You’d love my friend Francisco Garcia-Julve. He’s a philosopher from Spain who married a woman from Pittsburgh and retired here. Francisco’s a polymath, with advanced degrees in psychology, linguistics, and physics (to name only a few). He just published his first book in English, Sense Nonsense. In it, Francisco poses provocative questions about God, free will, secularity, and right and wrong. He does it in the form of aphorisms, and his are as memorable as those of his philosophical predecessors, Pascal and La Rochefoucauld and Nietzsche. Of those three, I suppose he’s most like Pascal, since Francisco, too, is a Catholic and a scientist.
Anyway, I love this book. Sense-Nonsense makes readers re-consider their most basic categories for understanding the human condition, human behavior, and human destiny. For many people, “to think” is to move from unexamined assumptions to inevitable conclusions without ever asking why — without ever knowing how to ask.
Francisco asks the hard questions and proposes exhilarating approaches to new answers. Like Pascal, he packs his ideas into paradoxical aphorisms that provoke a reconsideration — and re-valuation — of even the most ordinary things.
It’s a book for a culture whose standard ideas have proven dismally wrong in practice. It’s a book whose time is now.
Check it out on Amazon. It’s available as paper or as electrons. (I own both.) You can also check out the website my Beloved Son created for the book.
UPDATE: Here’s a thoughtful review of the book at Aliens in This World.
Spend the rest of your Lent with spiritual direction from one of the early Church Fathers. My buddy Carl Sommer (author of We Look for a Kingdom) has posted a very helpful look at Cyril of Jerusalem’s Lenten counsel.
The past is more present than it’s been in ages. Archeological discoveries have been piling up in my basket. Here’s a great one that’s very patristic.
Bulgarian archaeologists have uncovered what they believe is the oldest Christian monastery in Europe near the village of Zlatna Livada in southern Bulgaria.
According to latest archaeological research, the St. Athanasius monastery, still functioning near the village, has been founded in 344 by St. Athanasius himself, reports the BGNES agency.
Until now, the Candida Casa monastery, founded in 371 AD in Galloway, Scotland, was believed to be the oldest Christian monastery in Europe, followed by the St. Martin monastery in the Pyrénées-Orientales, France (373 AD).
Archaeologists have examined objects in a hermit’s cave and shrine located near the present St. Athanasius monastery in Bulgaria, and found evidence that the great saint might have resided there.
Additional studies in archives at the Vatican have confirmed that St. Athanasius was present at the Church Council in Serdica (modern Sofia) in 343 AD.
He then travelled on to Constantinople and is believed to have stopped in the area of present Zlatna Livada, which is located in Thrace on the ancient way between Serdica and Constantinople.
Some others, too:
Bible History Daily: Ancient Gravestone Epitaphs Give Insight into Early Jews and Christians.
Haaretz shows us Jerusalem as Melito and Jerome knew it.
And the Revelation of Gabriel has made it to Rome.
Some years back I collaborated with the Czech artist Lea Ravotti on the book Signs and Mysteries: Revealing Ancient Christian Symbols. Readers of that book might be interested in this title just out by Anastasia Lazaridou: Transition to Christianity: Art of Late Antiquity, 3rd-7th Century AD.
If you don’t know Signs and Mysteries, though, do check it out, if only for Lea’s artwork! (If I hadn’t given up punning for Lent, I would have said czech it out. Isn’t that prague-ress? … Oh, there I go again, back to Ash Wednesday.)