For the past week Esther and I have been in Tennessee. We spent a few days in Knoxville for a wedding, and then a few more at my parents’ house near Nashville. It is so refreshing to be back in a cooler climate (as opposed to the constant heat back home), especially as the leaves are changing. I forgot how much I miss four distinct seasons. The first night we were here, I went on an hour and a half walk in the pouring rain throughout my parents’ neighborhood. Great time for prayer and reflection on life. Its rained almost everyday, and I’ve loved every minute of it. Being in a new region feels life-giving and life-enlarging – its a reminder of how much there is to the wide world, and it puts the grind of my daily routine into perspective. Right after we landed Esther and I ate at Cracker Barrel with Esther’s dad – man, it was culture shock just watching people. Cracker Barrel in Nashville! What a culture. Its weird to think I used to live here in the South, and in some ways I’m from here! I’ve spent the week watching Band of Brothers, studying Latin, going on lots of long walks, catching up with friends, and going on a date with Esther every night. Its refreshing to be away. I didn’t know how badly I needed it until I was here. But I’m also excited to be going home.
My Latin study has basically been translating a bunch of medieval and late patristic poetry, and bits from the Vulgate. My favorite poem right now is A Solis Ortus, a 5th century poem by Sedulius. My favorite line is palamque fit pastoribus pastor, creator omnium: and to the shepherds becomes clear the shepherd, the creator of all. Its interesting to detect the central place of the Incarnation in the historic worship of the church. In these readings I am again and again confronted with the paradox of Creator becoming creature for the salvation of the world. I sense a slight difference of approach and emphasis here from my evangelical and reformed upbringing. I’m more accustomed to put the focus on the cross, with the incarnation as a sort of precursor; these readings are more accustomed to put the focus on the incarnation, with the cross (and resurrection) as aspects of this broader movement. This relates to a more general question I’ve been asking throughout my atonement seminar: what is the best way to construe the various saving deeds in the life of Christ? Is the cross the epicenter, and the incarnation a precursor; or is the cross simply a climactic event in a larger whole, to be located in relation to the incarnation, the true epicenter? Or is this whole approach of seeking a center misleading insofar as it potentially flattens or chops up what should instead be a dynamic, seamless whole? I want to keep exploring this question, and keep grounding myself in thought and worship of the church over the centuries.