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. 

The Roman Minute: 3 Phases of Rome

Sometimes it helps to know what historians are talking about. This video gives you a 10,000 ft. view of the three basic periods of the Rome: Monarchy, Republic, and Empire.

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 reviewing the basic periods of Roman history. These are divided into three big, century-long blocks: the Monarchy, the Republic, and the Empire. You can remember it like this: Mighty Roman Empire. 

The Monarchy is the first stage. It started in 753 BC and nobody liked it. The kings were so bad that later Romans even became paranoid about the simple term "king," and rarely used it.

In 509 BC, Lucius Junius Brutus overthrew the king and founded the Roman Republic. This period is Rome's favorite: it produced the Senate (there's the Senate House there), that cool saying S.P.Q.R. (the Senate and the People of Rome), and heroes such Cincinattus, from whom we get Cincinatti.

After many ups and downs, the Republic became another monarchy--but it did NOT have a king. Instead, it kept the Senate and added an emperor. So it's called the Empire. The Western Empire period lasted from  27 BC all the way up to 476 AD, and the church that I spoke about a few weeks ago was from the latter part of that period. So there you have the Monarchy, the Republic, and the Empire, the three stages of Roman history.

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

 

Quoth the Raven

[God] is not a prisoner caught in the mechanism of His own world; He is not reduced to the impotency of Louis Philippe, "I reign, but I do not govern." He is free, more free than we can guess to use the forces He has ordained. . . A youth can deflect a brook's course from one channel to another. God can do with any life and with the course of history, what we do with a brook. The laws are all on His leash.

                                 H.E. Fosdick, concerning on man and God's use of scientific laws in The Meaning of Prayer

The Roman Minute: Four Gospel Writers

Please enjoy this second installment of "The Roman Minute." In this episode, you get to learn a little symbolism--useful in travels and whenever you're feeling ecclesiastical.

TRANSCRIPT

Hello, I'm Lindsey Scholl and welcome again to "The Roman Minute," where you can sample a little history, religion, and possibly even food of Rome in around a minute.

In "Fall of Rome, Sort Of," I referred to the gospel writers as animals. This is an old tradition, dating back as far as the Christian writer Irenaeus of Lyons in the 100s. And you'll remember that beautiful mosaic of them in the Roman church, Santa Maria Maggiore, which was built in the 400s. Here they are again: an ox (there on the left), a man, a lion, and an eagle (on the far right). These are the four gospel writers: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but not necessarily in that order. Christians adopted this symbolism because the four creatures were originally found in book of Ezekiel (there he is there, surrounded them) and then again in Revelation. In both books, they give glory to God alone, just like the gospel writers, and it's fun is to match them up. 

Irenaeus thought that Matthew should be the man, Mark the Eagle, Luke the Ox, and John  the Lion. Three hundred later, Augustine taught that Matthew should be the lion, Mark the man, Luke still was the ox, and John was the eagle. For much of western Christian history, though, it settled to this: Matthew is the man because of how he depicts Christ's humanity, Mark is the lion because of his emphasis on the royal dignity of Christ; Luke is the ox because of how he portrays Christ as a sacrifice, and John the eagle because of the elevated philosophical tone of his gospel. 

There you have it. You'll see these four characters represented as a group, also known as the Tetramorph, or individually in churches throughout the world, and, of course in the city of Rome. I'm Dr. Lindsey Scholl bringing you the Roman minute and wishing you Pax Christi. 

The Roman Minute: Fall of Rome, Sort Of

Watch this video and start a new Tuesday tradition. 

TRANSCRIPT

Salvete omnes!

Today I'm starting a new Tuesday tradition: The Roman Minute. This is a video series that, as the title indicates, will give viewers around a minute of something Roman: language, history, religion, and possibly even food. 

My last blog post hinted at a pope's great building project in the 400s AD, on the eve of the fall of the Western Roman Empire, so I thought I'd start there. Sixtus III built a lot of churches, but the one I'm showing you is Santa Maria Maggiore. This exterior is much later than the 400s, but when you get to the inside...much of the interior is from the 430s - only forty years before last Roman emperor gave up his throne. This isn't the building of a defeatist. That arch on the end there is called a triumphal arch, and look what it shows: not an emperor, but Christ. Or rather, his throne, occupied by a cross, and surrounded by Peter, Paul, and the four gospel writers - those are those animals there - more on those guys later. 

So there's a different perspective on the end of the Western Roman Empire. Sure, it ended, but not without hope and some really impressive mosaics.

This is Dr. Lindsey Scholl and her Roman Minute, wishing you pax Christi. 

Not Dead Yet

Exterior of Santa Sabina, Rome, built 420s.

Exterior of Santa Sabina, Rome, built 420s.

School children learn, or used to learn, that the Roman Empire fell in 476 AD. After that, Europe broke into competing kingdoms and tribes, and any Roman glory that remained was reserved for Constantinople in the East, with a little left for the Pope, who was just getting started on his controversial career.

What is less known among schoolchildren and adults was that those living in the city of Rome in the 400s didn't expect their civilization to end. Certainly, there had been setbacks. They were undoubtedly offended when Constantine moved the capital of the empire to Constantinople. No doubt some Romans pronounced it "the beginning of the end," even as they spread smooth cheese on smooth bread and made plans to see the next mock battle at the Colosseum. Then there was that unfortunate invasion in 410, when those fool barbarians made it into the city itself. Yes, it had been "sacked," which was a blow, but the barbarians had moved on. They hadn't even done that much damage. 

In the 440s, these events were in the past. Nor was the city without its great leaders. A city of so many great ideas had another one in the system: a new office had been developing for some time. This office was not one of civil service, but of religious service. It was a bishopric, and the men who had been Roman bishops had done a great job working with the city administration to keep the streets clear and businesses going. If the office of the bishop continued as it did, Rome could continue as it had always done, emperor or no emperor. It was a pity to many that she had turned from its old gods, but there it was. If a pagan Rome was great, maybe a Christian Rome would be greater still.

Some practical Romans thought like this, and despite what ultimately happened, they were not entirely wrong. In America, we live with one foot in the present, the other in doomsday. Surely this president or this law will bring everything good in our country to an end. The freedoms we enjoy are perched on a precipice, and it's a slippery slope to oblivion. But the Romans didn't think this way. Just thirty years before "the Fall of the West" in 476, Pope Sixtus III built a glorious church as a testament to God's greatness and possibly Rome's. Go visit Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, and ask yourself if Sixtus spent his days thinking about slippery slopes. 

Comfort Food

Working at a classical school entails a certain amount of healthy peer pressure. When a colleague asks you, "What are you reading?" she may not expect you to say "the Nichomachean Ethics in the original language." On the other hand, she might be surprised if you said, "I'm reading an Amish Vampire romance. The hero is so handsome!" 

It's good to be held accountable, but of course, sometimes one gets tired and turns to literary comfort food. I had just finished a novel and was looking to up my intellectual game. I tried some cultural critiques, but those left me cold and empty. I tried Narrative of Frederick Douglass, but could only read about the depravity of slavery for a few minutes before needing a breather.

Finally, I settled on an old favorite: my battered childhood copy of Gnomes. It's 70's folklore imagination at its best--a literary resource book that, according to author Wil Hugyen, "fills a deplorable gap, for the published literature on gnomes is virtually non-existent." After I'm done with this, I might just read Dinotopia. There are so many dystopias running about; it's pleasant to consider some utopian options, especially if they include cutaway diagrams of gnomish kitchens with carved green doors and painted fireplaces.

 

Why is Homer so Great?

Originally posted March 23, 2017

Classical schools are popping up all over the country, proclaiming the virtues of Latin, Augustine, Dante, and Homer, though perhaps not in that order. Latin improves mental acuity, vocabulary, and serves as an entrance into Romance languages. Augustine is the voice of western Christendom, second to St. Paul, of course, but equal with Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther. All educated people west of Constantinople should know Augustine. Dante is everyman's poet, writing in Italian but leaning--sometimes literally--on Virgil. And Homer is Homer, enough said. 

Yet publicly educated souls, such as my own, may want to know why Homer's works have achieved such unquestioned fame. Perhaps we are skeptical of the opinion of one 17th-century Duke of Buckingham, who proclaimed, 

Read Homer once, and you can read no more,
For all the books else appear so mean, so poor,
Verse will seem prose; but still persist to read,
And Homer will be all the books you need.*

This is the sort of verse that only convinces the convinced. Maybe the sad truth is that Homer is popular simply because Homer is popular. The blind poet was in the right place at the right time, and his works survived, so they were acclaimed. In Homer's lifetime, there must have been an equally talented Elmer or Phainopepla whose works were buried in history's inbox. 

I would refer such skeptics to Aristotle's Poetics, a short treatise on drama and poetry written by the Philosopher in the 4th century B.C. Here Aristotle provides the uneducated reader with helpful tidbits on art, such as the observation that plot, not character, is the soul of tragedy or "beauty depends on magnitude and order."*

Poetics is a great repository for the names of lesser known Greek authors, although Sophocles and Euripides make their appearance. And so does Homer. Specifically, Homer the "pre-eminent among poets" and Homer, who is "admirable in all respects." Nor does Aristotle stop at homage; he gives reasons for it. Here are a few: 

1. The plots of the Iliad and the Odyssey, respectively, center around a unified action. Homer doesn't try to tell everything there is to tell about Odysseus, which would confuse or bore the audience.

2. Homer knows his place, which is not in the story he's telling. After a brief preface, he at once brings in a worthy character to begin the story. Aristotle thinks the poet "should speak as little as possible about his own person," so he commends Homer's choice.

3. Everyone likes stories that are wonderful, and to provide wonder, the poet often makes his stories more colorful, while still believable. Aristotle claims that "it is Homer who has chiefly taught other poets the art of telling lies skillfully."

These are not obscure virtues that were applicable only to Greece. Homer did much more than use dactylic hexameter properly. His virtues in composition remain virtues to this day. No author wants to confuse or bore his readers; a novelist should write her characters so well that the novelist herself disappears; the art of storytelling (while I won't call it a lie) should have a balance of the marvelous and the believable. 

There are several other points where Aristotle uses Homer as a laudatory example. The classical schools are on to something. When a beloved fourth-century philosopher recommends the specific strengths of a famous eighth-century poet, perhaps we should pay attention.

Go, read Homer. Not just because everyone else has, but because, apparently, he's a good storyteller.

*John Sheffield, An Essay on Poetry

*All quotes and references are from Poetics, VI; VII; XXIV (not necessarily in this order), transl. by S.H. Butcher

Bass Playing for God

Originally posted April 3, 2014

When is it safe to relax? Or even more so, when is it safe to give yourself up to a little emotion? There is this song that our church sings called "Oh Our Lord." It's a great song by Paul Baloche. As our worship group plays it, it employs an energetic banjo throughout and there is a great bridge where the bass comes in. When that bass hits, it's one of those moments where I want to let go and let the music wash over me. I'm not the charismatic type, yet my hands start inching up from my sides and up toward the ceiling--don't worry, they stop around torso level. Like I said, I'm not the charismatic type.

Aside from praising God, there is something else on in my mind during this song. As the bass comes in, I want to lean back, stop thinking, sing, and enjoy. But another part of me says that it is a dangerous activity to surrender my powers of analysis up to an experiential moment. I'm still in the fallen world, after all. There are still fallen people writing and singing this music. I might fall myself, physically, in some transport of emotion. How embarrassing would that be?

Yet I am in church, surrounded by friends, my husband is nearby, and the pastor is trustworthy. Heck, one of my good friends is the one playing the bass. Why can't I let go?

You may not be as tormented when it comes to music as I am, but surely you have felt this tension. It's related to the "If it feels good, do it" mentality. Most of us know that this is a dangerous mantra that can get your heart broken, your conscience stung, and your body seriously harmed. But I sometimes feel as if I've gone too far the other way: when something is good and feels good, like Paul Baloche's song as played by Brenham Bible ChurchI still can't let powerful emotions get the upper hand. Yet surely singing "Oh our Lord. . .your name is a light in the darkness" doesn't require cool, distant analysis.

I guess it comes down to this: if it's your first date and that tall, dark handsome guy holds you close, you should have your guard up. Cool, distant analysis could save you. If that tall, dark, handsome guy is your husband of seven years, maybe it's okay to let your guard down and relax. He's been proven good, so it's okay to feel good around him. It's the same with God. He has been proven good, so it's okay to relax when singing to him. And if that relaxation comes with a little bass action, so much the better!

Quoth the Raven

"Now, you know that I love this man very much, except for his 'to be sure,' for isn't it obvious that every generalization admits of exceptions? But this fellow is full of such self-justification. When he thinks he has said something too hastily, or spoken a half-truth, or generalized too much, then you can't stop him from attaching limitations to what he has said, from modifying it, adding to it and subtracting from it, until at last nothing is left of the original idea!"

                                   Letter Aug. 12, concerning Albert, in The Sorrows of Young Werther, Goethe.

World and Classical Education

Originally published Dec. 6, 2016

Funny, how WORLD can mean such different things. In this instance, it means an American magazine doing an article on American public versus private versus classically based education. It touches on deeper themes, though, such as, can--or should--educational institutions provide classical education without a Christian reference point? To any Roman prior to 400 AD, this would seem a laughable question. But much has happened since then.

Have a look at the article and seen what you think. If you have experience and developed thought in this area, email me your thoughts at lindseyannescholl@gmail.com. I'd love to hear different perspectives (especially international ones), and I'd like to share some of them on this blog.

Here is the link: https://world.wng.org/2016/11/classical_conflict

Giving thanks for people far and near

Originally published Nov. 23, 2016

It rained this morning! It was a lovely, soaking rain, and when I first woke up to it, the sun was still shining, giving the whole world a moist glow. Then the gray came in, perfectly setting the mood for a cup of coffee and a warm breakfast with my parents. 

We all know the internet has limitless dangers. Yet one of its strengths is that allows easy connection with people you haven't seen in awhile. This is particularly true for friends in other countries. So I want to use this platform to say hello to Giusy, that model of Christian perseverance and joy in Torino. Giusy, thanks for your wonderful email, and I'll respond soon. I also want to say hello to those faithful missionaries in the Ukraine who had such an impact on my teenage years, Shannon and Katie. Also to Dyfan and Caroline, who are likely enjoying plenty of rain in England. 

To use the adapted words of the most interesting man in the world, 'Stay faithful, my friends.' It's good to hear from you!