Sunday, January 18, 2015

Whatever Happened to Wonder? in Wichita

This Friday and Saturday we attended the fifth annual Eighth Day Institute Symposium here in Wichita, Kansas at St. George's Orthodox Cathedral, which included a Festal Banquet celebrating St. Athanasius of Alexandria, Blessed John Henry Newman's favorite saint. Two members of the St. Petersburg String Quartet, resident musicians at Wichita State University and the choir of St. George's performed during the banquet. The topic of this year's symposium was Whatever Happened to Wonder: The Recovery of Mystery in A Secular Age with three main speakers delivering plenary sessions and several breakout speaker sessions. You can read all about the schedule here and the speakers here.

St. Athanasius and St. Anthony of Egypt were the patron saints of the event, while Blessed John Henry Newman was often mentioned--but perhaps the real patron of the weekend was C.S. Lewis. What Erin Doom, the President of the Eighth Day Institute, wants to promote during these weekends and the other programs the Institute presents, is Lewis's Mere Christianity through ecumenical, loving dialogue among Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants. This dialogue cannot ignore the differences between us but seeks to celebrate our common Trinitarian faith and look to the Fathers of the Church to help us understand our shared and divided history.

Because we have a shared history with Eighth Day Books and many of the people who attended were friends and acquaintances, it was a wonderful experience. Perhaps the other name mentioned most often during the weekend was Charles Taylor, author of a huge book about secularism.

Throughout the weekend, the hymn I carried in my mind was Charles Wesley's "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling":

Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heaven to earth come down;
Fix in us thy humble dwelling;
All thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus, Thou art all compassion,
Pure unbounded love Thou art;
Visit us with Thy salvation;
Enter every trembling heart.

Breathe, O breathe Thy loving Spirit,
Into every troubled breast!
Let us all in Thee inherit;
Let us find that second rest.
Take away our bent to sinning;
Alpha and Omega be;
End of faith, as its Beginning,
Set our hearts at liberty.

Come, Almighty to deliver,
Let us all Thy life receive;
Suddenly return and never,
Never more Thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
Serve Thee as Thy hosts above,
Pray and praise Thee without ceasing,
Glory in Thy perfect love.

Finish, then, Thy new creation;
Pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see Thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in Thee;
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before Thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise.

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