Marc Tauss, cover art for Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City.
— Augustine of Hippo, City of God
Here are the particulars for a person who lacks grace: Once he has turned away from God, the person dwells on himself, and makes self the main goal of his life and activity. This is because at this point, after God, there is for him nothing higher than self, especially because, having previously received every abundance from God and having now forgotten Him, he hurries and takes care to fill himself up with something. The emptiness that has formed inside him because of his falling away from God causes an unquenchable thirst inside him that is vague but constant.
The person has become a bottomless abyss. He makes every effort to fill this abyss, but he cannot see or feel it getting full. Thus, he spends his entire life in sweat, toil and great labors; he busies himself with various occupations in which he hopes to find a way to quench his unquenchable thirst. These occupations take up all his attention, all his time and all his activity. They are the highest good, in which he lives with his whole heart.
Thus, it is clear why a person who makes self his exclusive goal is never himself; instead, everything is outside him, in things either created or acquired by vanity. He has fallen away from God, Who is the fullness of everything. He himself is empty; it remains for him to seemingly pour himself out into an endless variety of things and live in them. Thus, the sinner thirsts, fusses, and troubles himself with occupations and numerous things outside himself and God. This is why a characteristic trait of sinful life is, in its disregard for salvation, the care and trouble about many things."
— Theophan the Recluse
I hope I will one day be worthy of such an epitaph:
Good old man, not moulded to the fashion of the times.
Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh.
yet dragons are there, and lions,
there are poisonous beasts,
and all the treasures of evil,
there are rough and uneven roads,
there are precipes;
but there too is God and the angels,
life is there, and the Kingdom,
there too is light, and there the apostles
and heavenly cities,
and treasures of grace.
All things lie within that little space."
— Saint Makarios the Great
It is inevitable that you should feel the rub of other people’s characters against your own. After all, you are not a gold coin that everyone likes.
Besides, without that friction produced by contact with others, how would you ever lose those corners, those edges and projections — the imperfections and defects — of your character, and acquire the smooth and regular finish, the firm flexibility of charity, of perfection?
If your character and the characters of those who live with you were soft and sweet like sponge-cake you would never become a saint."
— Josemaría Escrivá, The Way
The libation followed the dinner proper and marked the opening of the symposium. This religious ceremony, which could take different forms, was typical and well established. It is well attested not only for meals with a religious background but also for meals that appear to be completely ‘secular’ in a modern sense. Consequently, any form of community within the setting of a communal meal carried at least rudimentary aspects of religion: The experience of community could not be envisioned without some connection with the transcendent.
The libation could be performed in different ways, among which two are prominent: The cup of unmixed wine could either be poured out on the floor or into the hearth, or it could be drunk by all symposiasts. The evidence is not evenly distributed: On the one hand, the majority of sources clearly presuppose that the libation was poured out. They either mention it directly or imply it when mentioning slaves who perform the libation. On the other hand, the libation could clearly be drunk by all symposiasts from one cup. Again, the cup circulating among the symposiasts is directly attested in some cases and clearly implied in others.
These two forms for performing the libation are also attested for Jesus’ Last Supper: Mark 14:23 and Matthew 26:27 directly mention that Jesus had the disciples drink from the one cup he handed out; on the other hand, Luke 22:20 clearly states that the cup ‘after dinner’ was ‘poured out.’ With respect to the etiological character of the Last Supper accounts in Luke and 1 Corinthians 11, it is safe to assume that at least part of the early Christian meal practice followed a similar procedure.
As with any other sacrifice in antiquity, the libation was accompanied by prayer. For the Roman world, the formula ‘May the gods be gracious!’ (dii propitii) is the shortest reference to this prayer.
Reciting the libation prayer in unison is also attested by other references about the grace after dinner. Not only the Therapeutae sing their song after dinner in unison, but also Christians. Performing a prayer in unison contributes to its religious effectiveness; it requires, however, considerable coordination. It isn’t surprising, then, that fixed formularies existed for such prayers. Among the well-known examples are the thanksgiving prayer ‘after the full meal’ in Didache as well as the mishnaic formularies for the prayers at the table or the grace after dinner, the birkat ha-mazon. In light of this evidence there can be no doubt that ‘the cup of blessing which we bless’ (τὸ ποτήριον τῆς εὐλογίας ὃ εὐλογοῦμεν: 1 Cor 10:16) refers to the libation cup and the accompanying prayer.
After the libations were poured or drunk, the wine was mixed with water, dessert could be served, and the symposium proper began. The most important feature of the symposium, highlighted by the literary descriptions, is the entertainment. A great variety is reported: presentations of music and dance, of mimus and pantomimus; performances of skolia; dexterity competitions and juggling; sundry drinking games (including the famous kottabos), as well as many different codes for drinking behavior. But first of all was table talk. Conversation among the symposiasts was central and gave birth to a whole literary genre, the symposion-literature that flourished for nearly 800 years.
Obviously the preferred entertainment varied widely and was largely dependent on the participants’ cultural background and educational level. Irrespective of any particular entertainment however, two characteristic features stand out in the literary descriptions. The first, which is often highlighted, is the mutuality of the sympotic entertainment. The symposiasts emphasized common amusement rather than the pursuit of private pleasure.
The sources express a clear expectation that all participants would contribute their share to the common entertainment or learning: Each individual ‘input’ (συμβολή) is part of the collective gift that everybody ‘throws together’ and shares. In this fashion, the contributions to sympotic entertainment mirror the participants’ contributions to the meal proper, which also were called ‘input’ (συμβολαί). Thus when Plutarch expounds on the anacreontic songs performed during the symposium (the σκόλια), he is absolutely clear that all participants are expected to take their turn and contribute a song of their own to the general amusement. That this mutuality of entertainment responsibility could extend to learned discussion and to religious speech is clear from a number of references.
Cutting against the grain of this mutuality is the observation that many of these pleasures had a very competitive edge. Drinking, singing, juggling, poetic witticisms, discussion, riddle solving, even trying to hit a swinging bowl with the last sip of the cup—all these activities are reported among the kinds of small competitions for which the winning symposiasts would receive a token award (for example, a special dessert cake). Understandably, this abundance of competition called for a referee. In fact, many sources mention a symposiarch who would oversee the sympotic entertainment and try to keep everything in good order. Amazingly symposiarchs are reported not only for the banquets of organized associations where they are listed among the club officials, but also for private and informal symposia.
Many designations for the symposiarch indicate that his function was to direct manners of drinking. It appears that the symposiarch often was an ad hoc appointee to oversee the entertainment: He had to steer a course for the symposium between a sober (and rather boring) lack of hilarity and the ebrious raucousness that easily could get out of hand and lead to quarrels and beatings. The symposiarch’s responsibility to warrant ‘good order’ probably best describes his task. This function, of course, closely resembles that of the Christian bishop as the overseer of the Eucharist."
— Matthias Klinghardt, A Typology of the Communal Meal
For the most part, communal meals in the ancient Mediterranean were twofold events. The meal proper (δεῖπνον or συσσίτιον in Greek sources, cena in Latin) was always followed by a drinking party, the symposium proper (συμπόσιον; convivium). Furthermore, the social importance of the ‘constructive drinking’ during the symposium exceeds that of eating together as demonstrated by the vast sympotic literature.
The ubiquitous twofold structure provides needed context for understanding Christian meals within the first two centuries of the Common Era. They were not ‘sacramental meals’ in token form but real meals. Citations of ‘bread’ and ‘wine’ refer to the two main parts of any communal meal rather than to the sacramental aspects of a token meal, which first appears during the third century CE.
Before the third century, Christian meals were—like all meals in the Hellenistic-Roman world—real meals in which the participants ate their fill. It is safe to assume that several courses typically were served in such a dinner. Naturally, the table included a wide variety of foodstuffs, whose range depended on the host’s or the respective meal group’s financial means and cultural backgrounds. One must realize, however, that unlike today in the same part of the world, meat (and fish where available) was regularly consumed by the wealthy only. Most of the population during the Greco-Roman era primarily had diets of grains and vegetables. Meats were served as side dishes (ὄψον) accompanied by cereal flat cakes or bread. The latter was indispensible for scooping up the side dishes since silverware was unknown. Breaking (and handing out) bread is, therefore, not a Christian trait but rather the routine gesture with which any meal would begin.
The structural distinction between the eating and the drinking parts of a meal implies that drinks were not served during the dinner. This, however, is only generally so since a cultural difference and probably a shift of meal customs is evident in the literature. Later Roman authors claim that drinking during the meal proper was unheard of in ‘olden times.’ They do not, however, specify when this was. But in the first century CE Petronius could characterize the nouveau-riche Trimalchio’s ignoble lack of manners by having him serve wine during the dinner already, thus confirming the general etiquette."
— Mattias Klinghardt, A Typology of the Communal Meal
As Jacques Ellul has pointed out with reference to propaganda as a specific area of human technique:
Propaganda must become as natural as air or food. It must proceed by psychological inhibition and the least possible shock. The individual is then able to declare in all honesty that no such thing as propaganda exists. In fact, however, he has been so absorbed by it that he is literally no longer able to see the truth. The natures of man and propaganda have become so inextricably mixed that everything depends not on choice or on free will, but on reflex and myth. The prolonged and hypnotic repetition of the same complex of ideas, the same images, and the same rumors condition man for the assimilation of his nature to propaganda.
Much the same could be affirmed, moreover, with regard to many other areas of human technique which are not simply ‘propaganda’ in the strict sense. Thus it is only to be expected that in our kind of civilization almost every organized ‘encounter’ — from kindergarten to post-graduate seminars — will entail an element of concealed indoctrination. As Ellul has shown, virtually all education — on both sides of the Iron Curtain — involves mechanisms of conditioning and control designed to fit the individual into the projects of the society.
Even our leisure is ‘literally stuffed with technical mechanisms of compensation and integration’ which, though different from those of the work environment, are ‘as invasive and exacting, and leave man no more free than labor itself.’ Within the last decade even religious and priestly retreats have become fair game to the scientific methods of ‘sensitivity training’! It is the greatest mistake to think that the technological society can be ‘culturally neutral’, or that the celebrated ‘pluralism’ about which one hears so much in Western countries can be anything more than a passing phase or an outright fake. ‘Cosmology implicates values’ — to say it once more — and without any doubt the manipulation of man, the most vital ‘resource’ of all, constitutes the ultimate technology."
— Wolfgang Smith, Cosmos and Transcendence
Add to this the uprooting of people from their ancestral environment, an unprecedented mobility which shuffles populations like a deck of cards! Add also the other innumerable mechanisms within the technological society which tend to break down every natural division and all cultural ties. Let us add up (if we are able!) all the factors which homogenize and level out. For it must not be forgotten that people too have to be standardized, like interchangeable parts of a machine, so that the wheels of the mechanized civilization may run smoothly and efficiently."
— Wolfgang Smith, Cosmos and Transcendence
The data for all four diagrams are from SCB (the Swedish Statistical Agency) and BRÅ (The Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention). I don’t know if the raw data is available online, but I picked up the diagrams from here:
1. Violent crimes (1975-2010): 315% increase.
2. Sex crimes (1975-2010): 534% increase.
3. Assaults (1950-2009): 1069% increase.
4. Robberies (1950-2009): 4937% increase.
Increase of population 1950-2009: 33%.
Leonard Cohen said it: "I’ve seen the future, brother. It is murder."
— Wolfgang Smith, Cosmos and Transcendence
Fallible or not, the Greek philosophers and all writers of the Bible agreed that conscience should not be knowingly defied. When aroused it could be merciless and incapacitating on to death. Robert Graves interprets St. Paul’s initial response, after his vision of Christ on the road to Damascus, as a Greek experience of conscience that threatened to kill him. According to Graves, Paul shows all the signs of suffering the merciless pangs of conscience for persecuting Christ’ s followers. In Greek mythology, the Erinnyes or Furies ‘were personified pangs of conscience, such as are still capable, in pagan Melanesia, of killing a man who has rashly or inadvertently broken a taboo. He will either go mad and leap from a coconut palm, or wrap his head in a cloak, like Orestes, and refuse to eat or drink until he dies of starvation; even if nobody else is informed of his guilt. Paul would have suffered a similar fate at Damascus but for the timely arrival of Ananias (Acts 9:9 ff).’"
— Jerome W. Vreeland, The Unredeemed Conscience
If you having tv problems I feel bad for you son. I’m reading a book without commercials and having plenty of fun.
- “I do not know how far back it began. Avalanches gather force and crash, unheard, in men as in the mountains. But I date my break from a very casual...”
I was an introvert until I realized I directed towards myself what is meant to be directed towards others.