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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!



6 comments:

  1. I've been eagerly anticipating this Advent season, waiting to begin The Cloud of Witness until this time. Thank you, Nancy, for bringing this treasure back into print.

    ~Robin

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    1. Dear Robin,
      You're welcome! I'm so glad you will be reading along with me this season!
      Warmly,
      Nancy

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  2. I love the peace and sense of "hush" if you will over the readings in the Cloud...you've captured that in this post, I think very well! I saw John Ruskin's little book Mornings in Florence the other day at a used book shop and it was so fun flipping through it and thinking about CM in Italy looking at the paintings. The Living Library ladies talked about those paintings recently too and it just is so fun to think through all the connections and things to ponder on!

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    1. Amy,
      Sooooo...you bought it, right? Thank you for your sweet words as always, Amy.
      Warmly,
      Nancy

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  3. I've really been enjoying reading The Cloud of Witness. :) It absolutely makes me SLOW down and think meditate on the things of God. Thank you for the work you've done on its reprinting!

    "I wonder how many goodly creatures are here, how beauteous mankind is.” <---I ADORE this!

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    1. Dear Catie,
      I KNOW!!! I adore it, too.
      It certainly can't be read in a hurry and I love how it slows me down, too.
      Warmly,
      Nancy

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