Hello, one more time! This is the last day of classes, and the last Core Knowledge post of the year. Everything in this school year has come to a peaceful conclusion and finished true to the comedic style: on a higher note than where it began.
In literature, we started the year with Homer’s epics, and studied Greek tragedies and then the great Roman epic, the Aeneid, at the beginning of this semester. These works were truly great in themselves, reaching the upper limit of purely natural goodness and literary genius. Then, we studied Beowulf, a semi-Christian work, which showed the transition of a culture from paganism to Christianity. Finally, we studied the Divine Comedy, that great Christian epic by Dante. From the center of the earth in the deepest pit of hell all the way to Dante’s indescribable experience of the Beatific Vision, the Comedy has been the best fulfillment possible of all the epics we studied throughout the year. This is the excellence of human genius with the added supernatural element of Christianity, depicting the greatest journey that ever happens to man: his climb to salvation. As we hurried to finish the last few cantos of Paradiso this morning, I thought about how perfect it is to be finishing this journey of the first year of college in the place where we should finish life: in heaven, contemplating God.
Latin class has also reflected this pattern to some extent. We’ve studied a variety of pagan and Christian works over the course of the year, and learned many writing styles from different time periods in Latin’s long and rich history. After studying Caesar, Vergil, and the lives of the saints, we studied Catullus’ poetry and Christian hymns, and concluded the year this morning by reading the opening chapters of St Augustine’s Confessions. Augustine begins by contemplating his own existence and God’s existence, and, with remarkable subtlety of language which is even more evident in Latin than in translation, he ponders how God can fill all of His creation, and yet creation cannot contain Him, and how we are inside of Him and totally dependent on Him, and yet somehow He is in us too. Like Dante’s combined joy and bewilderment at seeing Heaven, Augustine (and his readers!) are in awe and yet full of peaceful joy, contemplating what we can never fully understand.
Yesterday in history we finished our second semester tying the whole time period together, from 30 A.D. to the end of the High Middle Ages. Between the beginning of the scholastic year and now, we’ve covered the history of the Western world and of salvation from creation, to the Fall, to the Incarnation, all the way to the period of most flourishing and influence for the Church. The broad picture of the Church’s importance in literally holding civilization together throughout the last two thousand years, and the extreme importance of the Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans in forming a world and culture that was ready to support such a Church in its inception, is painted much more clearly for me than it ever was before. I am exceedingly grateful to be attending a college that teaches history as part of the core curriculum, since everything really does make more sense when you can see where it fits into God’s plan and the story of the world.
Philosophy too has settled out into what I can only call a beautiful conclusion. Last semester laid down the foundations for studying philosophy, teaching us the history, terminology, and logical skills necessary to begin to become philosophers. This semester taught us what is necessary to begin to become ourselves. It taught us what becomes us as humans. It taught us, or at least taught me, a way of thinking that completes and strengthens my religious beliefs about the body and soul, and fills in all the logical chinks in the apologetic arguments I had heard before. From Aristotle’s Physics to the Summa Contra Gentiles, the complex terminology and syllogisms were well worth the end results. We finished the year reading The Hungry Soul by Leon R Kass, a modern book which goes back to traditional philosophical principles and explores what a human’s anatomy, and especially the way humans eat, says about who man is. After all the intense studying we did this semester about vegetative, sensitive, and rational powers, the book provided an interesting and extremely helpful practical application of those studies, and reinforced the things Dr Cuddeback said about how much our outward actions both express and affect our internal dispositions. The truth about humanity, that our bodies and souls are really and truly linked and need each other to make us fully human, means that everything from TV to table manners, manna to medicine, is extremely important. Philosophy alone in the past year was worth all the studying and time and effort that goes into the college life.
Introduction to Scientific Thought ended yesterday with one more test, covering the last few topics we learned about, namely the histories of chemistry, geology, and biology. We focused particularly on Darwin at the end of our studies, reading an excerpt from The Origin of Species. Although the Catholic Church, as well as many scientists, rejects aspects of Darwinian theories, studying Darwin’s reasoning and examples was interesting and helped shed some light on the confusion that often occurs in science today. Darwin proposed a theory that all species evolved from a common progenitor, including man. It is an interesting and rather convincing idea on the surface, but it remains unproven, despite being preached as truth to most science students today. However, aspects of it are also perfectly compatible with Catholic beliefs, and have not been disproven. Just like the Galileo case, this is a situation in which the Church is often mistaken to be against scientific progress, so studying it is essential to evangelization. Having taken statistics last semester, I am now done with the math and science credits I have to take here at Christendom, and don’t plan to take any more (since language is more my forte) but for the scientifically and mathematically minded, there are classes in physics, algebra, calculus, and more. Christendom College wants to form the whole person, and that includes providing math and science classes for those who are brave enough to take them! I have been blessed to be challenged and strengthened in the areas of math and science this year, and to have developed a greater appreciation for the wonder of every aspect of God’s creation.
And finally, theology! This year has been a year of some review for most of us, but I feel safe saying that everyone has had their eyes opened to some point of doctrine or morality that we didn’t know before. We concluded our study of the sacraments this week and then had our last class this morning, on indulgences. In just two semesters, we’ve covered revelation, grace, morality, the commandments, the sacraments, the virtues and vices, the Trinity, Christ’s two natures, sin, redemption, and everything else of importance to salvation. This puts all new students, regardless of background, on the same page as far as catechesis, and prepares us all to study scripture next year, and apologetics and other areas of theology after that. I am grateful to have been able to study theology, which, as we learned today, gives you a partial indulgence! Not only will putting what I’ve learned about morality and doctrine into practice be helpful for salvation, but simply studying for the final will get me to heaven faster!
So, the year began on a high note, and ended on an even higher one, with everything in some way or another focusing in on salvation and eternal life. Christ has risen, and God is good. I am extremely thankful for this year at Christendom, and for being able to share what I’m learning, at least a little bit, with all of you who read this blog. Thank you all for reading it, and have a great summer! I hope some of you will be joining me as a student on the other side of it. If so, I wish you as good a freshman year as mine was. Valete, one last time!