is learning and showing is that the normal course of things–the laws of nature and the laws of custom alike–stands as the background against which extraordinary events and miracles have meaning.

If the Jews hadn’t faithfully maintained the practice of naming babies after relatives, it would not mean anything that this baby is named John. If it were not regularly the case that elderly women don’t give birth and mute men don’t usually gain the power of speech, the fact that it is happening now would not be a thauma, a significant happening which breaks the usual course of event and points to higher meaning.

In this sense Zechariah is learning the difference between grammar and poetry: he loses the power of speech because he must learn the nature of meaning, that it comes not from the regular but against the backdrop of the regular. He thought that nothing could break the law of nature. Now he sees that the laws of nature are there so that when they are suspended, we may recognize the presence of God.

The backdrop of law is what makes miracles meaningful: it is because these occurrences break the usual course of things that the people are not simply astonished by them but enraptured, set thinking what will happen and what it will mean. In a world with no rules all events are meaningless, carrying with them no significance beyond the mere fact of themselves. In this world–the highly structured world of physics and custom–every deviation carries with it thunderous significance.

Young Heretics Advent Calendar 12/13
We are reaching the heart of the season now. This week will be Zechariah’s prophecy (now that his mouth has been opened!) and next week will be the nativity story itself.

I love that our little project has sort of taken its own shape week by week: we had the annunciation, then Mary’s visit to Elizabeth with the Magnificat, now Zechariah, then the birth. Didn’t plan it that way but there you go!

Luke 1:67-68 in Greek:

67Καὶ Ζαχαρίας ὁ πατὴρ αὐτοῦ ἐπλήσθη πνεύματος ἁγίου καὶ ἐπροφήτευσεν λέγων, 68Εὐλογητὸς κύριος ὁ θεὸς τοῦ Ἰσραήλ, ὅτι ἐπεσκέψατο καὶ ἐποίησεν λύτρωσιν τῷ λαῷ αὐτοῦ

And my translation:

“Then Zechariah his father was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying: ‘blessed be the Lord, the god of Israel, he that looked down and made a ransom for his people.'”

This prophetic song, which we’ll be translating together all week, is called the Benedictus–once again, the name comes from the Latin version of the first word. Eulogētos=Benedictus=blessed.

All three of the songs, or canticles, from Luke 1-2 feature prominently in traditional Christian worship services (this is why each is known by its Latin opening, or “incipit”). The first, which we have read already, is the Magnificat. The third is the Nunc Dimittis, a song which the old man Simeon sings when Christ is presented in the temple eight days after his birth.

Both the Magnificat and the Nunc Dimittis are traditionally recited or sung during evening prayer (in the Anglican Church) or vespers (in the Catholic Church). But This middle song–Zechariah’s “Benedictus”–is a morning song, sung at morning prayer (Anglicans) or Lauds (Catholics).

This is a song of the daybreak, of dawn’s first light. It culminates in a famous line, which I could never translate better than it has already been rendered in English: “in the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us.”

That sense of beginning is reflected in this first sentence, about the “lutrōsis,” or ransom, of Israel. Typically God’s “ransom” refers to the extreme lengths to which he will go to save or rescue his people. “I give Egypt as your ransom,” says God at Isaiah 43:3, clearly referring to the exodus or liberation from slavery in Egypt.

Zechariah is reaching back to the very beginning of Israel’s journey, the inaugural story of their formation as a people, and identifying this moment with that one. This is the dawn, he says, of a new age–when God will once again set his people free at enormous cost.

Young Heretics Advent Calendar 12/14
Here are the next few lines of Zechariah’s Benedictus (from Luke 1:69-70) in Greek:

69καὶ ἤγειρεν κέρας σωτηρίας ἡμῖν ἐν οἴκῳ Δαυὶδ παιδὸς αὐτοῦ, 70καθὼς ἐλάλησεν διὰ στόματος τῶν ἁγίων ἀπ’ αἰῶνος προφητῶν αὐτοῦ

“He raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David his son, as he said through the mouth of his holy prophets from ages past.”

This is the second use of the word “pais,” meaning either “child” or “servant,” that has occurred in Luke 1. The previous one was in Mary’s Magnificat, referring to the nation of Israel as the cherished dependent of God’s household. The next time the word occurs, it will refer to Jesus himself. Now it is David, founder-king of Jerusalem’s monarchy, whose house is the house of Israel and of Christ.

So far as I can tell, no one has yet realized explicitly that the child who is coming will be God himself. What they are discerning, though, is that the whole of God’s relationship to man will be gathered up into this one boy: when God ransomed Israel from Egypt, he claimed the people as his firstborn son. When God anointed David, he set an earthly ruler over the people who would stand in for them all as monarch. Now he is bringing forth another child in the same line, who will be the ultimate embodiment of all that humanity is in relation to God.

The finality of the thing is suggested by the long line of prophets that goes before it: this is what they were all waiting for, what everything was leading up to. The great and mighty savior will be, in a very real sense, the most childlike among us, the one most totally descended from God. Humanity has always been in relation to God like a child in relation to a father: utterly dependent and lavishly adored. Now, though no one yet realizes it, God himself will become in relation to humanity as humanity has been in relation to God: vulnerable, infant, and newborn. The last revelation is that God, who is eternally his people’s father, joins forever in communion with his children as the son.

Hi friends! First of all, I have to apologize–I thought I had posted the latest Young Heretics Advent Calendar, but then I went back and found it half-autosaved in drafts. Sad! I hope you haven’t felt too deprived.

To make up for it, here’s a big chunk with miscellaneous comments. This will get us back up to speed. Luke 1:70-77:

70καθὼς ἐλάλησεν διὰ στόματος τῶν ἁγίων ἀπ’ αἰῶνος προφητῶν αὐτοῦ, 71σωτηρίαν ἐξ ἐχθρῶν ἡμῶν καὶ ἐκ χειρὸς πάντων τῶν μισούντων ἡμᾶς: 72ποιῆσαι ἔλεος μετὰ τῶν πατέρων ἡμῶν καὶ μνησθῆναι διαθήκης ἁγίας αὐτοῦ, 73ὅρκον ὃν ὤμοσεν πρὸς Ἀβραὰμ τὸν πατέρα ἡμῶν, τοῦ δοῦναι ἡμῖν 74ἀφόβως ἐκ χειρὸς ἐχθρῶν ῥυσθέντας λατρεύειν αὐτῷ 75ἐν ὁσιότητι καὶ δικαιοσύνῃ ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ πάσαις ταῖς ἡμέραις ἡμῶν. 76Καὶ σὺ δέ, παιδίον, προφήτης ὑψίστου κληθήσῃ, προπορεύσῃ γὰρ ἐνώπιον κυρίου ἑτοιμάσαι ὁδοὺς αὐτοῦ, 77τοῦ δοῦναι γνῶσιν σωτηρίας τῷ λαῷ αὐτοῦ ἐν ἀφέσει ἁμαρτιῶν αὐτῶν.

And my translation:

“As he said through the mouth of his holy prophets from ages past: salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all those that hate us, to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to Abraham our father, to deliver us fearless from the hands of our enemies, rescued, to serve him in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life.
And you, child, will be called prophet of the most high. For you will go before the Lord and prepare his pathways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the erasure of all their sins.”

A curious thing, first of all, about the word “diathēkē”–a word I’ve translated here as “covenant.” It’s a Greek version of the Hebrew word, “b’rit,” which you may have seen in the names of various Synagogues. It means a binding contract or agreement, something two people or parties swear to. In greek the etymology is literally that which you “put between” you and the other party: it’s the relationship that emerges between you in spirit and in law when you swear an oath.

So the Covenant God is remembering here is the promise of God to Abraham, as Zechariah says: this is the vow God made to the Jewish people that salvation would come through them, that they would be his, and he theirs. It’s also why we talk about marriage as a covenant too: in the original meaning of the word, any kind of binding lifelong agreement between two people qualified. So God’s promise to Abraham is a little like a marriage between himself and his chosen people.

That is of course the imagery that is famously revived in the letter to the Ephesians. Because later on in Luke, at the Last Supper, Jesus will say “this cup is the new covenant in my blood” (touto to potērion hē kainē diathēkē en tō haimati mou). When Jesus goes to the cross he both renews the old promise and expands it out to the whole world: the blood of Cross is a promissory note, a marriage license, an agreement between God and the whole human race that sins are forgiven and salvation offered to those who repent.

Now here’s the last thing I’ll say: the word diathēkē can also be translated as “testament,” as in “last will and testament.” Because a will is also a binding document, an agreement in which you “testify” to your official desires after your death.

And so our English terms “Old Testament” and “New Testament” are actually translations of the Greek titles: palaia diathēkē and kainē diathēkē. The old covenant and the new.

For Christians, the whole Bible is just the sum total of God’s two promissory notes, the description and depiction and realization of all he has promised to us throughout time. In the stories of Israel’s history, in the four narratives of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, in the recorded birth and flourishing of the young Christian church, we find recorded the sum total of what God vows in his marriage with us.

And it is just this: “to deliver us fearless from the hands of our enemies, rescued, to serve him in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life. ” As he swore to our father Abraham, and his people after him, and in Christ to every one of us, each day of our lives and until the last syllable of recorded time, world without end, amen.

PS Okay I lied: I have one more thing to say. I’ve translated “forgiveness” (aphesis) as “erasure” here. That’s because the Gospels’ word for forgiveness is a distinct word, “aphiēmi.” It literally means “I send away.”

There is another Greek word for forgiveness which the Gospels do not use: sungignōskō. That word means “I understand with you. I get why you did what you did.”

But aphesis is more total than that: it means you may not understand it at all, but still, you let it go. As far as the east is from the west, so far does aphesis separate sin from sinner. Erasure is my way of capturing the total obliteration of sin that happens when God forgives us, totally and without blemish or stain.

Young Heretics Advent Calendar 12/18
Here are the most famous words in Zechariah’s song, first in Greek:

78διὰ σπλάγχνα ἐλέους θεοῦ ἡμῶν, ἐν οἷς ἐπισκέψεται ἡμᾶς ἀνατολὴ ἐξ ὕψους, 79ἐπιφᾶναι τοῖς ἐν σκότει καὶ σκιᾷ θανάτου καθημένοις, τοῦ κατευθῦναι τοὺς πόδας ἡμῶν εἰς ὁδὸν εἰρήνης.

And in my translation:

“Through the tender mercy of our God, in which the dawn from on high will shine down upon us, giving light to those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet down the straight road of peace.”

As I said earlier, I could never translate this first sentence better than its glorious liturgical rendering: “In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us.” But I do want to make a couple notes about the untranslatable aspects of this passage.

“splangchna” is a wonderful word. It means “guts,” or “innards”–specifically perhaps the kidneys or the lungs–but just like our “gut” it can come to mean “inmost feelings.” Like when we say “I feel it in my gut.”

So the phrase here that is translated as “tender compassion” is actually “the guts of mercy” of our God. It indicates not just an abstract sense of pity but a profound fellow felling, the kind that hits you deep in your heart and belly. That’s why the church calls it “tender”–tender not just in the abstract but as a wound is tender, or an open sore.

Throughout Jesus’ life the gospels use a verb, “splangchizō,” which means to be stricken with compassion in the pit of your gut. Besides the incredibly satisfying and squishy sound of the word, it’s an amazing way the text has of conveying the profoundly felt anguish with which Jesus responded to human sorrow.

And beyond that it’s an acknowledgement of the body as more than matter: we feel things most deeply not when they float in some pure ether, but when they hit us almost bodily, when pity or fear or joy run palpably through our veins or into our guts. In those moments body and soul are in union, the flesh living out what the spirit experiences.

If the incarnation means anything it means spirit is at home in flesh. We talk in modern terms as if our feelings are just chemical reactions–a dopamine hit here, a serotonin rush there. But it’s the opposite way around. The dopamine and the adrenaline and the serotonin, the catch in the chest and the pit of the stomach, the flutter of the heart–these are bodily manifestations of spiritual realities, the soul of us governing our biology.

We are made in God’s image entirely: not merely some disembodied aspect of us but all of us, body and soul, spirit and flesh, mercy and guts. It is what we are because it is what he is.

Young Heretics Advent Calendar 12/19
Just a quick one-liner on this Sabbath day to bring us up to speed and into Luke 2…next week is the nativity story, but today it’s Luke 1:80, in Greek:

80Τὸ δὲ παιδίον ηὔξανεν καὶ ἐκραταιοῦτο πνεύματι, καὶ ἦν ἐν ταῖς ἐρήμοις ἕως ἡμέρας ἀναδείξεως αὐτοῦ πρὸς τὸν Ἰσραήλ.

And in my translation:

“And the child grew up strong in the spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his revelation to Israel.”

This is probably the last we’ll see John this Advent–waiting in the wilderness until Jesus comes forth for baptism. The first part of the sentence is a stock phrase–we often hear of someone that they “grew up and grew strong”–which speaks to our conversation during office hours about the hero’s journey. That pattern which Campbell recognized in the legends of the world is a recurring theme of traditional stories because it’s a basic pattern of life. The hero comes of age, reaches maturity, and waits for something–he knows not yet

Young Heretics Advent Calendar 12/20
1 ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις ἐξῆλθεν δόγμα παρὰ καίσαρος αὐγούστου ἀπογράφεσθαι πᾶσαν τὴν οἰκουμένην. 2 αὕτη ἀπογραφὴ πρώτη ἐγένετο ἡγεμονεύοντος τῆς συρίας κυρηνίου.

“Then it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus to have the whole citizenry registered. This first census took place when Quirinius was governor of Syria.”

The decree went out from Caesar over all the civilized world—over everywhere that was “oikoumenē”—inhabited. The households of the empire were to be registered, and for that they must go to their ancestral home.

We think of this as a command for purpose of taxation, but it was more total than that: Augustus wanted everybody accounted for, known about, controlled. He was looking for the kind of knowledge Facebook gathers about its users: where they’re from, where they are, what they do. The kind of things a god would know about his creation.

And yet the story this season is about what Caesar didn’t know, what he didn’t even think to look for. He would have been concerned about a potential threat to his power, any rival king or local challenger. But all his vast administrative apparatus had no way of accounting for the possibility that the prophecies of a tiny tribal kingdom in the remote East might actually come true.

Every algorithm, every system, every government, becomes complete by shutting out some possibilities. Kings and princes make their power total by closing off avenues of escape, by eliminating outside possibilities. The route God chose into the world was simply to be one such unexpected event, to come in a way Caesar couldn’t see because he simply didn’t conceive of it as the kind of thing that happens.

Christmas is the season of the glitch in the system, the unpredicted outcome, the unlooked for hope. It is the risk that Dr. Fauci can’t prevent, the variable that Zuckerberg won’t calculate, the birth that Caesar hadn’t accounted for. It is the salvation that will come whether you like it or not.

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before”: that though he had locked away every predictable sign of the season, “he hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming. It came,” bursting like a flood through a dam or a child through the birth canal. You can’t escape this gift, whether you wish you could or fear you already have.

Young Heretics Advent Calendar 12/21
3καὶ ἐπορεύοντο πάντες ἀπογράφεσθαι, ἕκαστος εἰς τὴν ἑαυτοῦ πόλιν. 4Ἀνέβη δὲ καὶ Ἰωσὴφ ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας ἐκ πόλεως Ναζαρὲθ εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν εἰς πόλιν Δαυὶδ ἥτις καλεῖται Βηθλέεμ, διὰ τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν ἐξ οἴκου καὶ πατριᾶς Δαυίδ, 5ἀπογράψασθαι σὺν Μαριὰμ τῇ ἐμνηστευμένῃ αὐτῷ, οὔσῃ ἐγκύῳ.

“Everyone went to be registered, each one to his own city. And Joseph went up from Galilee from the city of David into Judea, into the city of David which is called Bethlehem–on account of his being from the house and lineage of David–to be registered with Mary, who was betrothed to him, while she was pregnant.”

They went from Galilee to Judea, from Nazareth to Bethlehem: a journey south. The Greek says they went “up” (anebē), which must refer to the climb in elevation: the city of David is a mountain city, in the hills of Judea near Jerusalem, where the king was once a shepherd.

The Lord anointed David king through Samuel, who was sent to Bethlehem in search of a ruler for Israel. Samuel found David there among the sheep, handsome and ruddy-faced but young and humble. He did not look to human eyes like a king.

Joseph goes back to his ancestral homeland, the place where the royal line began, because it is where he can be identified as the descendant of that line. The long years of civil war and exile and conquest that have intervened between David’s days and Joseph’s have not erased the record of where he comes from: they have enriched it.

With every passing year the name of David and of Bethlehem takes on more weight and significance. Joseph comes now to gather up all that history and meaning into his own family, his own life, again in a manner invisible to the eyes of men.

We go home too, for the holidays, and for much the same reason: because we think it matters where we came from, and because it matters more, not less, now that we have left. Not for nothing is the Christmas season a season of nostalgia: living in the present as we do, we feel the loss of the past keenly when we are reminded of it.

But in God’s mind the past is not lost: it is only layered underneath the present, hundreds and thousands of years lacquered onto one another until the picture is complete. The experience of year on year reveals to us what the past really meant better than we understood when we lived through it.

When we grieve the mother who once watched us tear presents open under the tree, we see her more fully in our pain than we did as a child. Looking at her with adult eyes through the lens of passing time, we see the whole woman: mortal, chaste, faltering, beloved.

The moment of Jesus’ birth is a position in time from which all history looks uniquely blessed: from the perspective of this moment the fall of Eve is seen for the prelude it was and the cross is seen as the culminating sacrifice it will be. And somewhere back through the distance of a thousand years we see the shepherd boy waiting to be crowned king, father and precursor and symbol of the king who agreed to die for his sheep.

Young Heretics Advent Calendar: John Special
In our reading of Luke we have actually reached the point at which Jesus is to be born. But we still have a few days of Advent contemplation, and so in these days of reverent silence I’m going to add in some of the mysteries in John’s Gospel, Chapter 1. Here are verses 1-5:

1Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. 2οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν. 3πάντα δι’ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν. ὃ γέγονεν 4ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων: 5καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν.

And my translation:

“At the foundation was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. This was at the foundation with God. Everything was coming into being through him, and without him not one thing was coming into being. What came into being in him was life, and the life was the light of mankind: and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”

Among John’s many achievements as a mystic is his careful manipulation of verb tenses. In the transition between verses 3 and 4 something very profound happens: the continuous past tense (imperfect, egeneto) switches to the completed past tense (aorist, gegonen). In other words we go from “was coming into being” to “came into being.”

In Greek, as in English, we distinguish between events of ongoing duration (I was eating a sandwich) and events of definite duration (I ate a sandwich). Crucially, that doesn’t mean we’re necessarily describing two different actions so much as describing the same action in different ways.

Here John tells us how it was “in the beginning,” that is, at the very foundation of time. As Augustine reminds us in Book 11 of the Confessions, this does not mean that God was somehow living this way “before” time started, since there is no such thing as “before” time. Instead we are talking here about the context within which time takes place: God is, and God creates, at every moment. But God is not circumscribed by the sum total of all moments: he exists in a way not bound by time.

So it is that the divine creativity is eternal and ongoing: “everything was coming into being” through the word, and nothing that was coming into being was anything other than the action of the word. But “what came into being” was life: the creation of life brings a dimension of time into being, so that we can switch from the ongoing past to the definite past.

We live in time, but what is expressing itself in time is timeless: God’s eternal activity of creation finds expression in the finite moments of our lives, and in the concrete here and now where Christ is born. What was in the beginning and beyond all time is also what is here and now, at that moment and in this moment, born again with every passing second because all seconds are contained within it.

In Proverbs chapter 8 Wisdom declares that she was poured forth at the foundation of the world: It is in God’s nature to express, and what he expresses is the excellence of himself. In Christ we have in miniature what is constantly going on across the whole canvas of the heavens, the declaration of the unchanging glory of God whose world is truly without end.

Young Heretics Advent Calendar 12/23
As I mentioned on Twitter, I’m going to go dark for a couple days as I prepare for the holiday with my family. I hope you get a chance to do the same, and I hope that this advent calendar has been useful to you in your preparations–wherever you are at this moment vis-a-vis the church.

I’m enormously grateful for all of you, and I can’t wait for what the new year will bring. I’ll be back after the holiday itself to check in and say hi, and I’ve enjoyed doing these commentaries so much that I might have to keep them up after the 25th. But for now I wanted just to leave you with these few verses on the birth of Christ itself. Luke 2:6-7:

6ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ εἶναι αὐτοὺς ἐκεῖ ἐπλήσθησαν αἱ ἡμέραι τοῦ τεκεῖν αὐτήν, 7καὶ ἔτεκεν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς τὸν πρωτότοκον: καὶ ἐσπαργάνωσεν αὐτὸν καὶ ἀνέκλινεν αὐτὸν ἐν φάτνῃ, διότι οὐκ ἦν αὐτοῖς τόπος ἐν τῷ καταλύματι.

My translation:

“It happened that while they were there, the time came for her to have her baby. And she gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She swaddled him and laid him in a manger, since there was no lodging or place for them elsewhere.”

It seems almost anticlimactic, after all this time and all this journey we’ve had together, just these two lines. But then I think anticlimax is sort of the point of this season. When something looks inconsequential in the eyes of the world, that is when God is working.

At the crucial moment, Luke uses the perfect verb: “eplēsthēsan.” The days of Mary’s pregnancy “were fulfilled”: her time came, and so did God’s. It is the same verb we use for the fulfillment of prophecy and the fulfillment of the law–the pregnancy has come to its natural conclusion, and history too has come to a moment of ripeness. Now is the time.

I think we often miss things of great consequence because they are “ordinary”: something your child is trying to say to you, or a look your lover gives you, or a casual remark that someone drops about his pain. We forget that when the Bible describes miracles of enormous consequence, it does not always do so with fanfare or explosions. It doesn’t always look like magic, the way we think of it: sometimes the ordinary unfolding of human life and the supernatural fulfillment of God’s plan are one and the same.

These are two ways of looking at the same thing, two kinds of fulfillment in one moment: the natural and normal process of giving birth, the supernatural and world-changing revelation of all prophecy and scripture. They are layered onto one another, they are in union, they are one. Once you see, you can’t unsee: everything is like this.

The small ministry of love you perform in the street for a hungry man; the day you finally break down and pray; the triumph of the heavens and the singing of angels: there is no distinction between these things. For unto us a son is born, quiet and obscure, into poverty, and under his heel death will die, and by his wounds we will be healed.

We may consider most of our days quite ordinary; God does not. He assigns to them such consequence that he himself was born and died, and because of that there are no small moments or ordinary lives. Instead there is this baby, born an outcast and wrapped up in a manger, given to you for the forgiveness of sin. And the life that he brings is from everlasting, a sign of high favor, a thing of wonder even to the angels. Of his kingdom, there will be no end.

Religious Studies

The Magnificat – Luke 1:46-55

Luke 1:46-55

46And Mary said, My soul does magnify the Lord,For the Virgin, with lofty thoughts and deep penetration, contemplates the boundless mystery, the further she advances, magnifying God; And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord.
47And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.The soul of Mary therefore magnifies the Lord, and her spirit rejoiced in God, because with soul and spirit devoted to the Father and the Son, she worships with a pious affection the one God from whom are all things. But let every one have the spirit of Mary, so that he may rejoice in the Lord. If according to the flesh there is one mother of Christ, yet, according to faith, Christ is the fruit of all. For every soul receives the word of God if only he be unspotted and free from sin, and preserves it with unsullied purity.
48 For he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. In the following words she teaches us how worthless she felt of herself and that she received by the heavenly grace that was lavished on her every sort of good merit that she had. She says, “For he has considered the humility of his handmaid. For behold from this time on all generations will call me blessed.” She demonstrates that in her own judgment she was indeed Christ’s humble handmaid, but with respect to heavenly grace she pronounces herself all at once lifted up and glorified to such a degree that rightly her preeminent blessedness would be marveled at by the voices of all nations.
49 For he that is mighty has done to me great things; and holy is his name. But this has reference to the beginning of the hymn, where it is said, My soul dot magnify the Lord. For that soul can alone magnify the Lord with due praise, for whom hedeigns to do mighty things. For in the height of His marvelous power He is far beyond every creature, and is widely removed from all the works of His hands. This is better understood in the Greek tongue, in which the very word which means holy, signifies as it were to be; apart from the earth. For in the height of His marvelous power He is far beyond every creature, and is widely removed from all the works of His hands. This is better understood in the Greek tongue, in which the very word which means holy, signifies as it were to be apart from the earth.
50 And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. She adds, more clearly, “And his mercy is for generations and generations to those who fear him.” She names “generations and generations,” referring either to both of the two peoples, namely, the Jews and the Gentiles, or alternatively to all the countries throughout the world which she foresaw would believe in Christ. For, as Peter said, “God is not a respecter of persons, but in every nation one who fears him and works justice is acceptable to him.”
51 He has showed strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. Or she says, Has shown, for will show strength; not as long ago by the hand of Moses against the Egyptians, nor as by the Angel, (when he slew many thousand of the rebel Assyrians,) nor by any other instrument save His own power, He openly triumphed, overcoming spiritual enemies. Hence it follows, he has scattered that is to say, every heart that was puffed up and not obedient to His coming He has laid bare, and exposed the wickedness of their proud thoughts. 
52 He has put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. Great used to he the haughtiness of these demons whom He scattered, and of the devil, and of the Greek sages, as I said, and of the Pharisees and Scribes. But He put them down, and exalted those who had humbled themselves under their mighty hand, “having given them authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy:” and made the plots against us of these haughty-minded beings of none effect. The Jews, moreover, once gloried in their empire, but were stripped of it for their unbelief; whereas the Gentiles. who were obscure and of no note, were for their faith’s sake exalted.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he has sent empty away. These words regulate our conduct even with respect to sensible things, teaching the uncertainty of all worldly possessions, which are as short lived as the wave which is dashed about to and fro by the violence of the wind. But spiritually all mankind suffered hunger except the Jews; for they possessed the treasures of legal tradition and the teachings of the holy prophets. But because they did not rest humbly on the Incarnate Word they were sent away empty, carrying nothing with them neither faith nor knowledge, and were bereft of the hope of good things, being shut out both of the earthly Jerusalem and the life to come. But those of the Gentiles, who were roughs low by hunger and thirst, because they clung to the Lord, were filled with spiritual goods.
54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; It might also be applied to Israel after the flesh, seeing that out of that body multitudes believed. But this he did remembering His mercy, for He has fulfilled what he promised to Abraham, saying, For in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. This promise then the mother of God called to mind, saying, As he spoke to out father Abraham; for it was said to Abraham, I will place my covenant, that I shall be your God, and the God of your seed after you.
55 As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his descendants forever. When blessed Mary was making mention of the memory of the fathers, she properly represented them by naming Abraham in particular. Although many of the fathers and holy ones mystically brought forward testimony of the Lord’s incarnation, it was to Abraham that the hidden mysteries of this same Lord’s incarnation and of our redemption were first clearly predicted. Also, to him it was specifically said, “And in you all the tribes of the earth will be blessed.” None of the faithful doubts that this pertains to the Lord and Savior, who in order to give us an everlasting blessing deigned to come to us from the stock of Abraham. However, “the seed of Abraham” does not refer only to those chosen ones who were brought forth physically from Abraham’s lineage, but also to us…. Having been gathered together to Christ from the nations, we are connected by the fellowship of faith to the fathers, from whom we are far separated by the origin of our fleshly bloodline. We too are the seed and children of Abraham since we are reborn by the sacraments of our Redeemer, who assumed his flesh from the race of Abraham. 

Spencer Klavan’s translation and commentary of the Magnificat (originally posted on Young Heretics / Locals)

Here’s Luke 1:46-55 in Greek:

46 Καὶ εἶπεν Μαριάμ, Μεγαλύνει ἡ ψυχή μου τὸν κύριον,

47 καὶ ἠγαλλίασεν τὸ πνεῦμά μου ἐπὶ τῷ θεῷ τῷ σωτῆρί μου,

48 ὅτι ἐπέβλεψεν ἐπὶ τὴν ταπείνωσιν τῆς δούλης αὐτοῦ. ἰδοὺ γὰρ ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν μακαριοῦσίν με πᾶσαι αἱ γενεαί:

49 ὅτι ἐποίησέν μοι μεγάλα ὁ δυνατός, καὶ ἅγιον τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ

Klavan’s translation and commentary:

And Mary said, “my soul magnifies the LORD, and my spirit has gloried in God my savior. For he looked down from on high upon on the humility of his serving-girl, and see: from from this moment all generations will bless my name. For the mighty one has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”

Mary’s response to Elizabeth’s greeting is a song, a poem, a prophecy. It is called the “magnificat,” because that is the Latin translation of the first word in Greek: “Megalunei.” It means “magnifies” or “calls great”–my soul magnifies the LORD, sings Mary. What comes next is a single flawless composition, but I will divide it roughly here into three parts which I will translate over the course of three days. Mary sings about what God has done for her, for the world, and for the people of Israel.

First, she sings about herself: God has looked upon her “tapeinōsis,” a word referring to abject poverty and lowliness. It’s more than just lacking money: those who are “tapeinoi” lack all social standing, authority, and power. This is what God has looked on and seen in Mary: not just her position in the world but a spiritual sense of total submission and need.

Mary says, in effect, that this is why he has chosen her: he saw not only that she lacked money and social position, but that she considered herself that way in spirit, too. The outer poverty of her life was mirrored by an inward receptivity, a sense that she had nothing to offer God and God had everything to offer her. The irony is that sense of need is her offering: she knows she has nothing to give God, and so God is well pleased to receive her.

In this, as the rest of the song shows, Mary is a stand-in for all of humanity: those who are aware of themselves as beggars can give themselves to God and receive his favor. Those whom the world has taught to think of themselves as great must be brought low before they can have any hope of conversion. Mary’s name will be blessed for all generations because she is the one who knew fully that God’s name alone is blessed of itself.

Here’s Luke 1:50-53 in Greek:

50 καὶ τὸ ἔλεος αὐτοῦ εἰς γενεὰς καὶ γενεὰς τοῖς φοβουμένοις αὐτόν.

51 Ἐποίησεν κράτος ἐν βραχίονι αὐτοῦ, διεσκόρπισεν ὑπερηφάνους διανοίᾳ καρδίας αὐτῶν:

52 καθεῖλεν δυνάστας ἀπὸ θρόνων καὶ ὕψωσεν ταπεινούς,

53 πεινῶντας ἐνέπλησεν ἀγαθῶν καὶ πλουτοῦντας ἐξαπέστειλεν κενούς

Klavan’s translation and commentary:

“And his mercy endures from generation to generation for those who fear him. He has shown the strength of his arm, scattering the proud in the imagination of their hearts; he has tossed the mighty down from their thrones and exalted the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.”

The link between the first part of the Magnificat, which I translated yesterday, and this middle part, which I translate today, is God. Mary considers how God has treated her in her lowliness, and moves from there to reflect on what this reveals about God’s nature more generally, and how he treats the world.

The answer is: he inverts every power relation and thwarts every kind of self-regard to elevate those who think of themselves as little as possible. I love the phrase “dianoia tēs kardias autōn,” which means literally “in the thinking of their heart.” The translation I’ve given is the traditional one: proud rulers have grand designs “in the imagination of their hearts.”

It’s a perfect description of today’s ruling elites, their grand dreams to erase human nature, establish one world government, and rule over a digital world where all the rules are changed. Think of the metaverse, or Klaus Schwab in Davos, or COVID tyranny: these are all examples of “the proud” who imagine that they can remake the world in their own image by sheer force of will.

It’s encouraging to me to find those fantasies of world domination so perfectly described in just a few words from two thousand years ago, with a promise that it will all come to nothing. We may be surprised at how the kings of this world talk, at their arrogance and self-sure dreams of power. God is not.

Luke 1:54-6 in Greek:

54 ἀντελάβετο Ἰσραὴλ παιδὸς αὐτοῦ, μνησθῆναι ἐλέους,

55 καθὼς ἐλάλησεν πρὸς τοὺς πατέρας ἡμῶν, τῷ Ἀβραὰμ καὶ τῷ σπέρματι αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα.

56 Ἔμεινεν δὲ Μαριὰμ σὺν αὐτῇ ὡς μῆνας τρεῖς, καὶ ὑπέστρεψεν εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτῆς.

Klavan’s translation and commentary:

“‘He has taken the side of his child, Israel, remembering his mercy as he said to their fathers–to Abraham and his seed across every age.’ And Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months, and went back to her house.”

Often translations here will say “his servant Israel.” And it’s true that the Greek “pais” can mean “servant.” But it can also mean “child,” and that is also how God talks about the people of Israel. “Israel is my first-born son” (Exodus 4:22)–at the moment of ransom from Egypt, God tells his people that he will treat them corporately as a dependent in his household.

I think the connection here between “child” and “servant” underscores what I said earlier about Mary: that if she is a “slave” of the Lord it is in the ancient sense of a member of the household, and one destined to be adopted at that. As God once brought his people out of bondage, now he will bring them out of sin, because they are his and he will ransom them at a high price (compare Isaiah 43).

All of this also makes a connection between the whole nation of Israel and Jesus, both of whom are God’s son: Jesus himself will now do in his own life what Israel as a whole nation did in Egypt. He will go down into bondage, be ransomed by God, and set free. And just as Israel’s exodus from Egypt inaugurated an age of freedom for all those who were born afterward, Jesus’s victory over death will usher in generations and generations of adoption into God’s household.


Costa Rica SOTA Expedition After Action Report

From January 3 to January 9, I visited Costa Rica to go “play radio.” This article will summarize my experience, share some lessons learned, and highlight the success resulting from CW Academy training.

Around January of 2020, I researched a few options for international travel. My criteria required either reciprocal licensing or a pathway for foreign travelers to obtain an amateur radio license. My criteria also included a need for the destination to participate in the Summits on the Air (SOTA) award program. For those who don’t know, SOTA is an award program that grants points to “activators” who climb summits and make QSOs using portable equipment as well as to the “chasers” who contact the “activator.” For an activator, the program’s ultimate award is “Mountain Goat,” which requires 1000 points and typically takes several years to accomplish.

Although I initially planned on traveling to Japan, the country closed its borders to all foreign travelers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In June, I selected Costa Rica, which had measures for foreign visitors (including mandatory additional health insurance, health screening, rapid testing, and a few others). From June 2020 to January 2021, I closely monitored the US Embassy website and Costa Rican government messages about immigration, and surprisingly restrictions slightly relaxed over time. I simultaneously submitted the required paperwork to Sutel, the Costa Rican FCC, for callsign designators TI2, TI3, and TI5. The paperwork was very specific and required that I list each planned operating location, radio type, power, and antenna type, polarization, and gain. As a note for anyone planning on operating in Costa Rica or Costa Rican territories: submit your paperwork to Sutel as early as possible – 6 months is “cutting it close.” I’d recommend submission a year in advance to assist in navigating additional questions, corrections, and resubmission.

After my paperwork was submitted and my flight was booked, I contacted the Radio Club of Costa Rica (TI0RC) and the Asociacion Radioaficionados Cartago (TI0ARC). Both groups were familiar with SOTA and provided me with insights and a list of a few possible summits to explore. They graciously created a “What’s App” messaging group and contacted me regularly throughout my planning process. Using their recommendations, I visited sotl.as (the SOTA Atlas) and plotted my ​trip through the country. I concluded I could probably activate 2 summits per day, which would be feasible while fac-toring in drive time, available battery time, weather, and daylight hours.

In January 3, 2021, I landed in San Jose and met Luis Arias, and we immediately set out to activate two summits. This plan required a few modifications because of closed gates, area closures due to COVID-19, and access issues; however, we activated both Alto Indias and Cerro Frio within several hours. While Luis utilized a VHF HT, I used my Yaesu FT 891 and wire dipole to work CW on HF. As stations stacked up (Argentina, France, Maine, California, etc.) I called them out to Luis, who told me he would set up FT8 for some DX on his Icom 705. Our conversation quickly switched to the topic of CW.

The following day was definitely a trip highlight. I discovered the Turrialba Volcano was open for climbing with a guide. I was excited because Turrialba had been closed to all exploration for approximately 10 years due to volcanic activity. The only downside to climbing the volcano was that I was only authorized to transmit using an HT rather than a complete HF setup due to time restrictions at the summit. Regardless the hike up to 11,000 ft was literally breathtaking due to the scenery and lack of oxygen. I am proud to say that TI3LSK and I were the first to activate this particular summit, which would not have been possible even two weeks prior. After Turrialba, I summited Volcano Irazu, which was equally beautiful and a bit higher in elevation.

My true “DX” station CW learning experience happened on day 3. Conditions were excellent, and I began calling CQ on 20m atop Cerro Espiritu Santo. I received an avalanche of calls. The only time I remember being more mentally flooded was on my first attempt at activating a summit using CW. Fortunately, I practiced by using Morse Runner before my trip, and I was able to pick out pieces of callsigns. I discovered a few things that helped me.

Before I share my lessons learned, I need to point out that I made my first CW QSO around September 2019 and earned my CWops number in June of 2020. Although I know CW, I am not experienced in running as a station, let alone a DX station. While I have run a station on various SOTA summits, the last solar minimum helped create smaller pileups that were more manageable. Additionally, fewer stations are interested in working California than they would be working Costa Rica.

Given the above, here are my observations. First, managing a pileup with rhythmic and standardized responses makes things flow more smoothly. When chasers know what to expect from me on each transmission, the pileup naturally becomes more organized. I also found that when I used a “?” combined with a partial call, the situation would become worse vs. just returning a partial call. I concluded that a “?” sent in combination with anything leads some to send their callsign despite the question not applying to them; whereas, sending a partial call almost always restrained those I didn’t intend to work at the moment and allowed me to focus on the intended station. I also found that I needed to try and work the loudest stations first. I learned working a pileup is similar to peeling layers off an onion – and often, the more rare callsigns were hidden at the innermost layers. Most importantly, though, I realized that a DXpedition doesn’t require any-thing beyond the radio you bring with you because the best radio is the one you use. For me, 100w and a wire worked out just fine.

I lastly decided that next time I travel, I will probably not plan on activating a large number of summits; rather, I will choose one or two and spend more time on the summit working all bands and making contacts. My purpose for this trip was a SOTA DXpedition to earn points toward the Mountain Goat award. I met that goal at the expense of rushing through the actual QSO phase. I earned points but made fewer contacts than I could have. By my next trip, I will have the Mountain Goat award, and making points will be secondary to making QSOs and generating a full logbook.

On my final day in Costa Rica, I met with the TI0ARC at a local bar. I was surprised when they presented me with an award they created, congratulating me on a successful SOTA Expedition. I was additionally told that TI3LSK registered for the next available CW Academy Basic course and encouraged fellow club members to do the same.

Although I could write a detailed log describing each day, in summary, I activated 9 different summits, including 2 volcanoes. I made contacts with stations across the United States, Germany, Spain, France, England, Czech Republic, Cuba, Sweden, Argentina, Canada, Costa Rica, and a few others. In total, I added 76 points to my SOTA score, bringing my total up to 908 (as of the day I write this). I drove several hundred miles and met many incredible people. I walked away with many new experiences, great memories, and excitement to do something similar in the future. I also realized my trip was a testament to the CW Academy program. I will forever be grateful for the time NN7M and K6RB put into teaching me proper code. It has made all the difference for me.

Before I close, I wanted to share one point of comedy during my trip. Costa Rica has a saying, “Pura Vida,” which means “pure life” but is more of a way of life than anything. The term can apply to bad situations you can’t help equally to the beautiful and amazing. On one of the last days of my trip, I was driving from a summit I had just activated toward the next village. Roads in Costa Rica are mediocre at best and terrible at worst, but I rented a 4×4 for that reason. While driving down a hill, the road transitioned from paved to dirt, to overgrown, and finally to muddy. Needless to say, I quickly became stuck to the point that I had my back right tire suspended in the air. Given the situation and my inability to self-recover, I hiked approximately 3 miles back into the town came from. Thankfully my Spanish helped me find someone who owned a tow truck, and we returned to my vehicle. While we were at work recovering my vehicle, a local who was walking by stopped and lectured me in Spanish, saying, “We have a hard time walking down this road; what makes you think you can drive down this!?” Pura Vida? Pura Vida.

Religious Studies

The Syllabus of Errors

Author: Pope Pius IX


Pope Pius IX


1. There exists no Supreme, all-wise, all-provident Divine Being, distinct from the universe, and God is identical with the nature of things, and is, therefore, subject to changes. In effect, God is produced in man and in the world, and all things are God and have the very substance of God, and God is one and the same thing with the world, and, therefore, spirit with matter, necessity with liberty, good with evil, justice with injustice.—Allocution “Maxima quidem,” June 9, 1862.

2. All action of God upon man and the world is to be denied.—Ibid.

3. Human reason, without any reference whatsoever to God, is the sole arbiter of truth and falsehood, and of good and evil; it is law to itself, and suffices, by its natural force, to secure the welfare of men and of nations.—Ibid.

4. All the truths of religion proceed from the innate strength of human reason; hence reason is the ultimate standard by which man can and ought to arrive at the knowledge of all truths of every kind.—Ibid. and Encyclical “Qui pluribus,” Nov. 9, 1846, etc.

5. Divine revelation is imperfect, and therefore subject to a continual and indefinite progress, corresponding with the advancement of human reason.—Ibid.

6. The faith of Christ is in opposition to human reason and divine revelation not only is not useful, but is even hurtful to the perfection of man.—Ibid.

7. The prophecies and miracles set forth and recorded in the Sacred Scriptures are the fiction of poets, and the mysteries of the Christian faith the result of philosophical investigations. In the books of the Old and the New Testament there are contained mythical inventions, and Jesus Christ is Himself a myth.


8. As human reason is placed on a level with religion itself, so theological must be treated in the same manner as philosophical sciences.—Allocution “Singulari quadam,” Dec. 9, 1854.

9. All the dogmas of the Christian religion are indiscriminately the object of natural science or philosophy, and human reason, enlightened solely in an historical way, is able, by its own natural strength and principles, to attain to the true science of even the most abstruse dogmas; provided only that such dogmas be proposed to reason itself as its object.—Letters to the Archbishop of Munich, “Gravissimas inter,” Dec. 11, 1862, and “Tuas libenter,” Dec. 21, 1863.

10. As the philosopher is one thing, and philosophy another, so it is the right and duty of the philosopher to subject himself to the authority which he shall have proved to be true; but philosophy neither can nor ought to submit to any such authority.—Ibid., Dec. 11, 1862.

11. The Church not only ought never to pass judgment on philosophy, but ought to tolerate the errors of philosophy, leaving it to correct itself.—Ibid., Dec. 21, 1863.

12. The decrees of the Apostolic See and of the Roman congregations impede the true progress of science.—Ibid.

13. The method and principles by which the old scholastic doctors cultivated theology are no longer suitable to the demands of our times and to the progress of the sciences.—Ibid.

14. Philosophy is to be treated without taking any account of supernatural revelation.—Ibid.


15. Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true.—Allocution “Maxima quidem,” June 9, 1862; Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10, 1851.

16. Man may, in the observance of any religion whatever, find the way of eternal salvation, and arrive at eternal salvation.—Encyclical “Qui pluribus,” Nov. 9, 1846.

17. Good hope at least is to be entertained of the eternal salvation of all those who are not at all in the true Church of Christ.—Encyclical “Quanto conficiamur,” Aug. 10, 1863, etc.

18. Protestantism is nothing more than another form of the same true Christian religion, in which form it is given to please God equally as in the Catholic Church.—Encyclical “Noscitis,” Dec. 8, 1849.


Pests of this kind are frequently reprobated in the severest terms in the Encyclical “Qui pluribus,” Nov. 9, 1846, Allocution “Quibus quantisque,” April 20, 1849, Encyclical “Noscitis et nobiscum,” Dec. 8, 1849, Allocution “Singulari quadam,” Dec. 9, 1854, Encyclical “Quanto conficiamur,” Aug. 10, 1863.


19. The Church is not a true and perfect society, entirely free- nor is she endowed with proper and perpetual rights of her own, conferred upon her by her Divine Founder; but it appertains to the civil power to define what are the rights of the Church, and the limits within which she may exercise those rights.—Allocution “Singulari quadam,” Dec. 9, 1854, etc.

20. The ecclesiastical power ought not to exercise its authority without the permission and assent of the civil government.—Allocution “Meminit unusquisque,” Sept. 30, 1861.

21. The Church has not the power of defining dogmatically that the religion of the Catholic Church is the only true religion.—Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10, 1851.

22. The obligation by which Catholic teachers and authors are strictly bound is confined to those things only which are proposed to universal belief as dogmas of faith by the infallible judgment of the Church.—Letter to the Archbishop of Munich, “Tuas libenter,” Dec. 21, 1863.

23. Roman pontiffs and ecumenical councils have wandered outside the limits of their powers, have usurped the rights of princes, and have even erred in defining matters of faith and morals.—Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10, 1851.

24. The Church has not the power of using force, nor has she any temporal power, direct or indirect.—Apostolic Letter “Ad Apostolicae,” Aug. 22, 1851.

25. Besides the power inherent in the episcopate, other temporal power has been attributed to it by the civil authority granted either explicitly or tacitly, which on that account is revocable by the civil authority whenever it thinks fit.—Ibid.

26. The Church has no innate and legitimate right of acquiring and possessing property.—Allocution “Nunquam fore,” Dec. 15, 1856; Encyclical “Incredibili,” Sept. 7, 1863.

27. The sacred ministers of the Church and the Roman pontiff are to be absolutely excluded from every charge and dominion over temporal affairs.—Allocution “Maxima quidem,” June 9, 1862.

28. It is not lawful for bishops to publish even letters Apostolic without the permission of Government.—Allocution “Nunquam fore,” Dec. 15, 1856.

29. Favours granted by the Roman pontiff ought to be considered null, unless they have been sought for through the civil government.—Ibid.

30. The immunity of the Church and of ecclesiastical persons derived its origin from civil law.—Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10, 1851.

31. The ecclesiastical forum or tribunal for the temporal causes, whether civil or criminal, of clerics, ought by all means to be abolished, even without consulting and against the protest of the Holy See.—Allocution “Nunquam fore,” Dec. 15, 1856; Allocution “Acerbissimum,” Sept. 27, 1852.

32. The personal immunity by which clerics are exonerated from military conscription and service in the army may be abolished without violation either of natural right or equity. Its abolition is called for by civil progress, especially in a society framed on the model of a liberal government.—Letter to the Bishop of Monreale “Singularis nobisque,” Sept. 29, 1864.

33. It does not appertain exclusively to the power of ecclesiastical jurisdiction by right, proper and innate, to direct the teaching of theological questions.—Letter to the Archbishop of Munich, “Tuas libenter,” Dec. 21, 1863.

34. The teaching of those who compare the Sovereign Pontiff to a prince, free and acting in the universal Church, is a doctrine which prevailed in the Middle Ages.—Apostolic Letter “Ad Apostolicae,” Aug. 22, 1851.

35. There is nothing to prevent the decree of a general council, or the act of all peoples, from transferring the supreme pontificate from the bishop and city of Rome to another bishop and another city.—Ibid.

36. The definition of a national council does not admit of any subsequent discussion, and the civil authority car assume this principle as the basis of its acts.—Ibid.

37. National churches, withdrawn from the authority of the Roman pontiff and altogether separated, can be established.—Allocution “Multis gravibusque,” Dec. 17, 1860.

38. The Roman pontiffs have, by their too arbitrary conduct, contributed to the division of the Church into Eastern and Western.—Apostolic Letter “Ad Apostolicae,” Aug. 22, 1851.


39. The State, as being the origin and source of all rights, is endowed with a certain right not circumscribed by any limits.—Allocution “Maxima quidem,” June 9, 1862.

40. The teaching of the Catholic Church is hostile to the well- being and interests of society.—Encyclical “Qui pluribus,” Nov. 9, 1846; Allocution “Quibus quantisque,” April 20, 1849.

41. The civil government, even when in the hands of an infidel sovereign, has a right to an indirect negative power over religious affairs. It therefore possesses not only the right called that of “exsequatur,” but also that of appeal, called “appellatio ab abusu.”—Apostolic Letter “Ad Apostolicae,” Aug. 22, 1851

42. In the case of conflicting laws enacted by the two powers, the civil law prevails.—Ibid.

43. The secular Dower has authority to rescind, declare and render null, solemn conventions, commonly called concordats, entered into with the Apostolic See, regarding the use of rights appertaining to ecclesiastical immunity, without the consent of the Apostolic See, and even in spite of its protest.—Allocution “Multis gravibusque,” Dec. 17, 1860; Allocution “In consistoriali,” Nov. 1, 1850.

44. The civil authority may interfere in matters relating to religion, morality and spiritual government: hence, it can pass judgment on the instructions issued for the guidance of consciences, conformably with their mission, by the pastors of the Church. Further, it has the right to make enactments regarding the administration of the divine sacraments, and the dispositions necessary for receiving them.—Allocutions “In consistoriali,” Nov. 1, 1850, and “Maxima quidem,” June 9, 1862.

45. The entire government of public schools in which the youth- of a Christian state is educated, except (to a certain extent) in the case of episcopal seminaries, may and ought to appertain to the civil power, and belong to it so far that no other authority whatsoever shall be recognized as having any right to interfere in the discipline of the schools, the arrangement of the studies, the conferring of degrees, in the choice or approval of the teachers.—Allocutions “Quibus luctuosissimis,” Sept. 5, 1851, and “In consistoriali,” Nov. 1, 1850.

46. Moreover, even in ecclesiastical seminaries, the method of studies to be adopted is subject to the civil authority.—Allocution “Nunquam fore,” Dec. 15, 1856.

47. The best theory of civil society requires that popular schools open to children of every class of the people, and, generally, all public institutes intended for instruction in letters and philosophical sciences and for carrying on the education of youth, should be freed from all ecclesiastical authority, control and interference, and should be fully subjected to the civil and political power at the pleasure of the rulers, and according to the standard of the prevalent opinions of the age.—Epistle to the Archbishop of Freiburg, “Cum non sine,” July 14, 1864.

48. Catholics may approve of the system of educating youth unconnected with Catholic faith and the power of the Church, and which regards the knowledge of merely natural things, and only, or at least primarily, the ends of earthly social life.—Ibid.

49. The civil power may prevent the prelates of the Church and the faithful from communicating freely and mutually with the Roman pontiff.—Allocution “Maxima quidem,” June 9, 1862.

50. Lay authority possesses of itself the right of presenting bishops, and may require of them to undertake the administration of the diocese before they receive canonical institution, and the Letters Apostolic from the Holy See.—Allocution “Nunquam fore,” Dec. 15, 1856.

51. And, further, the lay government has the right of deposing bishops from their pastoral functions, and is not bound to obey the Roman pontiff in those things which relate to the institution of bishoprics and the appointment of bishops.—Allocution “Acerbissimum,” Sept. 27, 1852, Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10, 1851.

52. Government can, by its own right, alter the age prescribed by the Church for the religious profession of women and men; and may require of all religious orders to admit no person to take solemn vows without its permission.—Allocution “Nunquam fore,” Dec. 15, 1856.

53. The laws enacted for the protection of religious orders and regarding their rights and duties ought to be abolished; nay, more, civil Government may lend its assistance to all who desire to renounce the obligation which they have undertaken of a religious life, and to break their vows. Government may also suppress the said religious orders, as likewise collegiate churches and simple benefices, even those of advowson and subject their property and revenues to the administration and pleasure of the civil power.—Allocutions “Acerbissimum,” Sept. 27, 1852; “Probe memineritis,” Jan. 22, 1855; “Cum saepe,” July 26, 1855.

54. Kings and princes are not only exempt from the jurisdiction of the Church, but are superior to the Church in deciding questions of jurisdiction.—Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10, 1851.

55. The Church ought to be separated from the .State, and the State from the Church.—Allocution “Acerbissimum,” Sept. 27, 1852.


56. Moral laws do not stand in need of the divine sanction, and it is not at all necessary that human laws should be made conformable to the laws of nature and receive their power of binding from God.—Allocution “Maxima quidem,” June 9, 1862.

57. The science of philosophical things and morals and also civil laws may and ought to keep aloof from divine and ecclesiastical authority.—Ibid.

58. No other forces are to be recognized except those which reside in matter, and all the rectitude and excellence of morality ought to be placed in the accumulation and increase of riches by every possible means, and the gratification of pleasure.—Ibid.; Encyclical “Quanto conficiamur,” Aug. 10, 1863.

59. Right consists in the material fact. All human duties are an empty word, and all human facts have the force of right.—Allocution “Maxima quidem,” June 9, 1862.

60. Authority is nothing else but numbers and the sum total of material forces.—Ibid.

61. The injustice of an act when successful inflicts no injury on the sanctity of right.—Allocution “Jamdudum cernimus,” March 18, 1861.

62. The principle of non-intervention, as it is called, ought to be proclaimed and observed.—Allocution “Novos et ante,” Sept. 28, 1860.

63. It is lawful to refuse obedience to legitimate princes, and even to rebel against them.—Encyclical “Qui pluribus,” Nov. 9, 1864; Allocution “Quibusque vestrum,” Oct. 4, 1847; “Noscitis et Nobiscum,” Dec. 8, 1849; Apostolic Letter “Cum Catholica.”

64. The violation of any solemn oath, as well as any wicked and flagitious action repugnant to the eternal law, is not only not blamable but is altogether lawful and worthy of the highest praise when done through love of country.—Allocution “Quibus quantisque,” April 20, 1849.


65. The doctrine that Christ has raised marriage to the dignity of a sacrament cannot be at all tolerated.—Apostolic Letter “Ad Apostolicae,” Aug. 22, 1851.

66. The Sacrament of Marriage is only a something accessory to the contract and separate from it, and the sacrament itself consists in the nuptial benediction alone.—Ibid.

67. By the law of nature, the marriage tie is not indissoluble, and in many cases divorce properly so called may be decreed by the civil authority.—Ibid.; Allocution “Acerbissimum,” Sept. 27, 1852.

68. The Church has not the power of establishing diriment impediments of marriage, but such a power belongs to the civil authority by which existing impediments are to be removed.—Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10, 1851.

69. In the dark ages the Church began to establish diriment impediments, not by her own right, but by using a power borrowed from the State.—Apostolic Letter “Ad Apostolicae,” Aug. 22, 1851.

70. The canons of the Council of Trent, which anathematize those who dare to deny to the Church the right of establishing diriment impediments, either are not dogmatic or must be understood as referring to such borrowed power.—Ibid.

71. The form of solemnizing marriage prescribed by the Council of Trent, under pain of nullity, does not bind in cases where the civil law lays down another form, and declares that when this new form is used the marriage shall be valid.

72. Boniface VIII was the first who declared that the vow of chastity taken at ordination renders marriage void.—Ibid.

73. In force of a merely civil contract there may exist between Christians a real marriage, and it is false to say either that the marriage contract between Christians is always a sacrament, or that there is no contract if the sacrament be excluded.—Ibid.; Letter to the King of Sardinia, Sept. 9, 1852; Allocutions “Acerbissimum,” Sept. 27, 1852, “Multis gravibusque,” Dec. 17, 1860.

74. Matrimonial causes and espousals belong by their nature to civil tribunals.—Encyclical “Qui pluribus,” Nov. 9 1846; Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10, 1851, “Ad Apostolicae,” Aug. 22, 1851; Allocution “Acerbissimum,” Sept. 27, 1852.


75. The children of the Christian and Catholic Church are divided amongst themselves about the compatibility of the temporal with the spiritual power.—”Ad Apostolicae,” Aug. 22, 1851.

76. The abolition of the temporal power of which the Apostolic See is possessed would contribute in the greatest degree to the liberty and prosperity of the Church.—Allocutions “Quibus quantisque,” April 20, 1849, “Si semper antea,” May 20, 1850.


77. In the present day it is no longer expedient that the Catholic religion should be held as the only religion of the State, to the exclusion of all other forms of worship.—Allocution “Nemo vestrum,” July 26, 1855.

78. Hence it has been wisely decided by law, in some Catholic countries, that persons coming to reside therein shall enjoy the public exercise of their own peculiar worship.—Allocution “Acerbissimum,” Sept. 27, 1852.

79. Moreover, it is false that the civil liberty of every form of worship, and the full power, given to all, of overtly and publicly manifesting any opinions whatsoever and thoughts, conduce more easily to corrupt the morals and minds of the people, and to propagate the pest of indifferentism.—Allocution “Nunquam fore,” Dec. 15, 1856.

80. The Roman Pontiff can, and ought to, reconcile himself, and come to terms with progress, liberalism and modern civilization.—Allocution “Jamdudum cernimus,” March 18, 1861.


The following paragraphs, although often appended to TheSyllabus, actually derive from the encyclical of 21 November 1873,  Etsi multa (On the Church in Italy, Germany, and Switzerland), by the same Holy Father, Pope Pius IX.

The faith teaches us and human reason demonstrates that a double order of things exists, and that we must therefore distinguish between the two earthly powers, the one of natural origin which provides for secular affairs and the tranquillity of human society, the other of supernatural origin, which presides over the City of God, that is to say the Church of Christ, which has been divinely instituted for the sake of souls and of eternal salvation…. The duties of this twofold power are most wisely ordered in such a way that to God is given what is God’s (Matt. 22:21), and because of God to Caesar what is Caesar’s, who is great because he is smaller than heaven. Certainly the Church has never disobeyed this divine command, the Church which always and everywhere instructs the faithful to show the respect which they should inviolably have for the supreme authority and its secular rights….

…. Venerable Brethren, you see clearly enough how sad and full of perils is the condition of Catholics in the regions of Europe which We have mentioned. Nor are things any better or circumstances calmer in America, where some regions are so hostile to Catholics that their governments seem to deny by their actions the Catholic faith they claim to profess. In fact, there, for the last few years, a ferocious war on the Church, its institutions and the rights of the Apostolic See has been raging…. Venerable Brothers, it is surprising that in our time such a great war is being waged against the Catholic Church. But anyone who knows the nature, desires and intentions of the sects, whether they be called masonic or bear another name, and compares them with the nature the systems and the vastness of the obstacles by which the Church has been assailed almost everywhere, cannot doubt that the present misfortune must mainly be imputed to the frauds and machinations of these sects. It is from them that the synagogue of Satan, which gathers its troops against the Church of Christ, takes its strength. In the past Our predecessors, vigilant even from the beginning in Israel, had already denounced them to the kings and the nations, and had condemned them time and time again, and even We have not failed in this duty. If those who would have been able to avert such a deadly scourge had only had more faith in the supreme Pastors of the Church! But this scourge, winding through sinuous caverns, . . . deceiving many with astute frauds, finally has arrived at the point where it comes forth impetuously from its hiding places and triumphs as a powerful master. Since the throng of its propagandists has grown enormously, these wicked groups think that they have already become masters of the world and that they have almost reached their pre-established goal. Having sometimes obtained what they desired, and that is power, in several countries, they boldly turn the help of powers and authorities which they have secured to trying to submit the Church of God to the most cruel servitude, to undermine the foundations on which it rests, to contaminate its splendid qualities; and, moreover, to strike it with frequent blows, to shake it, to overthrow it, and, if possible, to make it disappear completely from the earth. Things being thus, Venerable Brothers, make every effort to defend the faithful which are entrusted to you against the insidious contagion of these sects and to save from perdition those who unfortunately have inscribed themselves in such sects. Make known and attack those who, whether suffering from, or planning, deception, are not afraid to affirm that these shady congregations aim only at the profit of society, at progress and mutual benefit. Explain to them often and impress deeply on their souls the Papal constitutions on this subject and teach, them that the masonic associations are anathematized by them not only in Europe but also in America and wherever they may be in the whole world.

To the Archbishops and Bishops of Prussia concerning the situation of the Catholic Church faced with persecution by that Government….

But although they (the bishops resisting persecution) should be praised rather than pitied, the scorn of episcopal dignity, the violation of the liberty and the rights of the Church, the ill treatment which does not only oppress those dioceses, but also the others of the Kingdom of Prussia, demand that We, owing to the Apostolic office with which God has entrusted us in spite of Our insufficient merit, protest against laws which have produced such great evils and make one fear even greater ones; and as far as we are able to do so with the sacred authority of divine law, We vindicate for the Church the freedom which has been trodden underfoot with sacrilegious violence. That is why by this letter we intend to do Our duty by announcing openly to all those whom this matter concerns and to the whole Catholic world, that these laws are null and void because they are absolutely contrary to the divine constitution of the Church. In fact, with respect to matters which concern the holy ministry, Our Lord did not put the mighty of this century in charge, but Saint Peter, whom he entrusted not only with feeding his sheep, but also the goats; therefore no power in the world, however great it may be, can deprive of the pastoral office those whom the Holy Ghost has made Bishops in order to feed the Church of God.

Random Thoughts

President Lincoln proclaims official Thanksgiving holiday

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State