Reflections on The Saviour of the World Volume 5

Reflections on The Saviour of the World Volume 5

Book II Poem XXI

Charlotte Mason envisions a scene contrary to all the laws of love and war. A royal prince from a neighboring land comes to pay a visit. An emissary, an ambassador, representing his royal father from abroad. How should he be treated? Don’t we all know?

And yet contrary to all civility and international law, the royal prince is accosted and apprehended by a troop of guards who are normally sent for common criminals.

Where did Mason discover this scene? From a fairly tale or a fable? No, she found it in the Word of God. The royal father is God and the prince is His Son. A troop of guards were sent to apprehend him. How would He respond? Find out in today’s poem here.


Book II Poem XXII

In Henry Latham’s classic Pastor Pastorum, the author lists a set of principles that he believes were followed by Christ when He was deciding when and which miracles to perform. The fifth principle, he wrote, is that “No miracle [was] worked which should be overwhelming in point of awfulness so as to terrify men into acceptance, or which should be unanswerably certain, leaving no loophole for unbelief.”

Latham mentions the idea of “loopholes” two other times in his book. in both cases, they refer to reasonable and plausible stances to which those “who wanted to escape being convinced” by Christ could retreat and find peace of mind.

This idea is complementary to Charlotte Mason’s “the way of reason,” summarized in point 18 of her synopsis. Reason is fallible, she warned. It is very good at giving us confidence in “an initial idea, accepted by the will.” In other words, it allows us to accept “loopholes” with complacency.

Today’s poem by Charlotte Mason is best understood in light of “the way of reason” and the loopholes to faith. Many heard the words of Christ, but few willed to understand. The rest asked, “What is this word that He saith?” Read or hear it at this link.


Book II Poem XXIII

“Once again,” writes C. S. Lewis, “the best image is in a Psalm, the 19th. I take this to be the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world.”

Building on Lewis’s lofty assessment, J. Clinton Mccann Jr. writes: “As remarkable as the lyrical quality of Psalm 19, however, is its extraordinary theological claim. In essence, Psalm 19 affirms that love is the basic reality. According to the psalmist, the God whose sovereignty is proclaimed by cosmic voices is the God who has addressed a personal word to humankind—God’s torah.”

In what some consider to be the greatest poem of all time, King David praises the perfect law of God. But how do we imperfect beings face the perfect law? “Cleanse me from secret faults,” David pleads. “Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins!”

In her poem on a poem, Charlotte Mason echoes David’s prayer. “How dare I go,” she cries, “exalting my poor wisdom over His”? The title of the poem is her plea, our plea — “Keep back thy servant from presumptuous sin.” Read or hear Mason’s poem here. And may it incline your heart to appreciate David’s’ poem anew.


Book III Poem XXIV

In one of Charlotte Mason’s most remarkable texts, now found in Parents and Children, she asks:

Does this doctrine of ideas as the spiritual food needful to sustain the immaterial life throw any light on the doctrines of the Christian religion?

And then she answers:

Yes; the Bread of Life, the Water of Life, the Word by which man lives, the ‘meat to eat which ye know not of,’ and much more, cease to be figurative expressions…

Isaiah cried out, “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters.” For Charlotte Mason, this is an offer for living water, and our thirst is real. In Mason’s dramatic poem on Isaiah 55:1, the dance between the literal and the figurative paints a wondrous truth. Read or listen to Mason’s poem to understand just how thirsty we are. Find it here.


Book III Poem XXV

The book of Ezekiel is filled with images, some disturbing, some confusing, and some mysterious. It is filled with symbols, some clear, some opaque, and some convicting. It is filled with intricate descriptions of buildings, a temple, and an altar, and a measurement of land. But then towards the end of the book the reader encounters an image which, to me, can only be described as beautiful.

After reading about the rules for entering the vast new temple yet to be seen on earth, and how the gate facing east is to be opened for the prince, we read how Ezekiel saw something truly marvelous: water began to flow from the temple to the east. It became a river! And “Along the bank of the river, on this side and that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail.”

Charlotte Mason’s students read the book of Ezekiel in Forms V and VI. They were told to read the accompanying comments by John R. Dummelow. His statement about the river from the temple is striking: “To Ezekiel this river was not a mere symbol of spiritual refreshment. The perfect kingdom of God still presented itself to him in an earthly form, accompanied by outward fertility and other material blessings.”

In her own way, Mason too felt that this was no symbol. She felt that the living water was real. “Ideas emanating from our Lord and Saviour, which are of His essence, are the spiritual meat and drink of His believing people,” she wrote.

Back in 2016 I was asked to select three poems by Miss Mason to include in a conference notebook. This poem was the third. Yes, the river from the temple is real, in more ways than one. Read or hear Mason’s poem at this link.


Book III Poem XXVI

Isaiah “should be called an evangelist rather than a prophet,” wrote St. Jerome, “because he describes all the mysteries of Christ and the church so clearly that one would think he is composing a history of what has already happened rather than prophesying what is to come.”

When Charlotte Mason read Isaiah 55, she saw not a prediction of the future but an account of the past. She saw the day that Christ stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.”

J. Paterson-Smyth reflects on how Christ continues to call out even to this day:

His voice still comes as we tramp on,
With a sorrowful fall in its pleading tones:
“Thou wilt tire in the dreary ways of sin,
I left My home to bring thee in.
In its golden street are no weary feet,
Its rest is pleasant, its songs are sweet.”
And we shout back angrily, hurrying on
To a terrible home where rest is none:
“We want not your city’s golden street,
Nor to hear its constant song.”
And still Christ keeps on loving us, loving all along.
Rejected still, He pursues each one.

Charlotte Mason’s poem captures the voice of the One who rejected still, still pursues each one. Read or hear it here.



To be human is to be thirsty. Our bodies cannot live without water, but our souls are thirsty too. But what exactly will quench our thirst?

Catherine Benincasa grew up before the days of running water. As a little girl she would run down a path near her home to a fountain called Fonte Branda. The waters flowed from a hillside spring and were collected in a pool, the walls of which were lower at certain points to let out the overflow. From one of these points she would fill her jug and drink from it. And then the jug would be empty again.

Charlotte Mason noticed the many kinds of jugs that we drink from. There is money, there is pleasure, there is power, and there is lust. And there is love. But even there we do not realize that a man cannot “live by draining another’s cup to allay his thirst.”

Catherine Benincasa grew up and came to know Jesus. She tried to explain about Him, and she remembered the fountain called Fonte Branda. “The blessed Christ is the one who invites us to the living water of grace,” she wrote. “He said as much when he cried out in the temple, ‘Let whoever is thirsty come to me and drink, because I am the fountain of living water.’ He truly is a fountain. For just as a fountain holds the water and lets it spill out over the wall that surrounds it, so does this gentle loving Word, clothed in our humanity, do.

“His humanity was a wall that held within itself the fire of the eternal Godhead which was joined with that same humanity. And the fire of divine charity spilled out through the opened-up wall, Christ crucified. His precious wounds poured out blood mixed with fire, because it was by the fire of love that his blood was shed. From this fountain we draw the water of grace, since it was not merely through his humanity but by the power of the Godhead that human sin was washed away and we were restored to grace.”

Then Catherine added a qualifier. “He says, however, ‘Let whoever is thirsty come to me and drink.’ He doesn’t invite those who have no thirst.” Charlotte Mason’s poetic reflection on these words of Christ penetrates the heart and awakens our thirst. And so we come to the fountain, where the fire of divine charity spills out through the opened-up wall. Read or hear the poem here.



n Acts 2 we read of the coming of the Holy Spirit. The believers were all in one place and then “suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.” Since that day, countless believers have desired and longed for a similar experience with the Holy Spirit of God.

Taking his cue from John 7:39, Joseph Dongell makes several keen observations about the pouring out of the Holy Spirit:

First, it is Jesus who gives the Spirit as water to the thirsty. The Spirit does not stand as a power independent of Jesus, nor as a focus of faith distinct from Jesus. In coming to and believing in Jesus, the Spirit is given.

Second, the gift of the Spirit comes in such abundance that what begins as a quest for a ‘drink’ becomes the discovery of a ‘river’! In many ways, grace far exceeds human expectation and desires, not only at the point of initial faith but throughout the entire course of Christian experience.

Third, this gift of abundant water fulfills the longing of God’s people, a longing witnessed by the Old Testament… All of the deepest desires of humankind are richly supplied in the water Jesus gives.

Fourth, the giving of the Spirit would happen only according to the larger plan of God. Not until Jesus had been glorified would the Spirit be given in the measure Jesus promised. Fulfillment of the Father’s desire to indwell believers would need to await the completion of the Son’s earthly mission.

Charlotte Mason also took her theological cues from John 7:39. Nearly rehearsing the same four observations, she does so in unforgettable poetic form. Read or listen to Charlotte Mason’s verses which point to the one true source of the water of life.


Book III Poem XXIX

During yesterday morning’s Idyll Challenge discussion, a participant pointed our attention to the second-to-last sentence of this month’s reading:

A new Renaissance is coming upon us, of unspeakably higher import than the last; and we are bringing up our children to lead and guide, and by every means help in the progress—progress by leaps and bounds—which the world is about to make.

“I checked when this was written,” explained the participant. She noted that it was before World War I. Did Charlotte Mason’s optimism ever change, she wondered, as the devastations of the twentieth century began to unfold?

I quietly explained that Mason’s hope for the future was never based on humanity, philosophy, politics, or patriotism. It was never based on virtue, enlightenment, education, or optimism. Rather, it was always grounded in her faith in a King. At the height of the Great War she wrote:

The great Hope rising upon us out of the present distress is that an era of passionate Christianity is coming, when we shall hear the shout of a King in our midst and shall all stand at attention waiting his word of command, when we shall hasten to do his bidding.

In today’s poem, Mason writes of “an aged man”:

ah, well might he,

Athirst through all his days, lie down and die,

Parched and unsatisfied; what hope might be

That he, old man, should drink and satisfy

That craving, long consumed him?

Though others may doubt, Charlotte Mason always believed there was a hope for young and for old. “Come to Me!” shouts the King. Read or hear her poem here.


Book III Poem XXX

Charlotte Mason wrote a set of eleven poems under the heading “The Water of Life.” The full set was inspired by only three short verses in the New Testament. But for Charlotte Mason, the idea of thirst and fulfillment was integral to her philosophy of education, as well as to her philosophy of life.

Three weeks ago when I shared the fourth poem here, I noted that to be human is to be thirsty. We also know that to be human is to be created in the image of God. But sometimes it can be hard to relate the imperfections of our humanity to the perfections of God.

Kazoh Kitamori was born in Kumamoto, Japan in 1916. As a teenager, he read a paper about Martin Luther that inspired a lifelong interest in theology. He became a professor, a pastor, and a writer. He is now remembered by some as the one who “developed the first original theology from the East.”

Emil Brunner describes this contribution as follows: “The theology of Kitamori is the first attempt to make suffering an attribute of God in contrast to the orthodox idea of the happiness of God, which is rather an idea of Platonic philosophy than of the New Testament gospel.”

Dr. Katamori was particularly struck by Jeremiah 31:20 in which we read of God’s yearning for Ephraim. The Authorized Version says that God was “troubled for him.” Katamori found here the gospel of the cross. In a phrase that is hard for the mind to grasp, Katamori noted that “God loves the objects of his wrath.”

In Psalm 42 the psalmist compared his thirst to that of a panting deer. It is a powerful image of human need. But in one of my very favorite poems of Charlotte Mason, she makes a stunning observation. Two are thirsty. Read and contemplate the moving poem here.


Book III Poem XXXI

C. S. Lewis writes, “The Christian says, ‘Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water.’”

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy,” he continues, “the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

To be human is to thirst. And there is One who quenches. The scandal, the miracle, is that He thirsted first. Read or listen to Charlotte Mason’s moving poem here.



“In the deep of winter, Herman looked at a barren tree, stripped of leaves and fruit, waiting silently and patiently for the sure hope of summer abundance. Gazing at the tree, Herman grasped for the first time the extravagance of God’s grace and the unfailing sovereignty of divine providence. Like the tree, he himself was seemingly dead, but God had life waiting for him, and the turn of seasons would bring fullness. At that moment, he said, that leafless tree ‘first flashed in upon my soul the fact of God,’ and a love for God that never after ceased to burn.”

That burning love prompted Herman to join the Discalced Carmelite monastery in Paris where he forever became known as Brother Lawrence.

“Men invent means and methods of coming at God’s love,” he wrote; “they learn rules and set up devices to remind them of that love, and it seems like a world of trouble to bring oneself into the consciousness of God’s presence. Yet it might be so simple. Is it not quicker and easier just to do our common business wholly for the love of him?”

Perhaps it was simple for him. But is it simple for us? Perhaps the key lies in the words of his second conversation in The Practice of the Presence of God: “We ought to make a great difference between the acts of the understanding and those of the will; that the first were comparatively of little value, and the others all.”

Those words found their way into a poem by Charlotte Mason. And they find a home deep in the heart of her method. Do you believe in with your understanding, or do you believe with your will? For Brother Lawrence, it made all the difference in the world. And it did for Charlotte Mason too. Read or hear her poem here.

📷 @aolander



The reader of Parents and Children can be a bit unnerved when reaching Chapter 5. It starts out very promising: Mason proposes to explore “How to fortify the children against the doubts of which the air is full.” But then on the next page she says that “‘Evidences’ are not Proofs.” And in a jarring sentence she claims that “the Christian apologist is open to the imputation conveyed in the keen proverb, qui s’excuse, s’accuse.”

Many parents who love the Charlotte Mason method quietly sidestep this advice. Early on, I followed a well-established Charlotte Mason curriculum whose booklist included works by a well-known apologist. With that for “air cover,” my family enjoyed (and devoured) those books. I never had the sense that by doing so, je m’accuserais.

But I have come to see that Mason was on to something. “The truth by which we live must needs be self-evidenced, admitting of neither proof nor disproof,” she wrote. Her words anticipated the writings of philosopher Alvin Plantinga, who argued that faith in God is “properly basic.” In short, we believe in God because the Holy Spirit tells us to.

Jesus performed many astonishing miracles. Guards were sent to abduct him, but they were stopped dead in their tracks. Not by signs and wonders or by Christ disappearing from their midst. Not by bolts of lightning or by cracks in the earth. Not by the logic of philosophers or by the authority of leaders. All of their powers and all of their weapons weapons were held at bay by one thing: words. “Never man spake as this Man.”

I love Christian evidences and I love the work of apologists. But there is something that I love even more: the words of Christ. In the company of the Holy Spirit, they stand above proof or disproof. Charlotte Mason’s poem today explores the nature of faith and the reaction of the guards. May you prayerfully read or listen to it, and invite the Holy Spirit to convince you of the truth that admits of no other response but “Yes.”

Find the poem here.



“By laying down for woman the same code of morality, the same standard of purity, as for man; by refusing to countenance the shameless and equally guilty monsters who were gloating over her fall,—graciously stooping in all the majesty of his own spotlessness to wipe away the filth and grime of her guilty past and bid her go in peace and sin no more … [Jesus] has given to men a rule and guide for the estimation of woman as an equal, as a helper, as a friend, and as a sacred charge to be sheltered and cared for with a brother’s love and sympathy.”

— Anna Julia Cooper, A Voice from the South (1892), pp. 17–18

Read or hear Charlotte Mason’s poem about how in the presence of Jesus, no one would cast the first stone. Find it here.


Book IV Poem XXXV

“God is the author of light,” writes St. Ambrose, “and the place and cause of darkness is the world. But the good Author uttered the word light so that he might reveal the world by infusing brightness therein and thus make its aspect beautiful. Suddenly then, the air became bright and darkness shrank in terror from the brilliance of the novel brightness.”

In today’s poem Charlotte Mason celebrates the first day of Creation and all the glory that light brings. But then evening comes, and it is dark again. So Charlotte Mason commences her remarkable series of poems on the Light of the World. Read or hear the beginning here.


Book IV Poem XXXVI

“Go out now to meet Ahaz,” said the Lord to Isaiah. And so he went and delivered a message of warning: “The Lord will bring the king of Assyria upon you and your people and your father’s house.” But then Isaiah also delivered a message of hope:

“The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined.”

Was this also a message for Ahaz and his people? Or was it a message for the whole world?

Cyril of Alexandria said that the law “was likened to a lamp.” It always burned in the tabernacle, but “on account of the shortness” of its rays, its light extended only to those geographically and culturally close enough to the tabernacle to “see” it. “Therefore the Gentiles were ‘in darkness,’ not having this lamplight.”

Isaiah didn’t say that a lamp was coming. He said a *light* was coming. And this light would be for the whole world. Drawing from this prophecy of Isaiah, Charlotte Mason reflects on a world in darkness, hungering not for a lamp but for a light. Read or hear it here.



Readers of Charlotte Mason recognize John Ruskin as the author of “Mornings in Florence,” the book that illuminated the fresco in the Spanish Chapel of Santa Maria Novella, the fresco that is forever linked with Charlotte Mason’s “Great Recognition.” Ruskin was certainly qualified to write about art; he is widely held to be the leading art critic of the Victorian era.

How many great works of art did Ruskin behold in Florence and beyond? Across a gallery of galleries, Ruskin said that one painting was “for him the greatest work of sacred art ever produced.” Was it perhaps a glorious fresco? A renaissance masterpiece? A holy treasure in Rome?

No. It was Holman Hunt’s 1854 “The Light of the World,” now held in the chapel of Keble College. For Hunt, the work began with the lantern. “The windows and openings had to be carefully studied in relation to the rays they would emit from the central light,” he explained. Hunt wrote up a design and asked an artisan to craft it. The copper model still exists.

Aurélie Petiot explains that “the lantern … illuminates the door at which Christ has just knocked, thus symbolizing salvation.” This light is the subject of Charlotte Mason’s poem which we share today. Mason chose Holman’s painting to accompany this poem in her book. In the light of Holman’s carefully-crafted lantern, we see that the door can only be opened from inside. In her poem, Mason notes that some choose to keep their door closed. And so outside remains a lantern shining more brightly than the sun.

Read or hear it here.

source: The Pre-Raphaelites by Aurélie Petiot


Few of Charlotte Mason’s poems have shined more brightly in the hearts of her closest friends than “In the Light.” According to Essex Cholmondeley, the poem is among those contained in a notebook that “can probably be dated 1871.” It was first published on the front page of the December 1902 issue of The Parents’ Review. Then it found a home in The Saviour of the World, published in 1911.

In 1923, In Memoriam was published, containing essays remembering Charlotte Mason. Some were written by members of her inner circle, including Ellen Parish, whom Mason appointed as principal of the House of Education. Parish entitled her essay “Miss Mason’s Message,” and in it she explained “the source of Miss Mason’s teaching.” She included several stanzas of this poem, citing it as one of the foundational expressions of Mason’s thought.

In April 1930, Miss Parish wrote a new paper entitled “Education is the Handmaid of Religion.” It was published in the November issue of The Parents’ Review and closed with the complete text of this cherished poem by her beloved mentor.

The poem contains eight stanzas and captures a dialog between two souls. The first soul is outside the light; the second is “In the Light.” In the final stanza, the first soul expresses her desire to come join the second in the light. But she faces a serious barrier: she feels that she is too vile to enter in. The poem ends with an emotionally powerful and theologically rich response.

Written in 1871, the poem was still being published and read nearly 60 years later. But this poem continues to shine even today. A century and a half after its composition, we invite you to read or hear Miss Mason’s call to join her in the light.


Book IV Poem XXXIX

“But in identifying himself as the Light of the World,” observes Joseph Dongell, “Jesus was doing more than playing on the visual imagery of the moment. Light, it must be remembered from the Old Testament, symbolized (among other things) God’s gift of life, the guidance of God, the protection of God, even the very presence of God… Should one understand ‘light’ even in its most limited sense, Jesus’ claim to be the Light of the World constituted a high claim indeed. But to this claim Jesus added a lofty promise: Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life… According to the combined implications of these words, Jesus was offering himself as God’s sole means of salvation for God’s people as well as for the whole world.”

Dongell aptly reasons, then, that “So monumental was this claim that Jesus should have been challenged about His right to make it. Spoken without authority, these words constituted foolish self-promotion (at the least) and blasphemous assault on God (at the most).”

But the Pharisees did not challenge Him on these terms. Rather, they were “crippled by impure motives and rock-solid prejudice against Jesus,” writes Dongell. “The Pharisees began their challenge by noting the principle accepted by Jesus that truth never comes along the line of a single witness, especially a single self-witness: Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.”

Charlotte Mason also observed this oddly legal response to Christ’s extraordinary claims. She also observed the escalating conflict which ensued. Read or hear her devout and penetrating poem here.


Book IV Poem XL

“But where can wisdom be found?” asked Job, “And where is the place of understanding? … It cannot be purchased for gold, Nor can silver be weighed for its price.”

If wisdom could be purchased, then the knowledge of God would be the reward of the rich. If wisdom could be created, then the knowledge of God would be the reward of the strong. But “think of what you were when you were called,” wrote the Apostle Paul. “Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.”

It is to these that the Spirit called in Isaiah: “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.”

Wisdom — it can’t be purchased for gold, but it can be accepted for free. Commenting on the letter to the Corinthians, Alex R. G. Deasley writes that “once again, Paul grounds the knowledge of salvation in the moral, not the intellectual, realm.”

In today’s poem, Charlotte Mason paraphrases the words of Christ to the strong and powerful:

I know ye can believe, and will ye now,
At the last hour, believe, that I may save?

Just like Paul, Miss Mason locates the knowledge of salvation in the moral, not the intellectual, realm. Read or listen to Mason describe “a door of escape” for whoever “*will* see the truth.” Find it here.


Book IV Poem XLI

In Bible lessons with my son, we are going through The Saviour of the World. I am savoring every minute, because I know this is my last journey through the volumes with one of my children. We are in volume 4, and with each Bible passage and each poem, we dig deeper into Scripture than ever before.

I am growing to appreciate the distinctive rhythm of the poems; most of the poems deal directly with the Gospel history, and bring the facts of Christ to life. But interspersed at certain intervals are the “disciple” poems. When they come up I remind my son, “This is one of the poems about Christian life today.”

These poems are especially valuable for devotional reading. They help the reader to see how the Gospels speak to us today. But they are also valuable to students of Charlotte Mason’s theology. The other night I had a dream that met Miss Mason in person. But now I realize that I meet her every time that I read one of her poems. Especially her “disciple” poems.

In John 8:26 Jesus says, “I have many things to say and to judge concerning you.” What might that mean to a Christian today? What might that have meant to Miss Mason herself? Read or hear her poem to get a special glimpse inside the heart of an educational theorist whose first love was for Jesus Christ. Find it here.


Book IV Poem XLII

In the Gospel of John, we read that Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He.” The Greek word for “lift up” (ὑψόω) also means “exalt.” What is Jesus referring to in this saying?

Charlotte Mason provides an interpretation in her poem about the day that Jesus pleaded “in passionate urgency with the men He had come to save.” Read or hear it here.


Book IV Poem XLIII

“Now Eli was very old; and he heard everything his sons did to all Israel,” we read in 1 Samuel 2. Eli’s sons were notorious sinners. And Eli rebuked them with a chilling rebuke that should have pierced even the hardest heart: “If one man sins against another, God will judge him. But if a man sins against the Lord, who will intercede for him?”

But his sons did not listen.

John R. Dummelow in his One Volume Commentary offers sobering comments on this verse. “We say that after a man has persisted for long years in sinful habits, he finds it impossible to alter. The Bible expresses the same truth by stating, first that the sinner (e.g. Pharaoh) hardens his own heart, and then that God hardens the sinner’s heart.”

Eventually the one who sins becomes a slave to sin. He cannot break free. Even God Himself, it seems, will not let him go.

But if One came who could set a person free? Could He make the impossible possible? Read or hear Charlotte Mason’s poem about how to be free indeed. Find it here.


Book IV Poem XLIV

The Gospel of John records some of the sharpest verbal clashes between Jesus and his auditors. In an explosive incident exposited by Samuel Ngewa, Jesus’s listeners “were indignant at Jesus’ suggestion that they did not have the same father as his. They insisted that Abraham was their Father.”

“So Jesus pointed out that sonship to Abraham and a desire to kill Jesus were in contradiction,” explains Ngewa. “Abraham, a friend of God who is the Father of Jesus, would not do that. Their actions showed that they could not claim Abraham as their father… As the Akamba say, mauta ma kwivaka mainoasya [‘oil applied on the body does not make one fat’].”

In Charlotte Mason’s poem on this sobering passage, she calls on readers to “Rise up, come forth; Behave as Abraham’s seed, and quit the place Where sinners be.” Read or hear Mason’s poem and apply oil not to the body, but to the heart. Find it here.


Book IV Poem XLV

Charlotte Mason’s twelfth principle introduces a phrase famously associated with her method: “Education is the Science of Relations.” The principle asserts that the child is born with aptitudes and abilities that equip him for self-education. In the 1923 book In Memoriam, Ellen Parish attempted to explain the source of this and other key elements of the Charlotte Mason method. She pointed to a common source for them all: the Holy Gospels.

For Principle 12, Parish pointed to Mason’s poem “What is truth?” This poem is included in Volume 5 just after Mason explores Christ’s words about truth in John 8:45–47. However, the title of the poem clearly evokes John 18:38, when Pontius Pilate asks “What is truth?” Mason’s poem points directly to that moment, opening with the line, “Nay, what is truth? the cynic lightly cried; But not to him the Incarnate Truth replied.”

From this starting point, Mason proceeds to an inquiry about truth, and she points out that light, music, harmony, and truth all presuppose persons with senses to apprehend such things. The poem closes with these lines: “As though that simple man would say, ‘The light Is its own evidence for men with sight!’”

Mason’s twelfth principle asserts the presence of “first-born affinities [t]hat fit our new existence to existing things.” As teachers, we assume our children are born with sight. Read or listen to the poem that, according to Ellen Parish, lies behind this inspiring thought. Find it here.


Book IV Poem XLVI

My son and I are reading Book II of Ourselves together, and we are struck by how deep and dense it is compared to Book I. We recently read a few pages packed with intricate and abstract ideas, and I wondered what he would focus on in his narration. Which of the many rich thoughts would resonate with him the most?

To my surprise, he focused on a particular paragraph, which he retold with clarity and insight. In the original text, Charlotte Mason writes:

It is conceivable that the final answer may be that death is less momentous in the thought of God, who knows the hereafter, than to us, who are still in the dark. Christ wept, not for Lazarus: his sorrow was for the griefs that fall upon all men, as upon the two sisters. Perhaps He would have said, ‘If they only knew!’

The paragraph reflects some of Mason’s most profound thoughts about life and death. In today’s poem she takes up the theme in verse. “What then is ‘death’?” a timid soul asks our Lord. His answer expresses Mason’s understanding of His teaching, an understanding that is life to the soul. Read or hear it here.


Book IV Poem XLVII

“All four gospels tell us that Jesus’ hearers accused him of being either possessed by, or in league with, the devil,” observes N. T. Wright. In the Gospel of John, we find the accusation in chapter 8.

Wright reflects, “Clearly, this isn’t something the early church would have made up; equally clearly, then, Jesus must have been saying and doing things that were remarkable enough, and disturbing enough, to make people throw such an accusation at him. What precisely was he saying here, and why, in the end, did they try to stone him to death?”

Charlotte Mason’s imaginative poem points the way to an answer. Read or hear her dramatization of the accusation of John 8:52, and of our Lord’s reply. Find it here.



“The real question,” writes F. Leroy Forlines, “is: Is fallen man a personal being, or is he sub-personal? … Does God deal with fallen man as a person? If He does, He deals with him as one who thinks, feels, and acts. To do otherwise undercuts the personhood of man. God will not do this—not because something is being imposed on God to which He must submit, but because God designed the relationship to be a relationship between personal beings. Human beings are personal beings by God’s design and were made for a personal relationship with a personal God. God will not violate His own plan.”

Jesus Christ, the very form of God, came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. He pleaded, He reasoned, He warned, He persisted, He pursued. But He would not force. He would not violate His own plan. Read or hear about the unlimited solicitude of Christ for His own in Charlotte Mason’s poem.


Book IV Poem XLIX

“Moses wants to know, to have certitude,” writes Walter Brueggemann, describing one of the most mystical and mysterious passages of the Old Testament. “Moses wants to know about the future and the mode of God’s presence with Israel.”

Moses pleads and God responds. “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest,” He assures him. Moses makes a second request. God responds again, “I will also do this thing that you have spoken.”

“Yahweh … seems to give over to Moses all that has been asked,” explains Brueggemann. “Moses, one more time, is relentless. He has now received assurance of ‘face,’ ‘rest,’ and ‘favor.’ Now he asks one more request: ‘Show me your glory.’ ‘Glory’ bespeaks God’s awesome, shrouded, magisterial presence, something like an overpowering light. It is in this passage as though the request for glory is to draw even closer, more dangerously, more intimately, to the very core of God’s own self.”

Amazingly, God grants this final request too. What does Moses see? That is the contemplation of today’s poem by Charlotte Mason. I listened to it and chills ascended my spine. It is a devotion that must be heard to be believed. Find it here.


Book IV Poem L

“When I ask the high school students at my church to name a celebrity,” writes Rebecca DeYoung, “they can instantly rattle off a list of twenty. When I ask them to say who their heroes are, their response is usually quiet silence with furrowed brows.”

DeYoung writes these words in the chapter on vainglory in her valuable book Glittering Vices. She continues:

After they think about it awhile, however, a few name their grandparents as the people they most admire. Their heroes are people whose names aren’t even known in the next town, much less nationwide. When we compare what the celebrities are well known for and what our heroes are admired for, we find a chasm between people whose glory far outstrips the value of the goods for which they receive it, and people whose worth far outstrips any glory they will ever receive.

And yet “we don’t have to be famous … to embrace the goal of being well known and well liked, publicly approved of and applauded.” Deep down inside we want to be celebrities, not heroes. Our glory we must show.

This craving to display our own glory is the subject of today’s poem by Charlotte Mason, and she contrasts this vainglory to the glory of our Lord. Read or listen here.


Book IV Poem LI

“For it is not Humility to think ill of ourselves;” writes Charlotte Mason in Ourselves; “that is faint-hearted when it is not false. Humility is perhaps one with Simplicity, and does not allow us to think of ourselves at all, ill or well. That is why a child is humble.”

If that is humility, then what is glory? According to Charlotte Mason’s poem, it too is perhaps one with Simplicity. “He who wears [glory] knows not he’s adorned of God,” she writes, “who alone gives honour.”

Since Christ was humble, He did not glorify Himself. But God, who alone gives honor, glorified His Son. So Charlotte Mason poetically paraphrases Christ’s words:

“Ere God had laid
The foundations of the world, lo, I was there
In council with the Father. No prophet spake
But as I gave him words: no patriarch
Walked humbly with his God and gave their meat
To children and children’s children, but I was there
Sustaining that good man in righteous ways.”

It’s blasphemy or it’s truth. Read or hear Charlotte Mason’s poem here.


Book IV Poem LII

In John 8:58, Jesus Christ says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Fr. Lawrence R. Farley explains the meaning of these words:

The Greek for Jesus’ claim “I am” is ego eimi. In other contexts, the words ego eimi could mean no more than “I am the one”… In this context, however, it clearly means more, since Christ’s hearers responded by trying to stone Him for alleged blasphemy.

It is, in fact, a reference to the Divine Name of God, which He revealed to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3. At that time, Yahweh was asked by Moses what His Name was, and He responded, “I am that I am”—in the Greek Septuagint, ego eimi

By declaring to the Jews “I am,” Christ was claiming nothing less than that He was the One who revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush, that He was one with the Father, the eternal I Am.

Fr. Farley helps us see that Christ was speaking to Moses at the burning bush. Charlotte Mason’s poem on this verse imagines so much more: Christ speaking to Enoch, Methuselah, and David.

But Mason imagines even more than that. Christ appearing to conquerors and philosophers, even the most famous philosopher of all time. Read or listen to Mason’s wondrous poem here.


Book IV Poem LIII

In Carol A. Newsom’s deeply moving commentary on the Book of Job, she gives special attention to the words of Elihu. Elihu “is a formidable thinker—and a dangerous one… [He] articulates a powerful idea: God intentionally sends suffering to people in order to make them better—indeed, to save them.” Newsom explains the enduring appeal of this idea:

Like the notion of suffering as punishment for sin, it organizes the disorienting chaos of suffering into a meaningful pattern. Fearing meaninglessness almost above all else, people are willing to pay a great deal to restore a meaningful structure to experiences over which they have no control.

In the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John, the disciples meet a man who had no control over his plight: he was born blind. “Fearing meaninglessness almost above all else,” the disciples wanted answers. Surely Jesus would know. Was this blindness a punishment for sin? Whose sin?

Our Lord does not answer them the way they expected. Charlotte Mason’s poetic reflection on His words points us to a different perspective on the suffering over which we have no control. Read or hear it here.


Book IV Poem LIV

Mystery surrounds the origin of narration in the Charlotte Mason method. Of course narration is introduced in Home Education on pages 231–233. Since this was Mason’s first volume, it may be supposed that narration was there from the start. But these pages were new to the Fourth Edition published in 1905. The earlier editions were silent on the topic. They did not even mention the word.

Narration first appeared in the PNEU literature in the very first programme, dated 1892. In June of that year, Mason’s Parents’ Review article “The Home School” revealed the first description of the practice that became a hallmark of her method: “Now the Parents’ Review School requires a good deal of Bible study. The suggestion as to method is, ‘Read aloud to the children a few verses, deliberately, carefully, and with just expression; require them to narrate what they have listened.’”

The first narration was the narration of Scripture.

Professors Chalcarft, Elton–Chalcarft, Ackroyd, and Jones recently published a monograph exploring Charlotte Mason’s volumes of sacred poetry. These researchers shed further light on the mystery as they write: “The method of reading or listening to a reading, followed by recall/narration, was itself an importation into all forms of reading, of a method first grounded in learning the Bible. [Mason’s] biblical hermeneutics, so to speak, became the bedrock of her educational philosophy and emphasis on reading and recall/narration.”

“Now this is no parrot-exercise,” clarified Mason in her final volume. “It is only by trying the method oneself on such an incident, for example, as the visit of Nicodemus or the talk with the woman of Samaria” that one can see the life and power of narration.

Imagine when Mason narrates the story of a man born blind who begins to see. It opens the eyes of the heart to new light. Listen or read it here.


Book IV Poem LV

“The function of reason,” explains Charlotte Mason in her Short Synopsis, “is to give logical demonstration (a) of mathematical truth, (b) of an initial idea, accepted by the will.” Once the will has accepted an idea, reason rushes in to approve. And so fallacy after fallacy is committed with “the acquittal of that spurious moral sense which supports with its approval all reasonable action” (vol 2, p. 54).

As with several of Mason’s principles, the building blocks of this principle may be found in William Carpenter’s Principles of Moral Physiology. He notes the uncanny ability of reason to advocate for any position, however untrue: “We speak even now of an ‘ingenious argument,’ when we have in view rather the skill with which it is conducted, than the truth it is to support; in fact, our admiration is sometimes most called forth by the Ingenuity which is exerted to sustain a position we regard as untenable” (p. 504).

The Pharisees were confronted by an incontestable miracle: a man born blind could see. “Now we know that God does not hear sinners,” said the healed man. “Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing” (John 9:31–33).

But the Pharisees, like us all, possessed the power of reason, ready to come to their aid. They contrived an argument that was “ingenious.” They exerted their power to sustain a position that was manifestly untenable.

Charlotte Mason’s poem brings the scene to life, with constructed dialog, read with feeling and power by @antonella.f.greco. Find it here.


Book IV Poem LVI

The slim 2023 volume entitled Reading Charlotte Mason’s “The Saviour of the World” in Past and Present Contexts by David Chalcraft et al. contains a fascinating analysis of the six poetry volumes across multiple dimensions and perspectives. But amidst this careful examination of the poems and their context, the authors make an apparently incidental remark about Mason herself. The remark seems ancillary to their thesis, and yet to me is the most profound sentence in the book. In fact, it perhaps the single most beautiful sentence I have ever read about Miss Mason:

Mason’s educational philosophy did not exist outside of her personal identity and her seemingly infinite love for Jesus Christ, her Saviour.

A seemingly infinite love for Jesus Christ. It does indeed radiate from almost every page of Mason’s poetry. And what is the source of this love?

In today’s poem Mason describes the experience of a man born blind who by Christ’s miracle was made to see:

“Lord, I believe!” he cried, who had thought to miss
The common sights of life, or bird, or tree,
When, lo, his eyes were opened, and to this—
The Vision of his Saviour!

What is the source of Mason’s love? It was the same source for the man in her poem. Mason’s eyes were opened too, and to this: a vision of the Saviour of the World. Read or hear the overflow of love here.


Book IV Poem LVII

In John 9:24, the Pharisees say to the man born blind, “Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner.”

The man’s famous answer rings through the centuries: “Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.”

“The expression in every age has been regarded as a happy illustration of a true Christian’s experience of the work of grace in his heart,” writes J. C. Ryle. “There may be much about it that is mysterious and inexplicable to him, and of which he knows nothing. But the result of the Holy Ghost’s work he does know and feel. There is a change somewhere. He sees what he did not see before. He feels what he did not feel before. Of that he is quite certain. There is a common and true saying among true Christians of the lower orders: ‘You may silence me and beat me out of what I know: but you cannot beat me out of what I feel.’”

Charlotte Mason poem about the blind man’s expression is entitled simply “Evidence.” She joins the chorus of believers throughout the ages cry out, “We see!” Read or hear it here.


Book V Poem LVIII

How do we keep our hearts faithful to the Lord, and encourage our children to do the same?

If we think believers are “silly sheep,” then perhaps our best bet is to “fence them in,” to keep our children (and ourselves) in a safe, enclosed space which we hope will keep the robber out.

But what if sheep can be sensitive instead of silly? What if they can learn to know the voice of the shepherd that is “music in their ear”? And what if they can learn to shun the voice of a stranger?

Today we begin a series of poems by Charlotte Mason on Jesus the Good Shepherd. Listen or read to the beautiful poem by Miss Mason about sheep who delight in the music of their Lord. Find it here.


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