Mike Aquilina offered some talks locally this week, and did a fantastic job at a very difficult task: making Americans want to run to the store, buy and read texts written by dead men who lived in the Middle East, Africa and Europe almost 2 millenia ago.
Mike brought those holy men, our Church Fathers, alive by vividly demonstrating their humor and passion, their idiosyncrasies and genius, their fatherly hearts and pastoral minds, their divine light and human clay, their tender charity heroically lived in a vicious world. He described the Fathers as the privileged – ‘constitutive’ – receivers of divine Revelation, standing at the headwaters as those first monstrous waves that followed upon the catastrophic impact of the Incarnation of the God crashed into unsuspecting humanity.
How blessed we are that they courageously bore the initial force of that turgid torrent and channeled it into the life-giving streams that we so easily drink from in our Church’s rich and living Tradition.
From Mike’s own many recommendations, let me recommend three books for reading more on/of these Wicked Wise Guys:
1. Robert Louis Wilken’s excellent patristic survey, The Spirit of Early Christian Thought
2. Mike’s incomparable ‘The Fathers for Dummies,’ The Fathers of the Church
3. Mike’s favorite (and mine) of The Fathers’ writings, Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp of Smyrna
My favorite quote from Mike’s Monday evening lecture came from Tertullian: “We meet together as an assembly and congregation, that, offering up prayer to God as with united force, we may wrestle with Him in our supplications. This violence God delights in.”
You go, Mike. I even ventured a poem in his honor:
O Doer of violent faith
assailing heaven’s Vault,
loosing torrential grace
sprung of God’s assault
on mankind’s happy sin
piercing Adam’s side
as water drowned the din,
and blood fed the Bride.
O Speaker of violent love
you laud those Fathers bright
who lead our minds above
to angels’ thrice-veiled sight
and send us out, far away
to be this Ancient Tale
of a God who chose to stay
and rend our Temple Veil.