Rising Prairie

sententiarum collectio

If they chance see a man among them

Just as, all too often,
some huge crowd is seized by a vast uprising,
the rabble runs amok, all slaves to passion,
rocks, firebrands flying. Rage finds them arms
but then, if they chance to see a man among them,
one whose devotion and public service lend him weight,
they stand there, stock-still with their ears alert as
he rules their furor with his words and calms their passion.
So the crash of the breakers all fell silent once their Faither,
gazing over his realm under clear skies, flicks his horses,
giving them free rein, and his eager chariot flies.

Virgil, The Aeneid

Hospitality Born of Suffering

From that day on I have known of Troy’s disaster, known your name, and all the kings of Greece. Teucer, your enemy, often sang Troy’s praises, claiming his own descent from Teucer’s ancient stock. So come, young soldiers, welcome to our house. My destiny, harrying me with trials hard as yours, led me as well, at last, to anchor in this land. Schooled in suffering, now I learn to comfort those who suffer too.

Virgil, The Aeneid

Brave Words

The commander’s words relieve their stricken hearts:
“My comrades, hardly strangers to pain before now,
we all have weathered worse. Some god will grant us
an end to this as well. You’ve threaded the rocks
resounding with Scylla’s howling rabid dogs,
and taken the brunt of the Cyclops’ boulders, too.
Call up your courage again. Dismiss your grief and fear.
A joy it will be one day, perhaps, to remember even this.
Through many hard straits, so many twists and turns
our course holds firm for Latium. There Fate holds out
a homeland, calm, at peace. There the gods decree
the kingdom of Troy will rise again.

“Bear up. Save your strength for better times to comes.”

Brave words. Sick with mounting cares he assumes a look of hope and keeps his anguish buried in his heart.

– Virgil, The Aeneid, Book 2

The Will: from Control to Attack

“The transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator. It has always been a source of great joy to them, even though it sometimes entails many difficulties and hardships.

“The fulfillment of this duty has always posed problems to the conscience of married people, but the recent course of human society and the concomitant changes have provoked new questions. The Church cannot ignore these questions, for they concern matters intimately connected with the life and happiness of human beings.

“But the most remarkable development of all is to be seen in man’s stupendous progress in the domination and rational organization of the forces of nature to the point that he is endeavoring to extend this control over every aspect of his own life—over his body, over his mind and emotions, over his social life, and even over the laws that regulate the transmission of life.

Humanae Vitae, 1968 (emphasis added)

***Fast forward***

“The autonomous will really has no choice but to attack the body as well as the mind. For the body is the most obvious locus of the given, the most stubborn impediment to the power claimed by the will. “

-Douglas Farrow, Theological Negotiations, 2018

The foes already have possess’d the wall

“To this the spectre no reply did frame,
But answer’d to the cause for which he came,
And, groaning from the bottom of his breast,
This warning in these mournful words express’d:
‘O goddess-born! escape, by timely flight,
The flames and horrors of this fatal night.
The foes already have possess’d the wall;
Troy nods from high, and totters to her fall.
Enough is paid to Priam’s royal name,
More than enough to duty and to fame.
If by a mortal hand my father’s throne
Could be defended, ’twas by mine alone.
Now Troy to thee commends her future state,
And gives her gods companions of thy fate:
From their assistance walls expect,
Which, wand’ring long, at last thou shalt erect.’
He said, and brought me, from their blest abodes,
The venerable statues of the gods,
With ancient Vesta from the sacred choir,
The wreaths and relics of th’ immortal fire.

Virgil, The Aeneid, Book 2

No doubt what lies in the future…

“I think there can be no doubt what lies in the future for Rome. When a state has warded off many serious threats, and has come to attain undisputed supremacy and sovereignty, it is easy to see that, after a long period of settled prosperity, lifestyles become more extravagant, and rivalry over political positions and other such projects becomes fiercer than it should be. If these processes continue for very long, society will change for the worse. The causes of the deterioration will be lust for power combined with contempt for political obscurity, and personal ostentation and extravagance. It will be called a democratic revolution, however, because the time will come when the people will feel abused by some politicians’ self-seeking ambition, and will have been flattered into vain hopes by others’ lust for power. Under these circumstances, all their decisions will be motivated by anger and passion, and they will no longer be content to be subject or even equal to those in power. When this happens, the new constitution will be described in the most attractive terms, as ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy,’ but in fact it will be the worst of all constitutions, mob-rule.”

Polybius, “The Histories” (Book 6), c.250 BC

Pleasure and Toil

What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.

I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.

Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness. I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work. I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts. For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth? So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?

Ecclesiastes 3:9-22 (ESV)

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