“What has happened to our ability to dwell in unknowing, to live inside a question and coexist with the tensions of uncertainty? Where is our willingness to incubate pain and let it birth something new? What has happened to patient unfolding, to endurance? These things are what form the ground of waiting. And if you look carefully, you’ll see that they’re also the seedbed of creativity and growth—what allows us to do the daring and to break through to newness. As Thomas Merton observed, “The imagination should be allowed a certain amount of time to browse around.” [Kidd, Sue Monk. When the Heart Waits (p. 25). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.]
Dear Peregrinus (3:45 PM):
As I begin to write to you, the Sun, having made most of its transit today through a cloudy sky, is now propelling itself (though it seems to fall) toward the west, dropping behind a stand of hundred-year-old Douglas firs, which are rooted over there some fifty yards beyond my windows.
For all the glorious light that the Sun gave today to the world, I wonder if it ever finds itself preoccupied with the shadows that its effulgence indirectly causes on Earth. Yet even if, and when, the Sun does notice those shadows, it never becomes dimmer in the pondering of them, not even one watt dimmer.
It takes a person of great interior resources not to become darker when beholding dark things – that relentless cussedness of human beings; for him or her not to become shadowed, as the philosopher Plotinus warned would be likely, which he expressed in this way:
“You become what you contemplate.”
For all the nettled people I run into these days, I must conclude that too many of us have indulged ourselves in the contemplation of shadows more than we have kept our attention fixed on God, “the Lord and giver of Life” (as the Creed says, in particular, of the Holy Spirit), sustaining our ability to be “lights of the world”.
2 Corinthians 3: 17 Now this Lord is the Spiritg and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And all of us, with our unveiled faces like mirrors reflectingh the glory of the Lord,i are being transformed into the imagej that we reflect in brighter and brighter glory; this is the working of the Lord who is the Spirit.k*  [Emphasis added.]
Doesn’t it seem to you, old friend, that the voices of resentment are getting picked up by the national microphone far more often than are the voices of grown-ups, of the judicious and genuine, of the careful and reflective, of those who, like God, are “slow to anger and rich in mercy”?
Such intemperate people are an aggressive (not neutral) ugliness – no, it is not their “right” to be such – which makes pondering the significance of what really matters more unlikely for grown-ups, or not possible at all, unless they have cultivated enormous interior freedom.
Peregrinus, I am reminded of that wise man, E. Stanley Jones, who once wrote:
We have seen how disruptive resentments and hate are to the total person. If we are to live abundantly, we must get rid of them at all costs. But how? First, we must look at some of the ways we are not to use in getting rid of our hates and resentments. (1) We must not suppress them into forgetfulness and try to act as though we no longer have them. This treatment only drives them into the subconscious mind where they work as unconscious resentments. There they will produce conflict and disturbance, the person scarcely knowing what is causing the upset. We will be under nervous strain and probably lay our upset on all sorts of causes, everything except the real cause. To suppress the resentments does not get rid of them, for then they simply work their havoc at deeper and more dangerous levels. No one can play tricks on life and escape the consequences. We must bring resentments to the surface and face them honestly, with no subterfuges, no evasions, no suppressions. We must not push resentments down into the subconscious mind. [Jones, E. Stanley. Abundant Living (p. 57). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.]
On February 2nd, we, in the Roman Catholic tradition, celebrated the annual feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple by his parents (Luke 2:22-38), towards whom that day came walking two elders – Simeon and Anna. The former is described as he “who were awaiting the consolation of Israel” – the Greek has it: προσδεχόμενος παράκλησιν τοῦ Ἰσραήλ.
That Greek prosdechómenos – translated here as “awaiting” – ought to be more vividly translated to describe a man, in this case (but assuming that it was the same for Anna), whose whole being, by cultivated habit, was stretched towards the fulfillment of his greatest desire: that the Messiah finally would come and begin His good work.
Malachi 3 – 1 ‘Look, I shall send my messenger to clear a way before me.a And suddenly the Lord whom you seek will come to his Temple; yes, the angel of the covenantb, for whom you long, is on his way, says Yahweh Sabaoth.* [Emphasis added.]
Simeon was a man who lived from the endpoint of his life, in a way so like John the Baptist. Both men are biblically summed up by their long pursuit of Him towards Whom they stretched, year after year, with ever greater longing. “Awaited” seems too weak a rendering of the Greek. Perhaps prosdechómenos in this case is better translated “one who eagerly, wholeheartedly, undistractedly reaches” towards “the long-expected Jesus / born to set Thy people free”.
The Greek paráklēsin – translated here as “consolation” – is a name that would be given to Jesus – the “Consolation”. In the New Testament tradition, this name for Jesus seemed particularly fitting to those who knew Him, because it names “the act of emboldening another in belief or course of action”. People experienced the person of Jesus as an encouragement, on the one hand, and as an exhortation on the other hand.
Simeon, when he held the baby who had just been given his name – “Jesus” (Luke 2:21 – “the name given him by the angel before He was conceived in the womb”), accurately perceived that this child would be both consolation and exhortation, not just for him or his parents, but for everyone.
Luke 2: 34 and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradictedl 35 (and you yourself a sword will pierce)* so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
Years ago, Peregrinus, I remember someone said to me, “Rick, the most dangerous weapon in the world is not a laser-guided missile or a stealth-designed fighter jet. The most dangerous weapon in the world is a child.” This might well have been said by Simeon himself!
But now, let me turn us to that painting by Rembrandt, which I have placed at the head of this letter.
I learned that he painted this scene twice in his life. The first time was in 1631 (when he was 25-years old), and the second time was in the year of his death in 1669 (when he was 60-years old). 
I further discovered that this painting (1669) was the last one that Rembrandt painted, and one that he left unfinished at his death!
But was it that Death caught him by surprise, so that he could not finish the painting? Or was it that this final painting was his valedictory prayer, taking the words of Simeon and praying them, making them his own, in the language of paint and light and shadow?
Luke 2 – The Nunc Dimittis
29 Now, Master, you are letting your servant go in peace
as you promised;
30 for my eyes have seen the salvation*
31 which you have made ready in the sight of the nations;
32 a light of revelation for the gentiles
and glory for your people Israel.k* 
What if this final masterpiece was Rembrandt’s perfect prayer, such that God heard it favorably and came to bring Rembrandt home, to be with Him, the One who was the inspiration for so many of Rembrandt’s greatest paintings? Recall what Paul says about the nature of “a perfect prayer”:
Romans 8: 26 And as well as this, the Spirit too comes to help us in our weakness, for, when we do not know how to pray properly, then the Spirit personally makes our petitions for us in groans that cannot be put into words;* 27 and he who can see into all hearts knows what the Spirit means because the prayers that the Spirit makes for God’s holy people are always in accordance with the mind of God.m* 
I recall how Mozart, portrayed in the movie Amadeus (released in 1984), was unable to compose his Requiem (1791) unless he himself were willing to die while writing it! He never completed that Requiem, because he died. Consider the integrity of this artist who only painted what he himself knew, was willing to know!
And, in similar fashion, I recall the indomitable Dorothy Sayers (1893-1957). She judged that her masterwork was her translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy, and all her learned annotations appended to it. Yet, Sayers never finished the third and final volume of the Divine Comedy, called Paradiso, because, well, she died. Was it that she happened to die, or that she needed to die, to be in Paradise, among our Ancestors, before she could responsibly translate the glorious conclusion of such a text? Consider the integrity of this scholar/author who only wrote what she herself had lived and understood.
Could it be that Rembrandt deliberately chose this subject – Simeon with the baby Jesus in the Temple – to be his final painting? It seems obvious that the answer is “Yes.” Did he understand that to paint truly Simeon’s deep sincerity and his depth of longing for God that he, the painter, would need to accept the completion of his own life? “Now, Master, you are letting your servant go in peace as you promised.” I think it.
So, it came to pass that Rembrandt’s final painting was completed by God, who answered the “perfect prayer,” of which this painting was so eloquent an expression.
I have a final observation. If you look closely, you will notice that the baby lies across Simeon’s forearms. Did you notice how his hands do not turn up, holding closely and securely the “Desire of every nation.” How striking this is, and how unlikely! I have never seen anyone holding a baby, who does not have his or her hands attentively up and around the little one, making sure that he or she does not fall.
Some scholars have suggested that Rembrandt paints Simeon’s hands in a “praying” gesture. I don’t buy this, because that is far too pious for the realness of Rembrandt’s style. Rather, his hands appear to me to be stretching towards something beyond the frame of the painting. Remember that Greek word prosdechómenos – “eagerly reaching towards” – captures something essential about Simeon’s identity. Simeon/Rembrandt was one who was always reaching beyond his grasp.
Looking at the baby Jesus lying in Simeon’s forearms, I feel that God now (Latin, nunc) ends Rembrandt’s decades of stretching towards, reaching out, longing to know, the Son of God whom he had painted so often. Rembrandt’s arms no longer reach, they cannot reach, because a baby lies across his forearms … Who is looking up at him.
And in the wordless way a baby communicates, we hear the Little One saying: “Rembrandt, my magnificent friend, who has sought me for so long, I am here now. Look at me. Now, the time of unceasing effort is over, because He whom you have been painting has ‘suddenly come into his Temple’ (Malachi 3:1). There is no need now to paint what has been given alive into your arms.”
Notice that Simeon/Rembrandt is not looking at the child (the gift of looking and seeing is a painter’s mastery); he is listening. And on his canvas, expressed in the language that he knows best, Rembrandt paints his reply:
Luke 2 –
29 Now, Master, you are letting your servant go in peace
as you promised;
Sending my love, old friend. Let me hear from you soon. Promise?
 Of course, the Sun does no such thing. It, in relation to Earth, is affixed. It is the Earth that makes its yearly transit around the Sun, taking 365 days; 5 hours; 59 minutes, and 16 seconds to do so. The Earth on its axis spins the Sun and Moon up and down the sky each day. (The maligned planet Pluto requires 248 years to go once around the Sun. We should show greater respect for something that has to travel so far.)
 Concerning Douglas firs there is this from the National Wildlife Federation website – “Douglas fir, which has sometimes been called the Douglas tree, Oregon pine, and Douglas spruce, is not actually a true fir, a pine, or a spruce. Indicative of the taxonomic confusion about this tree, the scientific genus name Pseudotsuga means “false hemlock,” alluding to yet another kind of tree somewhat similar to this unique but important tree…. Douglas firs are conifers, which means they produce seeds in cones rather than in flowers. The seeds have a single wing and are dispersed by wind. Douglas fir seeds provide food for a number of small mammals, including chipmunks, mice, shrews, and red squirrels. Bears eat the sap of these trees. Many songbirds eat the seeds right out of the cone, and raptors, like northern spotted owls, rely on old-growth forests of Douglas firs for cover…. Douglas firs were used by Native Americans for building, basketry, and medicinal purposes. Ailments that Douglas firs were used to cure include stomach aches, headaches, rheumatism, and the common cold.”
 The Oxford English Dictionary at the noun “effulgence” – “splendid radiance.” And the adjective, “effulgent”: “Shining forth brilliantly; sending forth intense light; resplendent, radiant.”
 The light can cast a shadow; a shadow has no capacity to “cast” light.
 The Oxford English Dictionary “to ponder” – “transitive. To weigh (a matter, words, etc.) mentally, esp. before making a decision or reaching a conclusion; to think over, consider, or reflect on; to wonder about. Frequently with clause as object.” The difference between pondering and merely thinking is that in the former case there must be a cultivated degree of stillness inside of him or her who ponders, which allows the ponderer to let the pondered be what it is, on its own terms. In this regard, to ponder and to contemplate approach each other as siblings.
 Plotinus (plō-TINE-us), 205–270 CE, Neoplatonist philosopher. A native of Egypt, perhaps of Roman descent, he went to Alexandria c.232 CE to devote himself to philosophy. For 10 years he was a dedicated disciple of Ammonius Saccas. To study the philosophies of India and Persia, Plotinus in 242 CE traveled in the Eastern expedition of Gordian III, the Roman emperor. From 244 CE he lived in Rome, where his school attracted wide attention. Many followed his advice and example; they gave their wealth to those in need and turned to contemplative thought. However, Plotinus never taught or practiced extreme asceticism. His pupil PORPHYRY wrote a biography of him and was responsible for the arrangement of his works, which were written after 253 CE, into six Enneads, or groups of nine treatises. [Paul Lagassé, Columbia University, The Columbia Encyclopedia (New York; Detroit: Columbia University Press; Sold and distributed by Gale Group, 2000).]
 Ken Wilber in his Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution, 2nd edition (Shambhala, 2001), notes in his endnote #28 on page 663: “Development, then, is a case of the Soul growing and expanding, taking more and more of the external world into itself, as Plotinus puts it. And what causes the Soul to be at a particular level of development? According to Plotinus, ‘All souls are potentially all things. Each of them is characterized by the faculty which it chiefly exercises. The souls, thus contemplating different objects, are and become that which they contemplate’. In other words, the level at which the self places its attention is the level at which it remains: you become what you contemplate.” [My emphases.]
For Plotinus what matters most is not so much becoming many things, by “becoming what you contemplate”, as it is to be able to hold in unity all the realities which a person steadily contemplates … and in a certain sense becomes.
 The Oxford English Dictionary at the 15th century verb “to nettle” – “transitive. The beat or sting (a person or animal) with nettles.” But figuratively it came to mean “to irritate, vex, provoke, annoy.”
 The Oxford English Dictionary at the noun “resentment” – “Sense of grievance; an indignant sense of injury or insult received or perceived; (a feeling of) ill will, bitterness, or anger against a person or thing; the manifestation of such feeling. Chiefly with of.”
 The Oxford English Dictionary at the adjective “intemperate” – “Of persons, their actions, or habits: Without temperance or moderation; going beyond due bounds; immoderate, unbridled; violent.” And further, it describes a person “characterized by or addicted to excessive indulgence in a passion or appetite.”
 The Oxford English Dictionary at this 14th century noun “ugly” – “Having an appearance or aspect which causes dread or horror; frightful or horrible, esp. through deformity or squalor.” The source of this word in English is Old Norse, where its root means: “to be feared or dreaded.”
 Sometimes, Peregrinus, I find myself feeling grumpy, but only while working my way toward deeper understanding of what has “hooked” me, and why. Here is my thought. It is as if some (many?) Americans imagine that the “right to free speech” granted us in the First Amendment has consecrated the “right” of adults to speak, even if they wished, in the way of spoiled, ill-mannered, untaught children. The “right” granted us Americans is the right to say, for anyone to say, what truly matters to him or her in a grown-up way, even if that grown-up way must include (but moderated by the “cardinal” virtue of temperance) a vigorous expression of deeply felt emotions. Consider how preposterous it would be if we let our little children say or shout or bellow or complain whatever they wanted, as if it were a proper exercise of their right to free speech. “Rights”, human rights, are grown-up things, the articulation of which proceed from the hard work, wisdom, and a commitment to the common good, of grown-up men and women of America’s past and present. “Rights” cannot possibly have their source in the personalities of spoiled brats, narcissistic personalities, or the habitually self-serving, because only a grown-up is able to grasp what a “right” actually is. The Oxford English Dictionary at “right” – “That which is considered proper, correct, or consonant with justice … the standard of permitted and forbidden action within a particular sphere; law; a rule.” But it also means, “something proper for, or incumbent on, a person to do; one’s duty.”
 From Asbury University (Methodist) website: “E. Stanley Jones (1884-1973) Eli Stanley Jones was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on January 3, 1884. He studied law briefly at City College before moving to Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky…. Jones began his mission work among the lowest class of people. He did not attack the predominant religions of the area, but tried to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ without attaching Western culture to it. As the Methodist Board of Missions’ “Evangelist-at-Large” to India, Jones conducted large meetings in Indian cities. He presided over “round table conferences” where people of all faiths could sit down as equals and share their testimonies of how their religious experiences improved their lives…. Jones’ ministry soon became worldwide in its influence as he stressed that the reconciliation brought through Jesus Christ was intended for the whole world. He helped to re-establish the Indian “Ashram” (forest retreat) where men and women would come together for days at a time to explore each other’s faiths. Jones would later go on to establish Christian Ashrams around the world. His reputation as a “reconciler” invited him to many political negotiations in India, Africa, and Asia. He was a close confidant of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the time preceding World War II, and after the war he was greeted in Japan as the “Apostle of Peace”. He played an important role in establishing religious freedom in the post-colonial Indian government. He became a close friend of Mahatma Gandhi and even wrote a biography of Gandhi, a book which Martin Luther King said influenced him to adopt strict non-violent methods in the American civil rights movement. Jones had a strong influence in preventing the spread of communism in India.”
* Is 40:3e ↗Mt 11:10 + Mk 1:2
 To live from the endpoint of one’s life means finally to have learned what our human life is for, and then to order all our other desires and responsibilities and choices in light of the surpassing importance of that towards which, or to Whom, we are heading, or stretching.
 For this famous hymn of Charles Wesley (b. 1707), see: https://hymnary.org/text/come_thou_long_expected_jesus_born_to.
 It would later become one of the primary names for the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.
 Notice how often in our contemporary usage of the noun “consolation” we soften it too much towards sympathy, forgetting that consolation includes a robust and timely exhortation. “Come on now. You can do this! You have what you need, so go for it … and I’ll be here with you.”
l 12:51; Is 8:14; Jn 9:39; Rom 9:33; 1 Cor 1:23; 1 Pt 2:7–8.
* (And you yourself a sword will pierce): Mary herself will not be untouched by the various reactions to the role of Jesus (Lk 2:34). Her blessedness as mother of the Lord will be challenged by her son who describes true blessedness as “hearing the word of God and observing it” (Lk 11:27–28 and Lk 8:20–21).
 Grove Art Online (Oxford) at “Rembrandt” – “Dutch painter, draughtsman and etcher. From 1632 onwards he signed his works with only the forename Rembrandt; in documents, however, he continued to sign Rembrandt van Rijn (occasionally van Rhyn), initially with the addition of the patronymic ‘Harmensz.’. This was no doubt in imitation of the great Italians such as Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael and Titian, on whom he modelled himself, sometimes literally. He certainly equalled them in fame, and not only in his own country. His name still symbolizes a whole period of art history rightfully known as ‘Holland’s Golden Age’.”
 It would be worth a long contemplation, prayerfully wondering about the striking difference between the two paintings or, much more to the point, the striking development of depth in the painter.
 “Nunc Dimittis” are the first two words of Simeon’s prayer in Latin. As a result, the tradition calls this prayer by its first two words in Latin. Nunc is an adverb meaning “now”; the verb dimitto -ere, 3rd conjugation, is a compound Latin verb meaning “to send out or forth (in different directions, i.e., as Jesus “sent forth” His disciples to “convert all nations in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”).
 The Oxford English Dictionary at “requiem” – “Esp. Roman Catholic Church. A mass said or sung for the repose of the soul of a dead person. Also, esp. in early use, in Mass of Requiem.”
 Wikipedia notes: “The Requiem in D minor, K. 626, is a requiem mass by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791). Mozart composed part of the Requiem in Vienna in late 1791, but it was unfinished at his death on 5 December in the same year.”
 The Oxford English Dictionary at the adjective “indomitable” – “Of persons, etc.: That cannot be overcome or subdued by labour, difficulties, or opposition; unyielding; stubbornly persistent or resolute. Usually, approbative. (The ordinary use.)”
 From the Intercollegiate Studies Institute website, 14 September 2020 – “Dorothy L. Sayers, creator of the Detective Peter Wimsey detective novels and works of Christian apologetics such as The Mind of the Maker (not to mention a translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy that singlehandedly revived English translations of the Italian classic). In her latest book, Dorothy and Jack: The Transforming Friendship of Dorothy L. Sayers and C.S. Lewis, writer Gina Dalfonzo explores this unique and fascinating relationship—unique in the lives of these two brilliant and highly influential authors and thinkers but also unusual for its time, when a “friendship” between a man and a woman would have been a fraught business…. Sentimentality in religion always nauseated Sayers; her vision of Christianity was of something rigorously intellectual, something she could really sink her teeth into, so to speak. But in her adolescence, she doesn’t seem to have been able to express her thoughts and wishes on the subject clearly, at least not to her family…. They [Lewis and Sayers] had very similar interests, but also similar personalities. They both loved a blunt, energetic, no-holds-barred conversation. Lewis famously had plenty of opportunities for that with the Inklings, but he enjoyed that sort of thing wherever he found it, and he found it in Sayers. He compared her to “a high wind,” and that was just the sort of personality he liked most. As for her, though she had her disagreements with him, it was always a treat to find intellectual friends with whom she could talk about her interests, especially literature and theology. And with Lewis in particular, she had a safe person to vent to about all the difficulties and uneasiness she often went through in her role as an apologist. Even though he felt more at home than she did in that role, he could still understand and commiserate.”
 In which translation she tried to accomplish the “impossible” feat of mirroring in English the rhyming of the terza rima pattern of Dante’s Italian. Her three-volume work was one of the first publications, in a scholarly vein, published by the Penguin Press. Wikipedia notes: “Penguin Books was originally a British publishing house. It was co-founded in 1935 by Sir Allen Lane with his brothers Richard and John, as a line of the publishers The Bodley Head, only becoming a separate company the following year.”
 It is not known for sure how much of Rembrandt’s final painting was done before he died. Learned opinion postulates that the other figure – that third one behind him, to Simeon’s left – was put there by one of Rembrandt’s disciples, who thus “finished” the painting. How compellingly moving it would have been if that disciple had not “finished” the painting but had left a section of Rembrandt’s canvas blank – the empty space into which God came to take Rembrandt home. How powerful it would have been to contemplate the painting with that “vacancy” in it!
 From the first stanza of Anna B. Hoppe’s (b. 1889) hymn, “Desire of Every Nation” –
1. Desire of every nation,
Light of the Gentiles, Thou!
In fervent adoration
Before Thy throne we bow;
Our hearts and tongues adore Thee,
Blest Dayspring from the skies.
Like incense sweet before Thee,
Permit our songs to rise.