Péguy on the Virgin Mary

Ô reine voici donc après la longue route,

Avant de repartir par ce même chemin,

Le seul asile ouvert au creux de votre main,

Et le jardin secret où l’âme s’ouvre toute.


Voici le lourd pilier et la montante voûte ;

Et l’oubli pour hier, et l’oubli pour demain ;

Et l’inutilité de tout calcul humain ;

Et plus que le péché, la sagesse en déroute.


Voici le lieu du monde où tout devient facile,

Le regret, le départ, même l’événement,

Et l’adieu temporaire et le détournement,

Le seul coin de la terre où tout devient docile,


Et même ce vieux cœur qui faisait le rebelle ;

Et cette vieille tête et ses raisonnements ;

Et ces deux bras raidis dans les casernements ;

Et cette jeune enfant qui faisait trop la belle.


Voici le lieu du monde où tout est reconnu,

Et cette vieille tête et la source des larmes ;

Et ces deux bras raidis dans le métier des armes ;

Le seul coin de la terre où tout soit contenu.


Voici le lieu du monde où tout est revenu

Après tant de départs, après tant d’arrivées.

Voici le lieu du monde où tout est pauvre et nu

Après tant de hasards, après tant de corvées.


Voici le lieu du monde et la seule retraite,

Et l’unique retour et le recueillement,

Et la feuille et le fruit et le defeuillement,

Et les rameaux cueillis pour cette unique fête.


English translation

O queen, here after the long road, Before returning by the same path, The only refuge open to the palm of your hand, And the secret garden where the soul opens itself in full.

Here the heavy pillar and arch soar upward; And forget about yesterday, and forget about tomorrow; And the futility of all human calculation; And wisdom greater than sin is channeled.

Here is the place in the world where everything becomes easy, Regret, leaving, the same event, And temporary farewell and diversion, The only corner of the earth where everything becomes gentle.

And even this old heart that was once a rebel’s; And this old head and its reasoning; And these two arms, stiff in the barracks; And this young child who was the most beautiful.

This is the place in the world where everything is known, And this old head and wellspring of tears; And these two limbs stiffened by the profession of bearing arms; The corner of the earth where everything is content.

Here is the place of the world where everything returns After so many departures, so many arrivals. Here is the place where all the world is poor and naked After so much chance, after so many risks.

This is the place of the world and the only retreat And the unique return and recollection, And leaf and fruit and the falling of leaves, And palms gathered for a feast unlike any other.

Charles Peguy (1912), “Five Prayers in the Cathedral of Chartres.”


J. Safran Foer on Identity

God’s Test of Abraham is written like this: “sometome later God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’, ‘here I am’, Abraham replied”. Most people assume that the test is what follows:God Asking Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. But I think it could also be read that the test was when He called to him. Abraham didn’t say “what do you want?” He didn’t say, “Yes?” He answered with a statement: “Here I am.” Whatever God needs or wants, Abraham is wholly present for Him, without conditions or reservations or need for explanation.” That word, hineni – here I am – comes up two other times in the portion. When Abraham is taking Isaac up Mont Moriah, Isaac becomes aware of what they are doing, and how fucked up it is. He knows that he is about to be the sacrifice, in the way all kids always do when it’s about to happen. It says: “And Isaac said to Abraham, his father, ‘My father!’ and he said ‘Here I am, my son’. And Isaac said, ‘Here is the fire and the wood but where is the sheep for the offering?’ And Abraham said ‘God will see to the sheep for the offereing, my son.’” Isaac doesn’t say “Father”, he says, “My father”. Abraham is the father of the Jewish people, but is also Isaac’s father, his personal father. And Abraham doesn’t ask, “what do you want?” He says “Here I am”. When God asks for Abraham, Abraham is wholly present for God. When Isaac asks for Abraham, Abraham is wholly present for his son But how can that be possible? God is Asking Abraham to kill Isaac and Isaac is asking his father to protect him. How Can Abraham be two directly opposing things at once? (…) My bat mitzvah portion is about many things, but I think it is primarily about who we are wholly there for and how that, more than anything else, defines our identity.

Jonathan Safran Foer (2016) , Here I am, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York.

G. Gunnarsson on service and sacred

In any case the three went on their way, rejoicing that today was a good day which no one might spoil – Advent. And as Benedikt’s head was so filled with thoughts of holy significance of this day and of the Scripture lessons he had read, he got to thinking that this must have been the very day, hundreds of years ago, that Jesus made his entry in Jerusalem.

For he was only a simple man unlearned in finer matters of history and theology; good will and devotion often crowded out facts in his mind. And it seemed to him that he could feel in the very air plain traces of that great event, that the day had taken on something of its peculiar sacred character, and had kept it down through the centuries. Benedikt could see Him plainly before his eyes, going into the great city, splendid in the rays of sun. […] “Behold thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass”.

Meek! That was a word Benedikt could understand. He could understand how the Son of God could meek and riding upon the foal of an ass, for all things living and dead nothing is too small for service and nothing that is not consecrated through service. Benedikt felt that he knew that little ass and knew exactly how he felt and how Gd’s Son felt in that holy hour. He could see plainly before his eyes the people spreading their best clothes on the road. And then he heard some say, “Who is this man?” Really! “Who is this man?” For they did not recognize the Son of God

Gunnar Gunnarson (1936), Advent (English translations as “the Iceland Shepard”, “the Shepard”, “the Good Shepard”

M. Robinson on Christianity

It was Coleridge who said Christianity is a life, not a doctrine, words to that effect. I’m not saying never doubt or question. The Lord gave you a mind so that you would make honest use of it. I’m saying you must be sure that the doubts and questions are your own, not, so to speak, the mustache and walking stick that happen to be the fashion at any particular moment.

Marilynne Robinson (2004), Gilead

M. Robinson on Science and Religion

When you read ancient literature, it tends to have a mythic creation at the beginning of it. And then it proceeds through the various dramas of the passions and the aversions and the attractions and all the rest of it, or in the case of the Bible it tends towards history. But the thing that’s interesting, is that the fundamental intuition that ancient literatures share—that there was a beginning—is extraordinary. Because it wasn’t until Edwin Hubble that modern science accepted a beginning.

And so—it’s sort of odd—but the things that are apparently least scientific, in fact, anticipate what is probably the major datum of contemporary science. This is all very strange. To think that someone in antiquity understood the world as beginning in time, and that Einstein didn’t until Edwin Hubble: It’s remarkable! It’s one of those things were you just have to stand back and marvel. […]

I’m not impressed by the quality of the conversation on either side of that controversy. There’s better religious thought, and there’s better scientific thought, and they don’t engage.

There are people who, for one reason or another, have a bad experience with religion. They drop out at the age of 12—this seems to be characteristic of most of religion’s major critics. And then they spend the rest of their lives attacking a 12-year-old’s conception of religion. Part of the responsibility certainly does lie with religion, because the people who claim it often don’t do it any justice at all.

On the other hand, there’s an idea of science which is not serious. A notion of science which presents itself as all-knowing, all rationalizing, when in fact the best science has always engaged with mystery. With the possibility of error. And the whole complexity of how human beings can know what they know, and so on.

Science is very alert to error, excited by it, pleased by it! If someone can reverse some important position that science has taken, a thrill passes through the scientific community. That tends not to be the way that it’s represented. So I think there’s something tacky, and sort of below the dignity of both sides, in the controversy that’s going on now.

Marilynne Robinson, interviewed by “The Nation”, March 23rd 2015

Marilynne Robinson on Love

“Love is holy because it is like grace – the worthiness of its object is never really what matters. (…) There is no justice in love, no proportion in it, and there need not be, because in any specific instance it is only a glimpse or parable of an embracing, incomprehensible reality. It makes no sense at all because it is the eternal breaking in on the temporal. So how could it subordinate itself to cause or consequence?”

Marilynne Robinson (2004), Gilead.

Havel on Hope

The kind of hope I often think about (especially in hopeless situations like prison or the sewer) is, I believe, a state of mind, not a state of the world. Either we have hope within us or we don’t. Hope is not a prognostication — it’s an orientation of the spirit , an orientation of the heart. It transcends the world that is immediately experienced, and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons. . . . I feel that its deepest roots are in the transcendental, just as the roots of human responsibility are, though of course I can’t – unlike Christians, for instance — say anything about the transcendental … Each of us must find real, fundamental hope within himself. You can’t delegate that to anyone else.

Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously headed for early success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed. The more unpromising the situation in which we demonstrate hope, the deeper that hope is. Hope is not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out. In short, I think that the deepest and most important form of hope, the only one that can keep us above water and urge us to good works, and the only true source of the breathtaking dimension of the human spirit and its efforts, is something we get, as it were, from ‘elsewhere.’ It is also this hope, above all, that gives us the strength to live and continually to try new things, even in conditions that seem as hopeless as ours do, here and now. the face of this absurdity, life is too precious a thing to permit its devaluation by living pointlessly, emptily, without meaning, without love, and, finally, without hope

Vaclav Havel (1991), Disturbing the Peace pages: 181-182


GKC on Courage

“There is not really any courage at all in attacking hoary or antiquated things, any more than in offering to fight one’s grandmother. The really courageous man is he who defies tyrannies young as the morning and superstitions fresh as the first flowers. The only true free-thinker is he whose intellect is as much free from the future as from the past.”

G.K.Chesterton what’s wrong with the world