Friday, November 27, 2015

Gloaming, Advent, and The Tie That Binds

In the Gloaming by George Inness 1893
By the light of the evening star
When the moon is growing dusky
As the clouds afar,
Let the door be on the latch
In your home,
For it may be through the gloaming
I will come.
 -Barbara Miller Macandrew

Gloaming is an Old English word that refers to dusk or early evening.  In my mind, it describes a mood, too. A mood that is watchful, quiet, mysterious.  The word is used in the Advent reading that begins tomorrow, November 28th in The Cloud of Witness (p. 4).  I hope that, while the world hustles and bustles through the commercial crassness this post-Thanksgiving season brings, you and I can both breathe and infuse our days with meditative thoughts during this waiting time where we reflect on the tiny baby who came, anticipate a Glorious Coming, and watch for sightings in the here and now.

Our Advent wreath for this year - a gift from a friend in Texas!

The Tie that Binds: Charlotte Mason’s Devotional  

Encouraging text messages from across the country, winsome commonplace entries on Facebook, decorative chalkboard memes, and old-school snail mail notes are just a few of the ways my friends have used quotes from the newly reprinted edition of The Cloud of Witness to bind us together despite the distances between us.  Imagine reading the same verses and meditating on the same themes with others walking this same path of implementing a relational education. 

It makes sense that Charlotte Mason would select this particular book to give her graduates as the format and content embody one of the most influential ideas of her philosophy, that of The Great Recognition. The Great Recognition was Mason’s name for common grace as it relates to education and life.  In 1893 she stood gazing at a fresco in Florence, Italy – The Descent of the Holy Spirit.  She writes:

But the Florentine mind of the Middle Ages went further than this: it believed, not only that the seven Liberal Arts were fully under the direct outpouring of the Holy Ghost, but that every fruitful idea, every original conception, whether in Euclid, or grammar, or music, was a direct inspiration from the Holy Spirit, without any thought at all as to whether the person so inspired named himself by the name of God, or recognised whence his inspiration came. All of these seven figures are those of persons whom we should roughly class as pagans, and whom we might be lightly inclined to consider as outside the pale of the divine inspiration. It is truly difficult to grasp the amazing boldness of this scheme of the education of the world which Florence accepted in simple faith. Vol. 2, p. 271

And because of this understanding of common grace – this idea that all people, whether Christian or not, have the capacity for truth, beauty, and goodness (albeit not a full understanding) – she could enjoy and glean from this book that quotes from the pagans Plato and Marcus Aurelius to Christians such as Ruskin and MacDonald.  John Calvin puts it this way, “All truth is from God; and consequently, if wicked men have said anything that is true and just, we ought not to reject it: for it has come from God.”

The Cloud of Witness has a particular theme for the week and then each day begins with a verse from the Bible followed by inspiring bits of poetry and prose from dozens of luminaries.  In this way we can understand and enjoy truth from so many different sources while continuing to place the Bible as the supreme source.  Just as Mason recognized that all truth is God’s truth through her Great Recognition, we also begin to grasp the concept and suddenly our world expands exponentially and we find beauty and goodness where we might not have looked as our room (world) gets bigger and bigger. The Cloud of Witness was found on her bookshelf at the end of her life.  A fitting, handwritten quote from Shakespeare’s The Tempest was found inside the front cover that reads,” I wonder how many goodly creatures are here, how beauteous mankind is.”

I wonder if Mason could have foreseen how this little-big book of sayings and Scripture that she presented to graduates in order to keep them as one at least meditatively would affect a group of educators in the 21st century using text messaging, social media and other means.  Blest be the tie that binds!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Simple and Holy: Favorite Advent Readings

Mary by Henry Ossawa Tanner 1914

Our Advent readings over the years have varied greatly.  When there were lots of diapers to change, I tried following different programs and crafty ways to go about readings for Advent.  What worked best for us?  When I simply read a few verses from the Advent readings and we narrated. Simple.  Holy. A lot like school.

But when I could take the time and space to read more deeply for myself, the children benefited too.  Eventually, what I liked to do was to have my own quiet reading and then I could share a simple part of that with everyone - whether it was a piece of art, Scripture, hymn, or a prayer. Simple. Holy. A lot like school. 

The following books are my favorites.  They go deep into the heart and reason for Advent.

1. The Cloud of Witness
 The Cloud of Witness begins with Advent readings.  Since each new week and theme begins on Saturday, November 28th would begin the Advent readings on page 4.  Read along with us and anticipate His coming.  As of now, Riverbend Press is where it is sold.  Unless you live near me, in which case just send me an email and arrange to pick it up to save shipping!

2. God With Us
God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas
Edited by Pennoyer and Wolfe
Sumptuous, illuminating, and redemptive.  Be still and be quiet with fine art, thoughtful essays, and Scripture to meditate on.  Make sure you find the illustrated version. Also available from Paraclete Press.

 3. Light upon Light
3. Light Upon Light: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany
Sarah Arthur
Sarah signed my copy with "Here's to holy dreaming!" How could I NOT love it?! I am a big fan of At the Still Point and am anticipating Between Midnight and Dawn.  Her books remind me of an expanded version of The Cloud of Witness with more contemporary authors added.

For even more book recommendations, here are all my posts about Advent and Christmas books:

What to Read For Christmas
Full Hearts
On Christmas Traditions and Books
Good King Wenceslas
The Canticle of the Bees
Longing and Waiting 
Christmas Books!
Christmas Books 2014 


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Magic Mirrors: Exploring Living Books

 Here is a  living book that I am reading with my 12-year-old daughter.  It is my second time through and this truly is a living book by the wonderful author, Elizabeth Yates. Prudence was a  schoolteacher in Connecticut in 1833 who dared to open a school for young black girls who wanted an education.  It's one of those books that spark relations with all sorts of things that you weren't expecting to learn about.  As early as page 12 one finds Prudence wrestling all night with her conscience - a passage worth remembering when experiencing things not nearly as monumental as Prudence experienced. This is an outstanding example of someone governed by their will on the right side of the chart!.
Prudence Crandall - Woman of Courage by Elizabeth Yates - highly recommend!

This quote from Charlotte is one of my favorites and encompasses another quote I am fond of -
"The glory of God is the human being fully alive" - St. Irenaeus. Thinking about great literature - and living books in particular - was an activity we did at the Rochester Gathering a few weeks ago.  We examined many passages from Charlotte and then wrote our own narration definitions.  Here are some beautiful examples:

personal definitions of a living book

"A living book breathes the life of a person or story directly into your heart.  One does not get bogged down in that they are learning per se, but rather enters into that author's life, story, or expertise. A living book often leaves you desiring to know and learn more about things introduced in the book."
 - Amy V.

"A living book is sustainable food for our minds and souls. It makes us dig, grapple, and contemplate the Truth, rather than handing it to us in a sound byte or neat packagge. A living book puts us into relationship with God and/or others in a life-changing way." - T.F.

"A living book uses rich language. We must choose books wisely, like our friends. Living books connect us, mind-to-mind with great thinkers and great ideas. They nourish and sustain us, mind and spirit.  It's important that we do not spoon feed our children. The things they will retain, are the things they dig for themselves." - Shauna M.
Aren't those good?!  I hope you are reading many living books this school year. I found these other books about Prudence while looking about but haven't read them yet.  I wonder how the writing in these will compare to Elizabeth Yate's skillful pen?