The attempt to speak without speaking any particular language is not more hopeless than the attempt to have a religion that shall be no religion in particular.
A courier’s or a dragoman’s speech may indeed be often unusual and drawn from disparate sources, not without some mixture of personal originality; but that private jargon will have a meaning only because of its analogy to one or more conventional languages and its obvious derivation from them.
So travellers from one religion to another, people who have lost their spiritual nationality, may often retain a neutral and confused residuum of belief, which they may egregiously regard as the essence of all religion, so little may they remember the graciousness and naturalness of that ancestral accent which a perfect religion should have.
Yet a moment’s probing of the conceptions surviving in such minds will show them to be nothing but vestiges of old beliefs, creases which thought, even if emptied of all dogmatic tenets, has not been able to smooth away at its first unfolding.
Later generations, if they have any religion at all, will be found either to revert to ancient authority, or to attach themselves spontaneously to something wholly novel and immensely positive, to some faith promulgated by a fresh genius and passionately embraced by a converted people.
Thus every living and healthy religion has a marked idiosyncrasy. Its power consists in its special and surprising message and in the bias which that revelation gives to life. The vistas it opens and the mysteries propounds are another world to live in; and another world to live in—whether we expect ever to pass wholly into it or no—is what we mean by having a religion.” —Reason in Religion by George Santayana
And it is this joy of expectation and this expectation of joy that are expressed in singing and ritual, in vestments and in censing, in that whole “beauty” of the liturgy which has so often been denounced as unnecessary and even sinful.
Unnecessary it is indeed, for we are beyond the categories of the “necessary.” Beauty is never “necessary,” “functional” or “useful.” And when, expecting someone whom we love, we put a beautiful tablecloth on the table and decorate it with candles and flowers, we do all this not out of necessity, but out of love…. As long as Christians will love the Kingdom of God, and not only discuss it, they will “represent” it and signify it, in art and beauty.” —Schmemann, For the Life of the World (via poeticfaith)
[Hulga-Joy’s comment:] This certainly reflects my own experience. When I first began to move to a true rejection of science/faith dualism (extraordinarily difficult to do, even with a reasonable education), I was frequently disturbed by the vastness and complexity of nature, by the mind-blowing age of the universe, by the sheer, barely comprehensible size of the thing. It made me feel so small. How could humans possibly matter?
But then I actually remembered 1) the Incarnation and 2) how the Psalms, for instance, speak of God’s wonderful works, and their incomprehensibility; of His true greatness and mystery. And I realized that what I had come up against was not a dethroning of God, but of the limits of my own mind. It was—and continues to be—mighty, mighty humbling.
At the heart of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body is the call to love one another in the image of the Trinity, and that means establishing a genuine “unity in diversity.” Our differences, even our theological differences, can and should serve to unite us in our common journey towards the fullness of the truth.
Very often the resolution of theological debate involves finding the right balance between what appear to be competing truths, but are rather complementary aspects of the whole truth that must be held together in their proper “tension.” Finding that proper tension is like tuning a guitar—we inevitably go sharp, then flat, then back again until we find just the right tension in the string. When we understand this, we come to see how we need one another’s different emphases. Push-back from either direction is a healthy thing, so long as it’s offered charitably, and with a willingness to affirm the truth the “other side” is rightly seeking to uphold.” —At the Heart of the Gospel: A Book Excerpt
I love her synopsis of the themes of several mid-century best-sellers.
John Lukacs (on Mars Hill Audio Journal 75).
A related thought in The Future of History 88