Today is the last day of the year on the Christian liturgical calendar, as tomorrow is the First Sunday of Advent. So, as in past years, I’m marking the end of the old year by looking back over it, summarizing where this blog has been in the past year, and pointing out some of the “highlights.”
I’ve already covered two of the four main “departments” of this blog in the past week, on Monday and Wednesday, according to their regular place on the weekly schedule. Today, I’ll bring you through the “essays” (or “miscellaneous articles”) that appeared in this space on Saturdays (and a few of the poems, which ran on Fridays) in the past year.
The Liturgical Year
The year began, as another will tomorrow, with Advent. Having already said most of what I have to say in the previous Advent (see that section of last year’s retrospective), I used the three Saturdays of Advent to look at three sides of the season. Each post began with a pertinent passage from Scripture and a relevant hymn, then went on at greater length.
The season of Advent is a season of preparation for Christmas, and a celebration and anticipation of the Lord’s coming. The first side of this, the only one that many churches seem to consider, is the long wait for Christ’s First Advent.
Another, more sobering side, which seems generally neglected in the Church today, is its focus on God’s coming in judgment on his people and the nations, including both the Last Day and various times throughout history.
The third side I talked about is Christ’s coming in glory, the future fulfillment of all God’s promises—and also how many of those promises are already coming true with the Incarnation of God into the flesh in the First Advent, and with Christ’s resurrection.
Christmas and Epiphany
Christmas fell on a Tuesday. That’s not a day of the week on which I usually post, but I have habitually made an exception for Christmas.. So this year I wrote about the joy of Christmas:
Like every joyful holiday in the calendar, Christmas is a time for overwhelming joy, but it is not a time of unmixed joy. There are two sobering, and indeed sorrowful, thoughts that a proper consideration of the holiday bids us bear in mind.
Epiphany, the day marking the end of the Christmas season and a celebration of God’s showing himself to the nations (and in particular, with its close association with Christmas, the visit of the Magi), was on a Sunday this year. So I wrote about the two messages of Epiphany on the day before.
I began Lent by posting an Ash Wednesday meditation.
On the day before my birthday—which fell on a Sunday, and thus “in but not in Lent”—I wrote a somewhat rambling post.
Many (if not quite most, as I had hoped) months included at least one book review, as I continued working my way through my list of books everyone should read to explain why I think each book belongs on the list. Over the course of the year, I covered
- The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan,
- Interstellar Patrol by Christopher Anvil,
- Foundation by Isaac Asimov, and
- The Harper Hall trilogy by Anne McCaffrey.
In February, I began a quasi-monthly series of posts about favorite hymns. I began with an introduction to explain my reasoning, describing the trends in the Church’s music I find worrying, then went on to the hymns themselves in subsequent posts, choosing hymns suitable for the then-current time of the liturgical year when I could.
- For Lent, “Ah, holy Jesus!”
- For Easter, “Christ the Lord is risen today”
- For Ascension Day, “Today our Lord went up on high”
- For Pentecost, “Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord”
- A Communion hymn, “O the depth of love divine”
- “I greet thee, who my sure Redeemer art”
- “Holy, holy, holy”
- For Reformation Day, “A mighty Fortress”
- And last week, three “Thanksgiving” hymns, “Now thank we all our God”; “Come, ye thankful people, come”; and “We gather together”.
I intend to continue this series into the new year. First, for Advent this year I plan to write about an Advent hymn each Saturday during the season. But then I plan to resume my usual schedule of one hymn post a month going forward.
I wrote periodic updates on the state of my “Poetry Book” project, including the results of my quest for reader feedback through my “Poetry Archive” posts through the previous year and more (I probably ought to recalculate, and get a few more recent poems into the manuscript), and when I had a “breakthrough” in the markup.
In the matter of the second “breakthrough” I mentioned in that second post, however, I may have spoken too soon. When I try to use the process for converting SVG images to LaTeX code, it produces a blank image instead of something usable. And despite searching for some time, I was unable to find more images than that one that fit my constraints of license (public domain or allowing modifications not requiring anything more than attribution) and theme and were in a vector format. So when I next go looking, I will drop that last consideration, and look for raster (“ordinary”) images as well.
After considering the problem of what to do with all the bookmarks and pieces of paper that I have accumulated, I thought of the idea of organizing them into a series of “Compendia.” Not that I’ll likely have time to even begin anytime soon.
This summer, I began considering dropping my wikis, and the more general problem of what to do for content that doesn’t really belong on a blog (for its “real” and “permanent” home). I’m still considering, just … slowly.
I posted a new poem nearly every week. I am not going to link to them all here; you can go back through the Poems category if you’re interested in reading all of them, or finding one I don’t mention here. But here are some highlights.
Some of my poetry was, as ever, written for particular days on the liturgical calendar, from (this year) Christmas through Pentecost.
- For Christmas, “Christmas Dream”.
- For Epiphany, “A new star heralds”.
- “Triumphal Entry” for Palm Sunday.
- On Good Friday, “Passion”.
- “Heralds’ Rejoicing” for Easter.
- For Ascension Day, “The feet the prophet once”.
- And for Pentecost, “Come, Holy Spirit, at whose brooding thought”.
At the beginning of the civil year, I posted a list of goals for the year. While I’ll look closely at my performance by those metrics at the end of this civil year, I’ll glance over them again.
My goal for the Shine Cycle is headed for dismal failure at the present rate, but I think I could have succeeded (but not met my “stretch goal”) if I had managed even half my current rate of progress for the whole year.
I’ve essentially met my goal for my Poetry Book project, but need to look at it again in light of more recent data and more recently posted poems, as I mentioned above. My “stretch goal” is very dubious at this point.
Of my “miscellaneous” goals, I’ve barely met one, out of three plus two “stretch goals.”
At the end of the last (civil) year, I wrote a reflective, rambling post in which I waxed more than a bit maudlin. But that post got a lot more traffic for a few days than I expected.
In April I discussed a pointed “parable” that I’ve had repeated to me several times over the last few years, and wrote the beginning of an analogy I find a great deal more apt, for all that it lacks the cleverly-constructed obvious implication of the original.
After my laptop crashed in September, I outlined my needs for a backup program. I’m still looking.
In August, I wrote about the “principle of charity” in argumentation, something I consider very important for honest and productive debate (and a free society), but see all too little of anywhere today.
Twice this year, I created “thought experiments” to try to shed some light on current political issues. First, a question of jurisdiction:
Suppose the Texas legislature—or for that matter the UN General Assembly, the US Congress, or even the Michigan state legislature—passed a law, or the courts in any of those jurisdictions decreed, that the capital of Michigan is Minneapolis, or Timbuktu.
And second, because every “news reporter” or “non-partisan commentator” always seemed to assume that the government shutdown should be blamed completely on Republican obstructionism, I suggested we
Suppose that the political events of the last six years had gone very much the other way, and arguably, if you like, more so.
Finally, this Thursday was Thanksgiving, so I wrote a “reflection”, as I have for the past several years.
That concludes our look back over the year that, by the Christian calendar, ends today. If anything I linked to above looks interesting, feel free to go back and read it, and maybe start or join in a discussion there. But in any case, I wish you all a blessed year to come.