Thursday, January 26, 2023

Report on the 13th Annual EDI Symposium: "Be Not Afraid!"

Evidently, no one who attended the 13th Annual EDI Symposium starting on Friday, January 13, suffers from or succumbed to Paraskevidekatriaphobia, taking the title to heart: Be Not Afraid! (of Friday the 13th)!

One of the banners near the speaker's table featured a stanza from this poem by Saint John Henry Newman:

"It is I; be not afraid."

WHEN I sink down in gloom or fear,
Hope blighted or delay'd,
Thy whisper, Lord, my heart shall cheer,
"'Tis I; be not afraid!"

Or, startled at some sudden blow,
If fretful thoughts I feel,
"Fear not, it is but I!" shall flow,
As balm my wound to heal.

Nor will I quit Thy way, though foes
Some onward pass defend;
From each rough voice the watchword goes,
"Be not afraid! ... a friend!" 

And oh! when judgment's trumpet clear
Awakes me from the grave,
Still in its echo may I hear,
"'Tis Christ; He comes to save."

At Sea.
June 23, 1833.

The symposium this year featured James Matthew Wilson (Catholic), Jake Meador (Protestant), & Fr. John Strickland (Orthodox), and was held at St. George Orthodox Cathedral here in Wichita, Kansas. Eighth Day Books had an annex of the store on-site selling books, icons, etc, especially featuring the presenters' publications and books on associated topics.

The main feature I want to mention is the post-Covid atmosphere of the event. That may be controversial to say, but since James Matthew Wilson's first presentation was "T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, & Quarantine Notebook: What Writing Taught Me About Our Divided Times", it seems appropriate. Wilson provided an overview of the historical occasion of Eliot's The Four Quartets, inspired in part to demonstrate that there was an "England" to be defended, fought for, and died for during World War II, and then discussed his own poetic production of news reports in iambic pentameter published serially in Dappled Things online. As Wilson noted, the composition of the poems bore two fruits: "The concrete fruit was a book-length poem; the intellectual fruit was a new and deepened perspective on the divisions in our country and the strange commonality Americans experience in and through that division." 

As the keynote speaker, he also presented a second Plenary session  ("A World without Beauty: von Balthasar, Plato, & the Ordering of the Soul"), which a close friend of mine really enjoyed because she's studied and read the works of Hans Urs von Balthasar since she wrote her master's thesis, titled "Von Balthasar’s Aesthetic Method in Theology with an examination of its operation in his Ecclesiology". She and Wilson enjoyed their after Festal Banquet discussion too on their shared interest.

It's also appropriate to bring up this post-Covid aspect because this year all our speakers could attend and arrive on time (in spite of the FAA shut down earlier in the week). Last year Rod Dreher HAD Covid and could not even offer his presentations via Zoom (laryngitis!). Nevertheless everything went well last year: we just all stayed in the Fellowship Hall for all the presentations.

We had competing breakouts this year, with two held in the Cathedral's chapel which I did not attend (described here and here), and two held in the Fellowship Hall, which I did attend (described here and here).

As usual, we had a beautiful Festal Banquet Friday night, with music, including hymns and chants by the St. George Orthodox Cathedral Choir, the story of the saint honored that night, St. Paul of Thebes, a desert hermit whose story we know because St. Anthony of the Desert visited him--and we know the story of that visit because St. Athanasius wrote about in his Life of St. Anthony! The three speakers also presented reflections.

After all that talk of the desert, the only way your table could have dessert after dinner was if someone at the table won a dessert in the raffle!! I won three $!$!$! (Shared one at our table; shared another at a table without a dessert; saved one (cinnamon rolls) for breakfast at the second day of the Symposium.)

We ended the Symposium on Saturday with a panel discussion and then with a special meeting of those Eighth Day Institute members who had attended--with a wine and cheese reception.

As I've said before, the EDI Symposium is a great event, well worth travelling to each Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Weekend! The Dates and Theme for the 2024 Symposium are already set:

The Dates: January 10 through 13, 2024 (January 10 and 11 for the Pre-Symposium Seminar at the EDI Ladder and January 12 and 13 for the Symposium at St. George Orthodox Cathedral). 

The Theme: "Attend Unto Thyself". At least one speaker is confirmed: Mark Bauerlein of Emory University and First Things

Please bookmark the EDI website, sign up for email updates, and join us--as a member and an attendee--for "Conversations you can't have anywhere else!" with friends you didn't know you had!

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