December 16, 2002

Thinking about the TSCs
I asked Bill White in what sense the traditional spiritual classics (TSC for brevity's sake) are opaque for him. He says that the TSCs, "talk past me; we seem to speak different languages....Some writing allows me to enter into it, carries me with it and teaches me to understand everything in it; then there is other language that keeps me outside...think it's as much a matter of God-given taste and aptitude. Some are Carmelites, some are Dominicans, and some (God help their souls) are Jesuits."

As an aside, his conversion shows a sobering side of Protestantism I was not familiar with - neglect of the gospels:
Sermons, such as they were, were mere exercises in concordance-jumping, and usually focused on some obscure passage in one of Saint Paul's letters, with lots of concordance-based jumping from one word in an isolated verse to another throughout the bible. A "word study". I don't remember *ever* hearing extended passages read from the gospels, nor a single sermon on the gospels. (The obligatory disclaimer applies - I realize Protestant churches vary greatly.)

It seems the TSCs are good as eating spinach is; rather than subsist on the sugary diet of works that allow my eyes to be widened in a way such as Belloc or Chesterton wrote, books that build faith - rather one should also read books that provoke the desire to, say, start fasting. We see these differences in the bible - the thrill of historical connection when reading Isaiah, for instance, compared to reading the self-improvement of the Book of Proverbs. Bill mentioned Isaiah, pointing out some of his favorite books in the bible:

For me it's the stories of the gospels. Peter's letters are favorites, too; perhaps for me it's the historical connection again. And Isaiah! A passage from him can be like a mystery of the Rosary - I stop and wander up and down through all of salvation history making connections, seeing prophecies fulfilled, the Passion foreshadowed, Christ and the Church all through it.

Started reading St. John of the Cross (who knew his feast day was Saturday!?):
Often [beginners] will beseech God, with great yearnings, that He will take from them their imperfections and faults, but they do this that they may find themselves at peace, and may not be troubled by them, rather than for God's sake; not realizing that, if He should take their imperfections from them, they would probably become prouder still.

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