Vigen_Guroian_Square.jpegVIGEN GUORIAN - KEYNOTE

A View from the Garden - Soil & Sacrament: Earth Meditations
Keynote on Friday, January 15 at 9:45 am

Ruminations on how gardens and our labor in the soil draw us nearer to God; with readings from Inheriting Paradise and The Fragrance of God.

A View from the Classroom - World as Gift: The Earth Poetry of Wendell Berry
Keynote on Saturday, January 16 at 9:45 am

In “The Man Born to Farming”, the opening poem of his early book of poetry Farming: A Handbook, Wendell Berry declares, “The soil is a divine drug.” We will explore this poem and several others from the collection to reflect on our own station as Christians in a society where so many persons, including Christians, are without a relationship to the soil.


Work of Human Hands: The Christian Revolution & the Holiness of Labor
Plenary on Friday, January 15 at 1:30 pm

Christianity was hardly a hundred years old when a pagan intellectual named Celsus launched a vigorous attack against it. The religion couldn’t be true, he argued, because it was made up of shoemakers, cleaners, weavers, and other common laborers. Its God was a carpenter; his mother spun cloth; and his great spokesman was a tent-maker. How could a religion made up of such lowly people be anything but contemptible? Celsus believed what every gentleman of the Greco-Roman world believed: that it was base and ignoble to do useful work with your hands. Christianity effected a revolution in the way that world viewed human labor. The Bible’s heroes, after all, are herdsmen, fishermen, plowmen, and industrious women who seek wool and flax and work it with their hands. Jesus worked with his hands, and so he bestowed a still greater dignity on human labor. For Christians who know union with Christ, labor is not merely good, it is holy. It is an imitation of Christ and a participation with him in the act of creation. This is far more than a work ethic. It is a profound conversion of life, which the Fathers pondered and preached with vigor. All who labor and, sometimes, find life burdensome might do well to give our ancestors a careful listen.

Giving It a Rest: The Sabbath and the Holiness of Leisure
Breakout on Saturday, January 16 at 11:30 am

Aristotle was a practical man, and he saw the benefits of leisure. He said, in the Nicomachean Ethics: “Since we cannot work forever, we need relaxation.” Rest, he said, is “a means to activity.” Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel observed that Aristotle got things exactly backward. “To the biblical mind … labor is the means toward an end … The Sabbath is not for the sake of the weekdays; the weekdays are for the sake of the Sabbath. It is not an interlude but the climax of living.” We anxious providers can toil away endlessly and forget why we’re toiling. We need to balance holy labor with holy leisure. Only if our work is ordered to the Sabbath will our Sabbaths be as “productive” as we need them to be. From the spirit of the Sabbath come works of a different sort: poetry, music, art. From leisure comes culture. From the undistracted gaze comes the strongest family bond. From hymns sung in refreshment the Church is renewed.


A View from the Academy - Reconnecting the Threads: Theology as Sacramental Tapestry
Plenary on Friday, January 15 at 3:00 pm

By turning to the twentieth-century Catholic movement of nouvelle théologie (Yves Congar, Henri de Lubac, and others), we will trace the importance of the way in which they linked together heaven and earth, or nature and the supernatural.  By retrieving the pre-modern tradition, these theologians argued that earthly or natural objects participate in heavenly or supernatural realities.  Or, to put it differently, the eternal Word of God is sacramentally (really) present in the soil that he has made.  The nouvelle theologians rejected, therefore, any treatment of created realities as “purely” natural, or as autonomous.  A strictly objective or neutral treatment of the soil errs by ignoring its supernatural end.  Ironically, it is not the pre-modern occupation with heaven, but the modern preoccupation with earthly realities that has led to our current environmental impasse.

Scripture, Sacrament & Metaphysics: Origen, Hobbes & Spinoza
Breakout on Saturday, January 16 at 11:30 am

The way we understand metaphysics—the relationship between heaven and earth—affects not only the way we treat the environment.  I hope to show in this paper metaphysics is directly linked also to the way in which we read Scripture.  Scripture is like soil.  It has a sacramental character.  It participates in greater realities.  Scripture and soil both thrive only with a metaphysics that is participatory or sacramental in character.  I hope to show that this is so by turning first to Origen (as someone whose participatory view of reality made him read the Scriptures sacramentally) and then to Thomas Hobbes and Baruch Spinoza, who I think lie at the origin of a modern, non-sacramental way of reading Scripture (that is to say, a historical-critical way or reading the Bible, which assumes that history is an a “purely natural” affair, completely separate from otherworldly concerns).


The Benedict Option: Resistance, Resilience & Resurrection in a Post-Christian Age
Plenary on Saturday, January 16 at 2:00 am

It is becoming clear to more and more Christians that Western civilization has declined into a post-Christian age. As society grows more ignorant of and indifferent to Christian truth -- and even hostile to it -- what should small-o orthodox believers do? One possibility: draw on the example of St. Benedict and the early Benedictine monastics, thickening our understanding and commitment to traditional Christianity, and strengthening our ties to each other. A key part of this 'Benedict Option' is the recovery of a pre-modern sacramental vision. The goal? To build resilience within individual Christians and their communities that allows them to withstand the new Dark Age, and bear joyful witness to the post-Christian world.

Laurus & Benedict: The Novel As Guide to Living in a New Middle Age
Breakout on Friday, January 15 at 11:30 am

When the Nazis occupied Poland, Father Karol Wojtyla—the future Pope St. John Paul II—responded by founding a theatre company. For Christians living under oppressive conditions, culture is more important than politics. The newly translated Russian novel Laurus, Evgeny Vodolazkin's tale of a medieval healer and holy man, is a brilliant example of the kind of cultural expression that gives hope, sustenance, and direction to contemporary Christians, in large part by re-awakening our sense of the sacramental nature of everyday life.




From Clay to Glory: The Making of Icons & the Redemption of Personhood
Breakout on Friday, January 15 at 11:30 am

This session is a reflection on the physical process and symbolism of the ancient art of iconography.  In Orthodox tradition, deep theological significance is embodied in the materials, steps, and discipline as well as the resulting form of the sacred icon, an image of personhood made from and for prayer. 

Fox__Russell.jpgRUSSELL FOX

Urban Environment, Urban Gifts
Breakout on Friday, January 15 at 11:30 am

It is common for observant people who recognize the importance of being grounded in a particular place to celebrate the gifts provided by that grounding in agrarian and communitarian terms: that is, to be thankful for the land that they live upon, wherein their food is grown and their lived culture takes shape. For this reason, it is also common for those whose economic livelihood is tied to the city—and today, that is nearly everyone—to feel a certain amount of regret (I’d move to the country in a second if I could!), defensiveness (bah, who needs all that community feeling anyway!?), or confusion (so is the attachment I’m feeling to my urban space false?). There is a great deal of writing and debate attached to this point, but I would like to make the small point that those things which we as human beings value about urban environments are, when properly understood, gifts that we no more make than we do soil or earth or water; they arise and are revealed to us through our activity, exactly as the works of husbandry do. For those who have been moved by the writings of people like Rod Dreher and Wendell Berry—both of whom have called upon all of us to rebuild our attachment to local communities—but do not see how they could pursue the “Benedict Option” without leaving the city and going to live on the farm (as noble and important as that may be!), I would suggest that life in a city—maybe not any city, but certain cities, all the same—can abound with gifts that ground us, if we only know where to look.

Hedrick_Photo_2.jpegFR TERRY HEDRICK

Christ, Creation & the Environment
Breakout on Saturday, January 16 at 11:30 am

This session will consider Genesis 1-3 and its implications for understanding God’s original intentions for humanity, for creation care and the consequences of the fall of humankind. We will explore the relational nature of humanity created in the image of God and the relation between human beings and the rest of creation. Important in this Biblical reflection will be references from Romans 8 and Revelation 21-22. We will conclude with a discussion of a Biblical vision for “Creation Care” from a Christian perspective. Join us as we explore from a Biblical perspective, “Soil & Sacrament: The World as Gift.”


Gardener & Knight: The Benedict Option with the Great Commission
Breakout on Saturday, January 16 at 11:30 am

Devoted Christians need to decide who and what drives the culture in which their family persists. If Christ is the center of our domestic Church this may make us unusual. There are some important principles which make this practically possible: intentionality, silence, solidarity, and absorption of sentimentality into deepest loves. Authentic removal of the attachments from this world ought to make it easier to evangelize a dying civilization. Let us find joy despite all the tensions which come with waiting in this world for the next.


Treasure in Earthen Vessels: Laudato Si & Human Ecology
Breakout on Friday, January 15 at 11:30 am

Ecology is the science of the home (from the Greek root words οἰχου λογος), and Pope Francis’ ecological vision is one that embraces the entire household: its material, cultural and spiritual components. This talk will engage the text of Laudato Si’, with insights taken from the Benedictine monastic tradition, to develop a more synthetic understanding of man’s relation to his environment.

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