Of Harvey and St. Antony

Hurricane Harvey is becoming a memory for some (a persistent financial reality for others), but unlike disasters in the past, we who live in the 20th and 21st centuries have photography to remind us of the destruction. Not sure if that's a positive development; nevertheless, it's a development. Here are some of my own shots from the storm and its aftermath:

These pictures of disruption, of traffic jams, of broken or damaged items serve as reminders of how Harvey wrecked Houston's infrastructure after wrecking Rockport's and then wrought the worst devastation on poor Beaumont. But they also remind us of how susceptible we and our possessions are. When nature turns against us, books and SUV's cannot stand. 

So why do we buy them? A non-ascetic myself, I would argue that books and SUVs are good things and appropriate for spiritual persons to purchase. Not everybody has thought so. St. Antony of Egypt let goods and kindred go to such a severe extent that if a flood had struck Antony's home, it would have wrecked nothing but a sheepskin. Nor would it have damaged the home itself, as his residences varied between tombs and caves. He let his kindred go so thoroughly that he placed his sister in a convent, and it's unclear whether he saw her again. He certainly produced no kindred of his own: no wife, no children, and with a sister in a convent, no nieces or nephews. 

Thus stripped of possessions and relationships, Antony was free to pursue the relationship that mattered most: the one with his Creator God. What follows is a heroic story. Antony eschews worldly comforts and faces demonic attacks on a regular basis, even to the point of having an interview with Satan himself, in which the old sinner says that his kingdom is crumbling thanks to the fighting, praying, desert monks. 

If, as a Christian, I were asked to evaluate Antony's life, I would direct my fellow evaluators immediately to Paul's statement in his letter to Colossae: "Although these have a reputation of wisdom by promoting ascetic practices, humility, and severe treatment of the body, they are not of any value in curbing self-indulgence." According to this, Antony, for all his harsh discipline of the body, gained nothing in the realm of self-control. 

Yet Harvey's destruction reminds me of another truth: moths and rust destroy our possessions, and if they don't, a flood might. A human must be more than what she owns. If any part of our identity is centered around physical items, that identity will be destroyed. Antony knew that, and so he focused all of his emotional energy on things that are above, not on things that are of the earth. 

Antony and Harvey are bothering me. I don't like reminders of transience. I want teacups and fully-stocked shelves. I search for a good mattress and working AC as a shepherd for a lost sheep. I'm having a hard time letting my goods and kindred go, though the goods of my kindred (or friends, at least) have gone every which way. Perhaps I've forgotten that God's truth abideth still, his kingdom is forever. The trouble is that we can't see the forever kingdom; we can only see that which passes. Our vision has become inverted. Antony, for all his extremism, willed himself to see something beyond his immediate sight. It might be a good idea for me to do the same.

 

 
 
 

Rain, rain go away

Hurrican Isabel, 2003

Hurrican Isabel, 2003

We're praying for our city. May God bless the first responders, the boat-driving and big-truck-owning volunteers, and those in flooded neighborhoods who have opened up their unflooded homes to neighbors. Thank you, God, that the storm is heading back out toward the Gulf, but there's still rain coming and now it looks like east Texas and Louisiana will need some help.

 

Being bored is not the same as having nothing to do. It's having nothing to do that you want to do.

A pluviophile awaits hurricanes and flooding with mixed feelings. She welcomes the rain and the gray skies but cannot, in good conscience, welcome the power outages, flooded houses, and closed roads. 

Hurricane Harvey has made landfall, and from what I understand, Corpus Christi and Rockport are suffering from the devastation. But here in our Houston neighborhood, all we've encountered is a power outage and excessive amounts of self-doubt: have we done what we could to prepare? Should we eat any non-perishable food or save that for another power outage that might come later? How long will a hard-boiled egg last if left out on the counter? Should we check the news every thirty minutes or stop before we get obsessive? 

In the meantime, the House Sparrows are going crazy on the feeder and the hummingbirds are having a good day. From the predictions, this could be just the calm before the storm. I guess we'll find out soon enough!

To conclude, here's a nice hurricane quote: "Just as not all butterflies produce a hurricane, not all outbreaks of bubonic plague produce a Renaissance." - Eric Weiner, The Geography of Genius. 

 

 

 

 

 

The Roman Minute: Jerome and the Lion

 

Find out how St. Jerome gets a pet--and why he's always wearing red.

TRANSCRIPT

Salvete omnes! I'm Lindsey Scholl and welcome again to The Roman Minute, where you can sample a little bit of Rome in around a minute. I recently gave a talk on Christian art and was reminded again how much there is to discover. Today, I want to introduce you to one of my favorite stories: St. Jerome and the Lion. 

Jerome was a scholar who lived in the 400s, and he is most famous for the first polished translation of the Bible into Latin, which we call the Vulgate. He was also an early monk and spent a lot of time contemplating human weakness and God's strength. For this reason and others, the medieval and Renaissance artists loved to paint Jerome--and usually with a lion at his feet. According to legend, he was working in the monastery one day, and a lion limped in. The other monks were frightened and fled. But Jerome stayed calm and noticed that the lion had a thorn in its paw. The lion, who was in great pain, allowed the saint to remove the thorn, and they became fast friends. By the way, if you're wondering why Jerome is wearing red a lot, that's because he's usually dressed as a cardinal, although that church office didn't exist in his day.

So look for a man with a pet lion, and also wearing red, and you'll find Jerome. I'm Dr. Lindsey Scholl, bringing you The Roman Minute and wishing you Pax Christi

 

The Roman Minute: Why does Moses have horns?

 

Is it just that ecclesiastical art is weird, or is there a reason Moses looks like a satyr?

TRANSCRIPT

Salvete omnes! I'm Lindsey Scholl and welcome again to The Roman Minute, where you can sample a little bit of Rome in around a minute. Today we're answering an important question: why does Moses have horns? If you've looked at medieval or renaissance art, you may have noticed that Moses is sporting not only two stone tablets, but two projections from the top of his head.

Since modern translations of Bible say nothing about a horned Moses, where did these artists get the idea from? To fully answer this question, you have to know some biblical Hebrew, which I don't. The most popular opinion is that the great scholar Jerome, when he was translating the Latin Bible in the 400s, made a small mistake. When Moses came down from Mt. Sinai, the Hebrew reads "the skin of his face shone." A similar-sounding, but apparently incorrect, reading of the Hebrew words would mean "his face had horns." Jerome wrote "horned", or cornuta, in Latin, and some artists took him seriously.

Certainly before Jerome's translation became popular, Moses was not depicted with horns. You can see him here on the bottom left, from the church Santa Maria Maggiore. But afterwards, it was a popular option, particularly in the West. And what was simply an oddity became a worldwide question when Michelangelo himself adopted this interpretation in his famous Moses statue.

There you have it. I'm Dr. Lindsey Scholl, bringing you the Roman Minute and wishing you Pax Christi.

 

A Week at Sandy Creek

They say the happiest place on is Disneyland. They're wrong. It's camp.*

 

Just finishing up a week at Sandy Creek Bible Camp, talking to about a hundred wonderful girls, ages 8-12. Topics covered so far: the fall of Adam and Eve; the corruption of creation; Jesus as the Passover Lamb; Jesus as the Second Adam; Jesus as, well, Jesus. The girls come from a range of backgrounds--some very supportive, some very hard. They will all have their own story, and I'm so glad they're here!

I'll be back to more regular posting soon. Stay tuned for The Roman Minute next Tuesday!

 

 

 

 

*https://camphoneycreek.com/chcwp/2017/06/19/june-19-2017/

The Roman Minute: Rome Inconsistent (the Persecution of Christians)

 

You know that Rome persecuted Christians, but did it happen throughout all of Rome? At all times?

TRANSCRIPT

Salvete omnes! I'm Lindsey Scholl and welcome again to The Roman Minute, where you can sample a little bit of Rome in around a minute. Today we're talking about an unsavory side of Rome: the persecution of Christians. Roman persecution was a fact. But it is one of the more complicated facts of history. Religious persecution depended on two things: local attitudes and the personality of the emperor. Some emperors barely noticed Christians. Other emperors, such as Nero and Diocletian, are known for violent religious purges. But it was hit or miss.

The Emperor Septimius Severus was so friendly to Christians that he hired one as a nurse for his son, but he ended up banning conversions to Judaism and Christianity. I mentioned that local attitudes were important. Severus' persecution tended to focus in North Africa and Egypt, whereas Nero's persecution many years before began in the city of Rome. This timeline shows the erratic nature of Christian persecution in the Roman Empire. Violent assaults on Christians could certainly be a real threat--giving us the remarkable stories of the martyrs--but not at all times and not in all places.

I'm Dr. Lindsey Scholl, bringing you the Roman Minute and wishing you Pax Christi.

 

Victor is a Google Doodle

Victor Hugo, 1876

Victor Hugo, 1876

On this day, June 30, in 1862, Victor Hugo finished his manuscript of Les Miserables. Google has designed a doodle in honor of the event. Check it out, and while you're there, follow the links to a short Vox article about Hugo's famous digressions: fifty pages on the Battle of Waterloo, anyone? 

Elizabeth Thompson, Charge of the Scots Greys at Waterloo

Elizabeth Thompson, Charge of the Scots Greys at Waterloo

 
 
 
 
 

The Roman Minute: The Story of Virgil

 
 

Get better acquainted with the man behind one of the world's most famous poems.

TRANSCRIPT

Salvete omnes! I'm Lindsey Scholl, and welcome again to The Roman Minute, where you can sample a little bit of Rome in around a minute. Today we're talking about the man behind the poem. This is Virgil, the author of  Rome's great epic story, the Aeneid. The Aeneid is the story of  Aeneas fleeing his homeland of Troy to found another, greater city, that of Rome. Virgil wrote his great poem at the request of Rome's first Emperor, Augustus Caesar. The Aeneid gave Rome a legendary history--because Romans loved Homer's story about the fall of Troy, what better way to give Rome gravitas than to say that she was really descended from the magnificent ancient city? Yet Virgil was unhappy with his work. He requested on his deathbed that it be burned--but Augustus disregarded his wish, thus we have the Aeneid today.

Virgil was popular not only for ancient Romans, but also for medieval readers. One scholar, Dante Alighieri, loved the Aeneid so much that he made Virgil his fictional guide in his own classic, The Divine Comedy. Side note: Virgil gets to lead Dante through Hell and Purgatory, but, not having been a Christian himself, he does not get to lead Dante into Heaven. There's a recap of Virgil's great journey from Augustus' court to the gates of Paradise.

I'm Dr. Lindsey Scholl, bringing you the Roman Minute and wishing you Pax Christi. 

The Church across the River

 
 

Porches are great. But the porch of Santa Maria in Trastevere has something to teach us.  

TRANSCRIPT

Salvete omnes. I'm Lindsey Scholl and welcome again to "The Roman Minute," where you can sample a little bit of Rome in around a minute. You already know that Rome is a complex reality containing everything from a Republic, an Empire, a Late Empire, the Roman Catholic Church, and so many church buildings. The Christian idea of a church is a body of a believing people, rather than a building, but the buildings inevitably give us an idea of what the people believed.

Today I want to show you a particular church, Santa Maria Trastevere. This church is on the other side of the Tiber from some of the more famous monuments in Rome. Inside, this 13th-century mosaic is a stunning, if troubling, depiction of medieval mariology, with Mary actually sharing the throne with Jesus. But in the porch outside, there's a collection of much older tombstone fragments, some of them from the Roman Christian era. This figure on the left is called an "orans," Latin for "praying man." Before Christians folded our hands, we prayed like this. On the bottom right of this one, you can see the famous Chi Rho, and right in front of that you can see "In Pace," or '"n Peace," a common phrase for Christian burials.

That's just an introduction to the wonders of this church across the Tiber. If you're ever in Rome, have a look. I'm Dr. Lindsey Scholl, bringing you the Roman Minute and wishing you Pax Christi.

Rain in the UK

Rain in the UK is as predictable as humidity in Houston. During our recent, short tour of England, we were happy to experience several days of precipitation. I took some pictures as proof. At times, I was tempted to complain, but who's a pluviophile to complain about wet shoes? 

For some official British Broadcasting perspective on rain, read "Fifty words for rain," a 2012 article written as Britain steeled itself to host a rainy Olympics.

The Roman Minute: Everybody's Bishop

 

When did the Pope become the Pope? Hows does this whole Bishop of Rome, head of the Catholic Church thing work?

TRANSCRIPT

Salvete omnes. I'm Lindsey Scholl and welcome again to "The Roman Minute," where you can sample a little bit of Rome in around a minute. Today we're going to talk about how the bishop of one city became the head of the entire western church. This change didn't happen in one day, but one could argue that it happened with one individual.

Leo the Great was bishop of Rome in the mid-400s. Leo was known for several things, including talking Attila the Hun out of attacking the city. But his chief legacy was his attempts to unite the church under one leader. Like many before him, Leo believed that when Christ said to Peter, "I will give you the keys to the kingdom of Heaven," (Matt. 16:19) that Christ was giving Peter authority over the entire church. Peter was traditionally the first bishop of Rome, and because of apostolic succession, Leo was his heir. He therefore started to claim authority throughout Italy and Gaul (which is modern-day France). When some other bishops objected, the Roman Emperor supported Leo, asserting that "the primacy of the Apostolic See [another word for bishopric] is established by the merit of St. Peter. . .by the majesty of the city of Rome, and finally by the authority of a holy council." Therefore, he states, "no one, without inexcusable presumption, may attempt anything against the authority of that see."*

Catholics therefore have Leo to thank for asserting boldly the rights of St. Peter. Protestants and Greek Orthodox have Leo to argue with if they choose. Either way, Pope Leo the Great is largely responsible for turning the Bishop of Rome into the Head of the Catholic Church.

I'm Dr. Lindsey Scholl, bringing you "The Roman Minute" and wishing you Pax Christi.

*Valentinian III's Decree on Papal Power, 445.

 

The Roman Minute: Apostolic Succession

 

If you've ever wondered what the connection is between St. Peter and the Pope, this video will get you started toward an answer. 

TRANSCRIPT

Salvete omnes, I'm Lindsey Scholl and welcome again to "The Roman Minute," where you can sample a little bit of Rome in around a minute. Today, we're talking about a concept called "Apostolic Succession." This is important for Roman Catholicism, because it's why St. Peter is  called the first Pope and why modern Pope sits in the chair of St. Peter.

Apostolic succession is like an inheritance of appointments. Christ appointed the apostles. They, in turn, appointed leaders in the church. These leaders in the church became bishops, or elders, and in, turn, appointed someone after them. Through a famous tradition I won't go into here, Peter was considered the first bishop of Rome. According to the Church Historian Eusebius,  "After the martyrdom of Paul and Peter, the first man to be appointed Bishop of Rome was Linus. He is mentioned by Paul when writing to Timothy from Rome....Clement...became the third bishop of Rome." This process is called apostolic succession, and with some bumps in the road, it's how Pope Francis I the priest from Argentina is connected to Peter the Apostle the fisherman from Palestine.

Now, Eusebius was writing about apostolic succession in the 300s. But the Bishop of Rome didn't become the head of the western church until at least the mid 400s. What changed for our friends the Roman bishops? We'll find out in the next video.

I'm Dr. Lindsey Scholl, bringing you "The Roman Minute" and wishing you Pax Christi. 

*Book Three, History of the Church

 

The Founder of Late Rome

If you've been watching "The Roman Minute," you may have noticed several mentions of the "later Roman period," or "later empire," or something along those lines. You already know that Rome was divided into three major periods--Monarchy, Republic, and Empire--but what's less well-known is that the later Empire (around 285 to 476 AD) has enjoyed much less attention than the glory days of Rome, which include celebrities such as Julius Caesar and Augustus.

Thanks to the work of one British scholar, however, the field of the Later Roman Empire has begun to receive much-needed attention. Peter Brown work has opened up an entirely new field of study. Now, historians don't just research the depressing Fall of Rome. They study Late Antiquity, which is much more upbeat and encouraging. 

Peter Brown is still alive today. You can write him a letter and thank him. But before you do, read up on him in this Princetonian article, "Peter Brown: Inventor of Late Antiquity."

Peter Brown at the Balzan Prize Ceremony, 2011

Peter Brown at the Balzan Prize Ceremony, 2011

The Roman Minute: Ancient Ham

Learn how to cook a picnic lunch like the Romans did. This video introduces you to an ancient cookbook and even includes a brief recipe for a nice picnic ham.

TRANSCRIPT

Salvete omnes, I'm Lindsey Scholl and welcome again to "The Roman Minute," where you can sample a little bit of Rome in around a minute. Today's topic is food. Most of us have an idea of what Romans today eat, but what did ancient Romans eat? If you're just thinking olives and bread, you're probably not giving them enough credit.

"Apicius" is the name of an ancient Roman gentleman who loved great food, but it's also the name of a collection of recipes compiled sometime in the late 4th century AD. Like most recipes, these seem to have been handed down through generations. Here's a recipe for a nice picnic ham. And I quote, "The ham should be braised with a good number of figs and some three laurel leaves; the skin is then pulled off and cut into square pieces; these are macerated with honey. Thereupon make dough crumbs of flour and oil, lay the dough over or around the ham, stud the top with the pieces of the skin so that they will be baked with the dough bake slowly and when done, retire from the oven and serve."

This magnificent book covers everything from how to be a good housekeeper to how to how to make a nice sea scorpion with turnips. So the next time you're feeling Mediterranean, try your hand at Apicius. You can find a translation of the cookbook at this website (http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/e/roman/texts/apicius/home.html) and others.

I'm Dr. Lindsey Scholl, bringing you "The Roman Minute" and wishing you Pax Christi. 

From Another Rain Enthusiast

I am excited to present to you a poem written by a kindred spirit.

PLUVIOPHILE*
by Jessica Smith

I sit up straight
As the first few drops of rain
Dabble the window pane.

Driven to the nearest window, I watch with delight
As the raindrops chase each other down the glass
And the concrete streets darken.

As the rate of downfall increases, so does my joy.
So I settle down with a blanket and tea
And listen to the glory of the storm.

The lightening snaps; the thunder bellows. 
The clouds burst forth the rain.
I sit in awe of nature. 

 

*Noctua Poetica (Trinity Classical School, 2017). Published with author's permission.

The Roman Minute: Latin

Learn a few new words and enjoy a brief reminder of why Latin may not be a dead language, after all.

TRANSCRIPT

Salvete omnes, I'm Lindsey Scholl and welcome again to "The Roman Minute," where you can sample a little bit of Rome in around a minute. You probably know that Latin was the official language of Rome, as well as the official language of the Catholic Church for most of its history. In fact, if you were an educated person in the West living in anytime between the Roman Republic and almost up to our present day, you spoke and read Latin.

Though it's called a dead language, Latin has shaped all the Romance languages and, of course, English. For example, "Audio" comes from the Latin word, "I hear." The Latin word for lung is "pulmo." The pulmonary artery carries blood from the heart to the lung. Even the word for language itself come from "lingua," the Romans' word for language and tongue.

Though not as popular as it used to be, Latin remains the best language to learn the basic vocabulary of almost anything. According to Dorothy Sayers, a respected mystery writer and scholar, "even a rudimentary knowledge of Latin cuts down the labor and pains of learning almost any other subject by at least 50 percent."

Therefore, if you can, get thee or thy child to a Latin class.

I'm Dr. Lindsey Scholl, bringing you "The Roman Minute" and wishing you Pax Christi.