Sunday of Third

I think we have a lesson here. With days that begin with a mile-and-a-half run, cleaning up, Morning Prayer at 7:30, days full of prep, teaching, meetings, and marking, home at 18:30, dinner, and evening entertainment, blogging simply falls by the wayside.

Okay, let’s add in doom-scrolling.

We won’t know for another ten days, but maybe if the Buffoon of the United States loses the election I’ll be a little less uneasy. It’s too much to hope that COVID will subside or that Brexit won’t be an unmitigated calamity, but fretting about the collapse of American democracy (while my family and many others whom I care about still live there) has haunted me for the past four years. I think I’ve adjusted to Coronormal conditions, and Brexit… well, I can’t imagine the scale of the economic and transport consequences of that. One crisis at a time.

Sunday of Second

For Brendan and Rosie’s wedding this summer, the first reading was taken from Gregory of Nazianzus’ Carmina 1.2.1. 262-275, 283-287. Brendan supplied a prose translation, but because your blogger here is that kind of guy, I felt impelled to look up the passage in Gregory’s original Greek and work it out for myself. Let it be acknowledged that this may be the only passage in which GRegory has anything favourable to say about marriage, and even here he praises it only to set up celibacy as a preferable alternative; still, if one doesn’t worry too much about intention and context, it’s a pleasant enough poem. I’m not sure I agree wtih the aspects of marriage he approves, and I frown as I try to imagine the comparison of married life to an amiable leaping colt. Then again, he’s a Doctor of the Church, and I’m just a doctor in a church.

As the sermon process wove and coiled and spooled and tangled, it occurred to me that the Greek might be translated into blank verse in English, with only a little some a certain amount of torturing the syntax. So I, undeterred from a little syntax-twisting in a good cause, ended up with this:

To one another hands, ears, feet we are,
once wed. A twofold strength our marriage brings:
Well-wishers’ double joy, ill-wishers’ pain.
Who share in common sorrow, lighten grief;
who share in merriment, laugh sweeter still.
More pleasant wealth, to minds harmonious;
more pleasant harmony to paupers, than that wealth.
To both, wedlock’s the key to prudent minds
and seal of love’s affectionate demand.
A colt, whose bounding friendship heals a mood;
a sip from home’s fresh well, reserved for home,
nor gushing out, nor bottled for export.
One nature in the flesh, like minds, of piety
a spur to one another — desire piques like with like.
. . .
Sed contra, single hearts live light,
requiring only trivial aid from God,
while those protecting partner, property,
and progeny — these sail upon life’s deeps.
They need God’s help the more, and God provides
the more; therefore, God treats them mercifully.

It won’t be nominated for any awards, but if some other patrologist invites me to preach at a wedding featuring Gregory’s encomium on the married state, I may have this in my pocket (so to speak) to work from.

Weekend Days

Yesterday, Mother Lucy pointed out to me that (according to her youthful, athletic son John) it’s better to take one day off from exercise in a week than to exercise every day. (Actually, she said ‘training’, but that implies a goal or a norm, and in my case the goal or the norm is just going out and getting the exercise, so ‘training’ seems grandiose.) With that in view, I took this morning off, slept straight through to six o’clock, and enjoyed my hot breakfast without breaking a sweat. I’ll probably have some marking to do tomorrow, but during term-time the relaxing break of weekends makes a huge difference in favour of having the energy to push on through the week.


I was going to mention this three weeks ago, when Margaret and I went down to Worthing for Josh Delia’s ordination to the diaconate. ‘This’, that is, that as we waited at Victoria for our train to the south, a man approached us and thanked me for wearing a homburg. He noted the rarity of seeing somebody dressed seriously (not fully formally, not casually, but for the serious work of business), and wished that my example might inspire others to resume the wearing of hats.

(Be it noted that a fair number of people do wear flat caps — ‘bunnets’, in Scotland — and it’s not uncommon for various constituencies of da yoof to wear fedoras or pork pies, to the unfortunate extent that they sometimes function metonymously for hipsters or gamergaters. To this I can only say that I was wearing a fedora to my Student United Nations meetings fifty years ago, at a point when hipsters would have been wearing berets, popping their fingers, and playing bongos, so I will have been resolutely and consistently out of step with fashion for longer than today’s hipsters and their antithetical despisers have been alive.)

The very next day, one of our first-year students stopped me to say how much he, in turn, appreciated seeing me wear my homburg. And in the interval till this morning, a number of other bystanders, clerks, and colleagues have complimented it. So let this be a lessson to you who read: if you persist in an affectation long enough, in the very teeth of what right-thinking fashionistas deplore, then sooner or later you may become noteworthy as a sort of cultural monument — which may be better than not being noticed at all.


My firm purpose and intention to keep writing online every day has obviously faltered in the face of (a) keeping to my morning run (b) doomscrolling during the mornings, to see what the current occupying power of the White House has perpetrated overnight (c) the dining room being now open to teaching staff, I no longer have the short interval over breakfast when I might blog from my laptop at home and (d) the tedium of saying the same thing every day: run, Office, Mass, breakfast, teaching prep, teaching, meetings, and so on. I will endeavour to get back on track, though, since I’m increasingly aghast at Facebook, and will try to wean myself from Twitter also once I break the Facebook habit.

Good Morning, Class

After my morning run, Morning Office, fruit breakfast, House Meeting, and some consultation with colleagues, I gave my first lecture since Hilary Term. It was a bit unnerving, what with a red line taped to the floor so that I not score a goal when the ball is offside, and having to wipe down everything I touched, but I think all is well and this year’s Bible scholars will do just fine. Lunch andd more prep work, plus discussions with a student relative to the relation of ancient exorcism and modern mental health, which sounds more intriguing than they’ll be able to squeeze into the paltry word count they’re allowed. Then I ran out of gas in the late afternoon, said St Wilfrid’s Mass, Evening Office, emjoyed the grilled cheese sandwiches and soup that MArgaret prepared, and watched a couple of episodes of Ozark.

Sunday of First

Morning run, Morning Office, hot breakfast (have I mentioned before how much I love hot breakfast?), morning Mass, a tasty lunch, and the afternoon occupied by various items of course prep. Margaret made veg with tofu for dinner, and we watched more Ozark.

That’s Noughth

Ten percent of the term has passed already. Granted, it had none of the teaching obligations, but I’ll take it anyway; I’ve had a six-month layoff, and I haven’t yet forgotten, omitted, or committed anything unforgivable. Morning run, Morning Office, hot breakfast, some course prep, some errands, some reading and marking. Margaret made pizza for dinner, and we watched a couple more episodes of Ozark.

Saint John Henry Newman

Before I get to the important part of the day, just a reminder (to myself as much as anyone) that before the plague set in, I used to run a mile on two mornings a week, maybe three. Now, including this morning, I run a mile and a half every morning. I’m no Mo Farah or Usain Bolt, but if you had suggested to me last October that I extend my mile to a mile and a half, or if you proposed my running two days in a row, I’d probably have recoiled with horror.

This morning, though, is the first full-on festal commemoration of Saint John Henry Newman. I am a very ardent appreciator of Newman, though far from counting as a ‘Newman scholar’; at the same time, I’ve studied and engaged his work, both as a biblical interpreter and as a priest of the church, since I was training for ministry. It’s particularly satisfying to observe his subtlety in working along the edges of doctrines and patterns of reasoning. Where so many before, and in his day, and even now lay down flat asseverations about what must be thought, Newman frequently focuses on fine distinctions in the name of truth (and Truth). That’s my kind of discursive move, and I admire it even when I don’t entirely agree with it. It was a joy to celebrate this morning’s Mass in commemoration of Newman, and with special intention for Fr Rob Wainwright and the work of the chapel at Oriel College.

The rest of the day unrolled with meetings with students, course prep, Zoom meetings, and various other such work-related activities. We had leftovers for dinner, watched one episode of Ozark before determining that it was too grimly amoral for persistent watching, then Eight Out Of Ten Cats Does Countdown.


Morning run, Morning Office, morning Mass, fruit breakfast (and Margaret made a smoothie for me!), and really the rest of the day was almost all course prep of one sort or another. Some correspondence, a grocery trip mid-afternoon, and pasta dinner and more Ozark. That’s a day.

The Magic Half-Hour

On Wednesday mornings, the Office begins a half hour later, a precious thirty minutes that makes a world of difference to the weary flesh. It gave me a pleasant cushion for the timing of my morning run, and a bit of extra wakefulness when I set to work. I gave the annual ‘Preaching the Scriptures’ lecture, then dashed to Oriel for lunch with my new colleagues Brendan and John. (Brendan’s a long-standing friend, John a PG student at Worcester who’s covering some of the modern theology teaching at Oriel this year.) Then back to St Stephen’s House for a Zoom meeting with this year’s complement of Oxford BA students (two veterans from last year, two new recruits), and after a short break back to Oriel to meet the first-years. Sadly, through a miscommunication, the first-years were not where I expected to meet them, but Brendan and I had a glass of wine and caught up with Oriel and Theology Faculty news. Then back home, where Margaret had a delicious veg stir-fry with her homemade pesto, and the end of the first season of Ozark.

So Far So Good

Social distancing yesterday seemed mostly to be operative. The chapel seating is beginning to settle in (I’m stuck off to the side in the transept, near the shrine for Our Lady of Walsingham, so I can’t see the students — and hearing is an issue as well, as the voices bounce about several times before they reach my already-muffled ears).
Today began with my morning run after a night of tossing and turning (‘I didn’t sleep at all last night’), the Office and Mass, then spent the day on course prep, top to bottom, though you might not think so. Lots of looking-up, searching-for, adding-to, deleting-from, very-little-net-change. Evensong, home to say hello to Mel, delicious dinner from Margaret, with Ozark for evening entertainment.