Solving The Puzzle

My day has had a bit of a delayed start. I left the house about 6:45 this morning to go obtain my second Covid vaccination. There was perhaps a slight amount of fear and trepidation. I’ve heard a variety of stories ranging from no reaction to being very tired and achy. Sitting in the observation room (unlike YoYo Ma, I didn’t bring my cello (well, guitar) to the room to entertain during the wait), I did begin to feel a little soreness in the area of the shot. But that feeling left. We’ll see how tomorrow goes.

I like historical fiction, but I don’t read much of it. Steven Pressfield wrote a popular work of nonfiction, The War of Art: Break Through The Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, cited by many creatives I follow. I recommend it. Mostly, he writes historical fiction. I decided to buy his latest book, A Man at Arms. I could not put it down. Totally destroyed yesterday’s productivity. The setting is the eastern Mediterranean in 55 AD. A “Man at Arms”, a warrior and mercenary, accepts a job from the Jerusalem-based Roman Authority to track down and capture a man and girl child who have a letter from the Apostle Paul to the Christians in Corinth. Early on, he attracts to him a male youth who follows him. The story is gripping. You can’t guess the end until the next-to-last page.

Note: it is a warrior story, so there are pretty graphic battle scenes as well as scenes of Roman brutality. Pressfield gives you a look at the cultural backdrop of Roman occupation that is only alluded to in the Bible. I think it’s great. It may be one of those few books I’ll read again.

I have been studying again Pope Benedict XVI’s series of talks on the Church Fathers. That volume nestles alongside two books on the Desert Fathers on my shelf.

The Church Fathers portray the struggles of the church from the late 200s to the early 400s (so, mostly the 4th Century) to define itself–both around the many theories attempting to understand who and what Jesus was and around the problems of dealing with politics once the church gained official status from around 325. We continue to struggle to understand Jesus. Many of us say we follow him as disciples, but much about him is difficult to completely understand. And many of us struggle with politics. Some readers of this blog are struggling to survive from politics and some are trying to win at politics and get the government to force “Christian values” upon the population. It was complex 1,700 years ago–and it remains complex today.

But the Desert Fathers are my favorite. They worked at the intersection of the interior human and the Spirit of God. What did it mean to pray without ceasing? How can we identify and overcome the myriad of emotional and psychological forces within us in order to truly live with God? If fact, just how do we live with God? What practices make sense? How do we teach? There’s not a lot of theory with them. It’s how to order one’s life congruent with God. These (mostly) guys were strange. They are my heroes.

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