Monday, October 12, 2009


Joni and Friends recently did an episode on Chuck Colson and his autistic grandson, Max, and RC Sproul and his granddaughter, Shannon: When Disability Hits Home.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

O day of rest and gladness, O day of joy and light,

O balm of care and sadness, most beautiful, most bright:
On Thee, the high and lowly, through ages joined in tune,
Sing holy, holy, holy, to the great God Triune.

On Thee, at the creation, the light first had its birth;
On Thee, for our salvation, Christ rose from depths of earth;
On Thee, our Lord, victorious, the Spirit sent from heaven,
And thus on Thee, most glorious, a triple light was given.

Thou art a port, protected from storms that round us rise;
A garden, intersected with streams of paradise;
Thou art a cooling fountain in life’s dry, dreary sand;
From thee, like Pisgah’s mountain, we view our promised land.

Thou art a holy ladder, where angels go and come;
Each Sunday finds us gladder, nearer to heaven, our home;
A day of sweet refection, thou art a day of love,
A day of resurrection from earth to things above.

Today on weary nations the heavenly manna falls;
To holy convocations the silver trumpet calls,
Where Gospel light is glowing with pure and radiant beams,
And living water flowing, with soul refreshing streams.

New graces ever gaining from this our day of rest,
We reach the rest remaining to spirits of the blessed.
To Holy Ghost be praises, to Father, and to Son;
The church her voice upraises to Thee, blessed Three in One.

Christopher Wordsworth, 1862

best sung to WOODBIRD, traditional German melody

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Leisure, chapter 3

The theme of Sabbath runs all through this chapter, and Pieper gives us the helpful analogy that leisure is to work as intellecus is to ratio, but the idea that most intrigued me was that of acedia and especially of its cure.

Acedia is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. It is a “capital vice,” in that it is a source of many other faults. In the modern list of sins, you’ll find Sloth rather than Acedia, but sloth, which we interpret as idleness or laziness, isn’t the same thing.
Idleness, in the medieval view, means that a man prefers to forgo the rights, or if you prefer the claims, that belong to his nature. In a word, he does not want to be as God wants him to be, and that ultimately means that he does not wish to be what he really, fundamentally, is. Acedia is the ‘despair from weakness’ which Kierkegaard analysed as the ‘despairing refusal to be oneself’. Metaphysically and theologically, the notion of acedia means that a man does not, in the last resort, give the consent of his will to his own being; that behind or beneath the dynamic activity of his existence, he is still not at one with himself, or, as the medieval writers would have said, face to face with the divine good within him; he is a prey to sadness (and that sadness is the tristitia saeculi of Holy Scripture).

That Latin phrase refers to II Corinthians 7:10, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation… but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” [Emphasis added]

One of the sins that springs from Acedia is despair. Acedia is a sin against the fourth commandment (Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy), and its opposite is love.

Kierkegaard’s phrase, “despairing refusal to be oneself” is what first caught my attention. Pieper later says that “despair and the incapacity for leisure are twins,” and that “Leisure is only possible when a man is at one with himself; when he acquiesces in his own being.

What does that mean, to acquiesce in ones own being? What is your own being? The imago dei? Your personality or character? Your “bents” and inborn preferences? Your limitations because of circumstances, physical abilities, hormones? I don’t know the answer.

Whatever Acedia is, Pieper says its opposite is not work, but “man’s happy and cheerful affirmation of his own being, his acquiescence in the world and in God – which is to say love.” So loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength is the place to start. Eagerness for work will certainly be a result of this love, but the work itself isn’t the point.

All this is important in understanding leisure because leisure isn’t a vacation or spare time, it’s “a mental and spiritual attitude.” In order to be at leisure, one must possess an inward calm, must know how to be silent in the face of life’s difficulties, must be “content to let things take their course.”

Another important element of leisure is “the capacity for steeping oneself in the whole of creation,” which tells me how important it is let our children be outdoors a lot, just playing and enjoying it, as well as leading them in focused nature studies.

Feast days and holy days are also important, not only because they lift us out of the workaday world, but because they make us accept the reality and goodness of the creation and of our participation in God’s purposes. Leisure flows out of this kind of celebration.

Leisure is what keeps man Man, and not just a functionary in society, a cog in the machine.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Leisure, chapter 2 part 2

In the second part of chapter two, Pieper defines the servile arts as “those which have an end beyond themselves, and more precisely an end which consists in a utlitarian result attainable in practice, a practicable result.” Compared with this, the liberal arts are “all forms of human activity which are an end in themselves.”

By making this distinction he is not saying “This is a bad apple; that is a good apple.” He is saying something more like, “This is a transitive verb, and that one is intransitive.” The servile arts are utilitarian -- that is, there is an object outside of themselves, just as when “Sally throws the ball” the action is performed on some object other than herself. But if “Sally smiles,” the action remains with herself, even though it may have an effect on the people around her.

We have trouble with his distinction because he is saying that the servile arts are inferior to the liberal. Egalitarianism is in the very air that we breathe and so we tend to view this kind of hierarchical distinction as being one of good v. bad, or better v. worse. But I think he's saying that the servile arts are inferior to the liberal in the same way that a foundation is inferior to the walls of a house, which are in turn inferior to the roof.

The foundation is, well, fundamental. But it's not there for its own sake; it's there to hold up the rest of the house.

Likewise, the servile arts are absolutely necessary to life. But we don't live to work, do we? We work so that we may be at leisure. Or, as John Gould Fletcher put it:
We feed and clothe and exercise our bodies, for example, in order to be able to do something with our minds. We employ our minds in order to achieve character…. We achieve character, personality, gentlemanliness in order to make our lives an art and to bring our souls into relation with the whole scheme of things, which is the divine nature.