Saturday, December 23, 2006

On the Incarnation

Classical books are often treated like classical liturgies, some seem to see them as inaccessible or no longer relevant.

We're entering into the busy time, both liturgically and otherwise, of the great feast of the Nativity. One can already see the effects of this in our news sites, in our blogs, and otherwise. Rest assured, while posting might be lighter than usual, the NLM hopes to continue to bring you news, information and opinion for your reading enjoyment.

But if you find that you have spare time, perhaps, in addition to taking up the Divine Office, and attending the wonderful liturgies of this time of year -- often much more traditional in general than at other times -- perhaps you might consider picking up a classical patristic meditation upon the Incarnation: On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius.

This particular edition was prefaced by none other than C.S. Lewis. I share with you part of his meditation, which reminds me at its beginning of the way some think about the ancient versus modern liturgics:

"There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books. Thus I have found as a tutor in English Literature that if the average student wants to find out something about Platonism, the very last thing he thinks of doing is to take a translation of Plato off the library shelf and read the Symposium. He would rather read some dreary modern book ten times as long, all about "isms" and influences and only once in twelve pages telling him what Plato actually said. The error is rather an amiable one, for it springs from humility. The student is half afraid to meet one of the great philosophers face to face. He feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him. But if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator. The simplest student will be able to understand, if not all, yet a very great deal of what Plato said; but hardly anyone can understand some modern books on Platonism. It has always therefore been one of my main endeavours as a teacher to persuade the young that firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire."

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