April 9, 2020
St. Jerome famously said, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” Thus knowledge of the Scriptures is knowledge of Christ and the more we know Scriptures—assuming that our hearts are right—the more we will know Christ.
While reading through the Bible is of great value and scholarly study of the Bible is also of great value, the Medieval Masters developed a method of reading the Bible they called lectio divina—and it’s not just for monks in the Egyptian desert. It’s a mystical practice for all of us.
Dr. Baxter explains more addressing “How to Perform Scripture: Lectio Divina and Reading with the Heart” in this final session of “Into the Lenten Desert: Learning to Pray with the Medieval Masters” from Wyoming Catholic College.
April 6, 2020
Writing at TheCatholicThing, scholar David Bonagura, Jr. writes about Passion Sunday and the blessing and receiving of palms. It’s what we do, he says. Then he goes on, “But not this year. We will not be present to receive our palms, to hold them as the Gospel of Jesus’ triumphal ascent into Jerusalem is read, to make crosses out of them, to thread them through our crucifixes upon returning home. It is a Palm Sunday without palms.”
This year, Palm Sunday without palms will lead to Holy Thursday without our receiving the Eucharist, Good Friday without waiting on line to kneel and to kiss the crucified, and Easter without gathering in the dark to await the light and the resurrection. It is a strange and sad situation.
Here at Wyoming Catholic College, the sadness extends to the loss of our close-knit school community. Great gatherings for Easter brunches and Easter dinners will be limited to immediate family and groups of ten.
Last Friday, our academic dean, Prof. Kyle Washut spoke from his heart to the experience of our students, faculty, and staff. In doing so, he also, I suspect, speaks eloquently to you experience during this Holy Week. Here is what he had to say.
April 2, 2020
“The man who truly prayers,” wrote the fourth century monk Evagrios, “is the man who sees the place of God. This is what it means to be a theologian.”
This is lecture six in Wyoming Catholic College’s distance learning course “Into the Lenten Desert: Learning to Pray with the Medieval Masters” with Dr. Jason Baxter.
Following the example of St. Anthony, a steady stream of monks and hermits made their way into the Egyptian desert to seek God. Evagrios was among them, a so-called “desert father.”
In this lecture, Dr. Baxter looks at the writings of Evagrios and the sayings of the desert fathers in order to explain: “Praying with the Whole World: Evagrios and ‘Natural Contemplation.’”
March 26, 2020
It's been said that God created man in his own image and man kindly returned the favor.
While the Scripture tells us that God saves with his strong arm, most of us understand that this is metaphorical language. God has no arms, legs, hands, feet, eyes, or ears. We know God by analogy because God in His Being is beyond our comprehension. He remains a mystery.
The mystic wants to know God not merely by analogy, but to experience Him in His Being and thus in the darkness of mystery.
In this lecture, “Dionysius the Areopagite and The Darkness of God,” Dr. Baxter explores the mystical tradition of the via negativa.
March 19, 2020
“And men go abroad to admire the heights of mountains, the mighty waves of the sea, the broad tides of rivers, the compass of the ocean, and the circuits of the stars,” wrote St. Augustine of Hippo in his Confessions, “yet [they] pass over the mystery of themselves without a thought.”
In Confessions, Augustine explores how for years he passed over the mystery of his own self until he began actively exploring that mystery. Why do we behave as we do? What’s the appeal of sin? What’s the appeal of holiness? Why are we so restless? What is truth?
In this fourth lecture in the distance learning course "Into the Lenten Desert: Learning to Pray with the Medieval Masters," Dr. Baxter explores “Augustine’s Restless Heart and the Inward Turn: What Augustine Learned from the Pagans.”
March 17, 2020
“One afternoon in the autumn of 1851, a solitary horseman, followed by a packmule, was pushing through an arid stretch of country somewhere in central New Mexico. He had lost his way, and was trying to get back to the trail, with only his compass and his sense of direction for guides....Under his buckskin riding-coat [the traveler] wore a black vest and the cravat and collar of a churchman. A young priest...and a priest in a thousand, one knew at a glance. His manners, even when he was alone in the desert, were distinguished. He had a kind of courtesy toward himself, toward his beasts, toward the juniper tree before which he knelt, and the God whom he was addressing.”
Those first lines from Willa Cather’s Death Comes to the Archbishop set the stage for the entire novel. A young priest riding through the middle of the varied landscapes of New Mexico.
Wyoming Catholic College senior Catherine Stypa chose Cather’s novel as the subject of her senior thesis this past the fall and her senior oration earlier this winter. Catherine Stypa is our guest on this edition of The After Dinner Scholar.
March 12, 2020
“I have a divine sign…,” said Socrates in his Apology. “This began when I was a child. It is a voice, and whenever it speaks it turns me away from something I am about to do, but it never encourages me to do anything.”
Mysticism is hardly a Christians-only domain. And in fact the Medieval Masters learned a great deal from the Greek pagans, particularly Plato.
In this third lecture in the distance learning course “Into the Lenten Desert: Learning to Pray with the Medieval Masters,” “Pagans Grope Toward God: Piety and Prayer in Classical Antiquity,” Dr. Baxter explores the connections between Greek philosophy and mysticism and the Christian tradition in which we stand today.
March 5, 2020
“The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing—to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty comes from…—my country, a place where I ought to have been born.”
Those lines are from C. S. Lewis’ novel Till We Have Faces. The scene is between two sisters Orual and Psyche, the speaker. Set in the ancient world, Psyche has been chosen to be a human sacrifice to the god of the sacred Mountain where she will be tied till the god—or possibly the beasts (Orual’s fear) take her.
Psyche with a mystical frame of mind looks forward to the encounter with the god. Oruel who has imbibed a rationalistic form of Greek philosophy doesn’t understand at all and, in a sense, thinks her sister quite mad.
Mystics have, perhaps always been a bit misunderstood, but never so much as they are in the rationalistic, technological, materialistic era in which we live. Ours is a disenchanted cosmos where the mystic’s cosmos is quite enchanted.
In this session, Dr. Baxter asks, “How Did We Get Here?: Why We Need the Medieval Masters.”
February 27, 2020
Lent, said Pope Benedict XVI, “is a period of spiritual ‘combat’ which we must experience alongside Jesus, not with pride and presumption, but using the arms of faith: prayer, listening to the word of God and penance.”
Few Christians knew how to wield those weapons of prayer, listening, and penance than the Medieval Masters. These were the priests, bishops, theologians, monks, and hermits who defined the great doctrines of our faith, established many of the traditions we still follow today, and distinguished themselves as spiritual warriors against the world, the flesh, and the devil.
This Lent, Dr. Jason Baxter introduces the great saints of that era and shares what they can teach us about prayer, penance, and spiritual warfare.
February 18, 2020
These days before Lent are typically known as Carnival, that season of masquerade, music, dancing, and reveling as people (presumably) bid Vale carne, "Goodbye, meat."
The Lenten fast has a long history in the Christian Church—not as long as the celebration of Pascha, that is, Easter—but long nonetheless.
Our word “lent” is derived from the Old English word lencten meaning springtime. Nonetheless it has become synonymous with what is still called in many places “The Great Fast.” The goal is to spend forty days preparing to celebrate Easter through prayer, penance, and fasting.
But how do you count those forty days especially when from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday is actually 46 days? And what is an appropriate Lenten fast? Vale Carne or "Vale wine and chocolate" or "Vale corn chips"?
Wyoming Catholic College’s Byzantine Catholic chaplain Fr. David Anderson spoke to interested students last week about Lent and is our guest on this episode of The After Dinner Scholar.