Ladydale Diary

St. John of Kanty 2020

Well, it’s almost upon us. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, which means that this is my last day of labour until the Fourth Day of Christmas.

It’s been a busy week, the close proximity of the Feast notwithstanding.

Last Friday I taught the fourth and final session of the online minicourse on Dante’s Divine Comedy for Red Cultural (Culture Net) in Chile. I will be teaching a further course for Red Cultural in January and February, this time on Homer’s epics, ensuring that I can stay connected with my many friends in Santiago. We all hope that the passing of the pestilence (eventually!) will enable me to visit Chile once again in person. Hopefully this might come to pass some time in 2021.

On Saturday, I had a pint or two with a couple of my English friends, albeit that we can only meet online in a “virtual” pub that we have called “The Flying Inn” in deference to Chesterton’s novel of that title.

On Monday, I gave the latest of several interviews on the late Walter Hooper who died earlier this month. I spoke of his importance as a scholar of C. S. Lewis and also of my friendship with him and my indebtedness to him. I’ve also written a memoir of him for The Imaginative Conservative.

On a similar sombre and sober note, I learned of the death this past Sunday of my good friend, Henry Zeiter, one of the most cultured men I’ve ever met. I was honoured and privileged to write the Foreword to his autobiography, From Lebanon to California. It did not surprise me to learn that his sense of humour remained with him, even in extremis. On his death bed, only a day before he breathed his last, he recited St. John of the Cross’s lament: “This life I do not want, for I / Am dying that I do not die.” He has now passed on to the place where there is no dying because there is no death, a place where it is never winter but always Christmas!

Here it is indubitably winter, even though the window is open as I write, the temperature having risen from just above freezing when I let the chickens and ducks out this morning to a balmy 54 degrees, a relative warmth which is heightened by the sun’s bathing in brightness of the skeletal trees. Such a sight reminds me of Roy Campbell’s praise of the “clear anatomy” revealed by autumn’s disrobing of Creation so that the seeker of beauty can revel in nature’s nudity.

From the sublime to the prosaic, I took a couple of hours to watch Chelsea return to winning ways on Monday, imbibing local ale with some fellow football-following friends.

Yesterday I recorded an online talk on “The Bible and Literature” for a conference which will be aired in January and I also appeared live on the Mike Church Show on the Crusade Channel to discuss the history and significance of Father Christmas.

Today, I’ve written an article for The Imaginative Conservative on Eliot’s “Journey of the Magi” and Belloc’s “Twelfth Night”, two poems for the Twelfth Day of Christmas, which I’m also planning to feature in the Poem of the Week podcast in the Inner Sanctum.

And speaking of podcasts for the Inner Sanctum, I’ve just recorded three Christmas-themed podcasts: The first is “Celebrating Christmas with St. Robert Southwell” in which I discuss and read four of the saint’s Christmas poems; the second is a discussion of Dickens’ perennially popular Christmas Carol; and the third is a personal meditation on “The Presence that Christmas Presents”. Please do invite me to be a part of your own Christmas celebration by listening to these festive offerings.

And on that festive note, there’s nothing more to be said except that I wish all my friends in the Inner Sanctum the merriest and most joyful of Christmases. In the timeless words of Tiny Tim: “May God bless us, everyone!”