"The truth is that there is a quite peculiar and individual character about the hold of [the Christmas] story on human nature...It is rather as if a man had found an inner room in the very heart of his own house which he had never suspected; and seen a light from within. It is as if he found something at the back of his own heart that betrayed him into good. It is not made of what the world would call strong materials; or rather it is made of materials whose strength is in that winged levity with which they brush us and pass. It is all that is in us but a brief tenderness that is there made eternal; all that means no more than a momentary and softening that is in some strange fashion become a strengthening and a repose; it is the broken speech and the lost word that are made positive and suspended unbroken; as the strange kings fade into a far country and the mountains resound no more with the feet of the shepherds; and only the night and the cavern lie in fold upon fold over something more human than humanity."
--G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man, pp. 151-52.
A few people have asked for Advent reading suggestions. I'm all about read what moves you and you'll be led to the next thing that moves you. But one book I can't recommend highly enough is The Prison Meditations of Father [Alfred] Delp, written in large part during Advent, his wrists manacled, while awaiting execution by the Nazis.
My favorite passage: "One thinks of all the meaningless attitudes and gestures--in the name of God? No, in the name of habit, of tradition, custom, convenience, safety and even--let us be honest--in the name of middle-class respectability which is perhaps the very least suitable vehicle for the coming of the Holy Spirit."
Other books on my bedside table:
Holiness, by Donald Nicholl: "As Tolstoy once said, it is easier to write ten volumes of philosophy than to fulfil one of the commandments." p. 88.
Urgent Longings: Reflections on the Experience of Infatuation, Human Intimacy, and Contemplative Love (I see you!), by Thomas J. Tyrrell.
Clarence Jordan: Essential Writings. Jordan, a visionary Baptist, established an ecumenical community called the Koinonia Farm during the civil rights struggle of the 1960's. He wrote:
“The thing that just burns my heart out is that the Supreme Court is making pagans more Christian than the Bible is making Christians Christians. The whole integration struggle is being fought not in the household of God but in the buses, depots and around the Woolworth tables in arguments about whether or not we can sit down and eat hamburgers and drink cokes together. We ought to be sitting around Jesus' table drinking wine and eating bread together...The sit-ins never would have been necessary if Christians had been sitting down together in church and at Christ's table all these many years.” p. 153.
You may notice I've (uncharacteristically) included the page number from whatever version of the book I have. This is in large part because, after Loyola Press purchased STRIPPED, I had to go through and find the source for every single quote I'd used. And I tend to use a LOT of quotes.
I thought I'd done that already when I self-published but it turned out I'd been desultory at best. I have a huge file of quotes that I simply copy down when and as the spirit moves. I'll usually at least write down the name of the book if the quote came from a book, and many of them half-commit themselves to memory. But other than that, the Lord only knows. It would never but never occur to me to copy down the page number, city of publication, publisher and copyright year. Not because I'm lazy but because I'm excited. So I had to order many books from the library, use the amazon "Look Inside" feature, and endlessly google.
And I'll probably temporarily try to be more conscientious and then go back to the way I've always done things.
It's been several weeks of travel and other editorial/administrative tasks. I've been going over the galleys of STUMBLE: Virtue, Vice and the Space Between (I could be the only author on earth with the word "stumble," or a derivative thereof, in the title of not one but two books), out from Franciscan Media in March, 2015.
I'm also reading Desert America: A Journey Through Our Most Divided Landscape by Ruben Martinez. Something fun.
And I'm as excited as a child about Advent. Which, more later, promises to be a period of various kinds of violent upheaval.