Vol. 1, Issue 6
December 16, 2006
Warm Advent season's greetings to everyone. Schola families, please note the news at the beginning of this issue. I've given names to most of the sections: the regular essay feature is "Cogitemus" ("let's ponder"), the star bit is "De Astris" ("about the stars"), the new quotes feature is "Sic Locutus" ("so he said"), and the church year section is "Anno Domini" ("in the year of our Lord"). Note the links to the SCHOLEGIUM archives at the end. I hope you find something to enjoy in today's bouquet of musings.
IN THIS ISSUE:
1) Schola news: Christmas Vacation; Registration for '07-'08
2) COGITEMUS: Living at the End of History
3) DE ASTRIS: The Jeweled Cross
4) ANNO DOMINI: Ember Days
5) SIC LOCUTUS: Seneca
NEWS ABOUT SCHOLA CLASSICAL TUTORIALS
1. Christmas Break:
Schola is now on Christmas and New Year's holiday. Classes will resume Monday, January 8, 2007.
2. Registration for next year coming soon:
In early or mid January registration for next year's (2007-2008) classes will open to current families. It's time to start thinking ahead! I do not automatically place students in the next level of their subject, so current families will need to tell me whether you want your child to continue, as well as whether you have younger children ready to start Schola classes. In mid-March registration opens to all, and from then on I cannot guarantee your child a space if the classes fill up.
LIVING AT THE END OF HISTORY
We live at the end of history. But so does everyone who has ever lived or ever will. If Charlemagne had drawn a timeline on a blackboard, where would the line have stopped? At his time, of course; so he lived at the end of history. If someone a thousand years from now draws a timeline, his will stop at his time and we will be somewhere along the line well before the end. He too will be living at the end of history.
Every ring in a tree trunk was once the outside edge, and what is outside today will be inside in a few years when there is a new outside that we do not yet see. In the same way, history is a living thing that is growing, with the present simply adding to it, like the tree whose outer layers are alive and grow and add to the tree's size, while the inner layers, though technically dead, still support the whole tree. History is a living, growing thing that nourishes us who are its outer edge and we depend on it for our life, just as the outer, living edge of the tree trunk depends on the inner "dead" layers for its support. History is a tree.
Time, like an everflowing stream, bears all its sons away (to quote a poet, one of our own) but not into nonexistence. The water in a river is borne away constantly, but not into nonexistence; it goes into that vast holding tank we call the ocean, which is a continuous living thing. In the same way, time bears all things into the great holding tank called history, which is a continously living and growing thing. History is an ocean.
We ought not to think of the past as dead, and only our time real, for when did history end and the present begin? Is yesterday history? Is this morning history? How about a minute ago? Are those part of history? The present moment is so fleeting, so evanescent, that it's meaningless; we do not really live only in the present moment, but rather we live in the present moment as the front edge of all our growing past experience which is our real life. Our experience, constantly, is made up of memory of what has gone before--a few seconds ago, five minutes ago, yesterday, fifty years ago, a thousand years ago.
If we remember to think this way, then all of history is part of our life, and though we experience the growing edge, we belong to all of the life of man; we are inhabitants not of the present moment which ceases to be present as soon as we're aware of it, but we are inhabitants of all of history; and to ignore the past is to ignore the largest part of our own life.
In early to mid evening these days the great Square of Pegasus is visible high in the southwest. By 10:30 it's above the western horizon, sitting on one corner. If you know where Cassiopeia is (look high and to the left of the North Star), draw an imaginary line from the North Star through the leading star of Cassiopeia (the lowest one) and you'll draw it through the Square of Pegasus. Beneath the Great Square is the Circlet of Pisces, a circle of dim stars quite a bit smaller in diameter than the Great Square of Pegasus is wide. Below and to the left of the Circlet is the point on the sky where the sun is at the exact moment of spring on March 21 - this point on the sky is called the Vernal Equinox. It's at this point that the sun crosses the celestial equator on its annual movement north for the summer. Its an imaginary point so you can't see it, but you can identify it roughly. And right between the Circlet of Pisces and the Vernal Equinox is a tiny cross, too faint to see with the naked eye but you can easily see it with binoculars if you look in the right place. The cross is surrounded by a ring of double stars, like so many gems encircled a diamond. No star chart indicates a name for this beautiful pattern, because it's invisible to the naked eye, so I have called it the Crux Gemmata: the Jeweled Cross. It seems fitting that just as the sun reaches the end of an old heavenly year and begins a new one, it passes by the foot of a cross. "And he hath put all things under his feet," including the year.
You can see a rough diagram here (with the cross drawn in - there are four stars marking the four points of the cross):
As early as the third century after Christ, the Christian church was keeping what came to be called Ember Days every three months: winter, spring, summer, fall. The Ember Days are the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday in the weeks after the Third Sunday in Advent (this next week), the first Sunday of Lent, during Pentecost Week, and the week after Holy Cross Day (September 14). These days, also called the Quattuor Tempora, or Four Seasons, are special fasts, originally perhaps Thanksgivings tied to harvest and other agricultural seasons, but later in Christian history associated with ordination of priests, deacons, and other church officers, and therefore the epistle for the week in the Book of Common Prayer is the first several verses of I Corinthians chapter IV, regarding the gravity and obligations of Christian ministry. But Embertides were also more generally associated with special reflection and dedication of the sort that our church retreats (for example) attempt to foster, to ensure that the church spent some time each season in fasting and sober reflection about Christ's church and her shepherds. The Embertides were also often associated with the due dates of rent, taxes, and other financial obligations. The word Ember is thought, not without controversy, to have come from the Anglo-Saxon word "ymbren", meaning "season" or "period".
Ponder for a long time whether you shall admit a given person to your friendship; but when you have decided to admit him, welcome him with all your heart and soul.
--Seneca, "On True and False Friendship"