The University Bookman


Summer 2016

Books in Little: The Effort of Mystery

book cover imageThe Operation of Grace: Further Essays on Art, Faith, and Mystery
by Gregory Wolfe.
Cascade Books, 2016.
Paperback, 224 pages, $25.

Ashlee Cowles

“Mystery thus lies at the intersection where reason, intuition, and imagination meet and only the both/and language of paradox seems capable of uniting everything that otherwise seems hopelessly either/or. We are body and soul, bound, and free, fallen and godlike.” In his preface to The Operation of Grace: Further Essays on Art, Faith, and Mystery, Gregory Wolfe so describes the “trickiest” of the three terms that makes up the subtitle of IMAGE journal, the publication Wolfe founded in 1989. This diverse collection contains short essays that speak to the intersection of art, faith, and the public square, as well as the topic of Christian humanism and the literary life. Some of the most poignant essays include “Strange Pilgrims,” a reflection on the writer’s life as a paradoxical pilgrimage of solitude and community; “The Culture Wars Revisited,” a reminder that art and religion are ultimately “the twin sources of culture”; and “Looking for a Renaissance,” an assertion that “renaissance” is not merely one era, but a continual effort to renew via synthesis and something that is needed in every age.

A theme that unites these essays is also a thread that runs through all of Wolfe’s work: the notion that in our increasingly ideological age, politics is not enough. As we prepare for an election season that has already left many fatigued and disillusioned, The Operation of Grace reminds Christian humanists and culture-makers that in order to “create tradition afresh,” we should not rely primarily on government, but turn to churches, civil society, and other forms of local community—the “little platoons” where we might find the courage to live in tension and grow more comfortable with mystery in a time of increasing uncertainty.  

Ashlee Cowles is a former Russell Kirk Center Wilbur Fellow, a literature teacher at a classical high school, and the author of Beneath Wandering Stars, a novel (Merit Press, August 2016).

Posted: August 4, 2016 in Books in Little.

Did you see this one? book cover

Time and Permanence in T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets
Pedro Blas González
Fall 2014

The conservative believes that the individual is foolish, although the species is wise; therefore, unlike the confident intellectual, he declines to undertake the reconstruction of society and human nature.

Russell Kirk


Subscribe & Follow


More from the Bookman!

book cover book cover book cover

Transylvanian Dreams and Nightmares
Greg Morrison

A French Murder and Its Aftermath
Eve-Alice Roustang

Burning River: Glimpses from the Banks of the Cuyahoga
Will Hoyt

Treasures in the Garden
Matthew M. Robare

Books in Little: Philosophy for Life
Frank Freeman

Recovering Thoreau
John Byron Kuhner

book cover book cover book cover


We are pleased to announce the release of The University Bookman on Edmund Burke, now available for Kindle. Collecting 21 reviews, essays, and interviews from the Bookman on the life and thought of Edmund Burke, this book is only $2.99, and purchases support our ongoing work to provide an imaginative defense of the Permanent Things. (3 Mar 2015)

Other Sites of Interest

Publisher Sites


Copyright © 2007–2017 The Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal