This blog

I’m afraid that I’m suspending this weblog. I have found it a very helpful experience in many ways and have greatly valued some of the contacts that it has brought. However, there are things that I have to attend to at the moment that don’t combine easily with blogging. So, goodbye, and thank you for reading. And please pray for me, a sinner.

That’s where I’ll be tomorrow and Sunday, although the first three only in transit. I’m going home to South Africa for a couple of weeks to help my parents move into a retirement complex. I had originally been threatening to disembark in Cairo and find my way to Saint Anthony’s monastery seeing that it is after all his feast day, but giving that I’ve been smitten by a nasty flu bug, any wandering desires have disappeared and I hope that I simply survive the journey.

All of this to say that posting will be unpredictable for the next couple of weeks and will depend on time and internet access. And I’m also putting comments moderation on for the time being.

Having (eventually!) completed my series of posts on the Syrian Fathers, I have created a new page that provides easy links to them. I will hopefully also use this for future series, or linking to posts on particular books once I have finished reading them.

By the way, I realised halfway through this series that I had been using the term “Syrian” rather than “Syriac”. I’m not sure that it’s an important distinction – perhaps it’s just that the latter sounds more “scholarly” – but by then it was too late to change it…

This, then, is the beginning of my advice: make prayer the first step in anything worthwhile that you attempt. Persevere and do not weaken in that prayer. Pray with confidence, because God, in his love and forgiveness, has counted us as his own sons and daughters. Surely we should not by our evil acts heartlessly reject that love. At every moment of our lives, as we use the good things he has given us, we can respond to his love only by seeking to obey his will for us.

Rule of Saint Benedict, 4-6a. (translation by Patrick Barry OSB, Ampleforth Abbey Press, 1997)

If anyone actually reads this then it will mean that I have successfully negotiated at least some of the technical challenges involved, and that this blog has been born.

What sort of a strange creature is it? I suspect that that will have to emerge with time, but it may help to say something about how it came about and what I envisage it to be…

In recent months I have been getting down to some more disciplined reading, having for some years become rather scattered in my reading habits. More specifically, I had started reading Zizioulas’ Being as Communion and, as anyone who has read it knows, it is not easy reading. I realised that if I was going to get anything much out of it I would have to take some fairly serious notes. Even then, I discovered when trying to express to my abbess the effect that the book was having on me, that I could not easily articulate what the chapter concerned was really saying. Now it is true that I have always been better at expressing myself in writing that in speech, and also that I tend to avoid writing. And I am sometimes concerned at getting caught in a sort of downward spiral of intellectual laziness – that because I do not have to express ideas in words I do not think things through clearly enough, which also affects the attentiveness with which I read. My inability to adequately express what I was reading jolted me into the recognition that I needed to do something about it and – after a fair amount of deliberation and discernment – this blog is the result!

Its primary purpose is thus to provide a framework in which I can process what I read. This may take various forms and I will have to see what emerges. I am beginning with Zizioulas and when I am finished with Being and Communion I plan to also read Communion and Otherness. I am also reading Andrew Louth’s Discerning the Mystery. I will say more about all of these again, but they all deserve a fairly thorough reading and I hope that this blog will be a tool that enables that. Moreover, if any of this is useful to others that will also be great.

A secondary purpose is to make available a patristics course that I am writing. Having not had much background in patristics, but having increasingly discovered that this is where my heart lies, I have been delving into the Fathers in the last year with the purpose of writing an introductory course that I am giving to our novitiate. This is still very much a work in process and it will probably take a couple of weeks before I post anything.

Beyond that, I may post odd quotes that speak to me in the hope that they will also speak to others. But we shall have to see what emerges.

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